About three years ago, Raymundo Imaysay was an ordinary farmer who had to rely on traditional farming techniques to make a living. Like any other farmer, he aimed for a good harvest each season; he knew that increasing his yield was crucial if he had to survive.
Raymundo had always been averse to the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. He had long heard about converting household waste into fertilizer and decided to explore it when he chanced upon an opportunity. Taking advantage of a free program of the Western Philippines University distributing the African Night Crawler worms to farmers, Raymundo learned the basics of vermiculture and got hooked.
With a total initial investment of P100,000, Raymundo put up his vermiculture farm in Princesa Urduja, Narra town comprising of several vermi plots, a small concrete facility and an initial purchase of 40 kilos of worms. He learned to regard biodegradable household and agricultural waste as resources and realized soon enough he needed more – leftover food, kitchen waste, animal manure, and the like.
He did not have any difficulty looking at where to find his raw materials for his vermiculture venture.
“Tingnan natin ang ating paligid, puro na lang basura, napupuno at napupuno ang ating mga open dumpsites,” he said.
Studies have long revealed that the mixed wastes is unhealthy and produce toxic air that causes diseases. The mixed garbage also produces methane gas, which is twenty times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Experts have pointed out that solid waste management has been the problem of many towns and cities across the country, as only very few comply with the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act of 2000.
“Isa sa ating solusyon para mabawasan ang basura sa kapaligiran ay vermicomposting,” he said.
Vermicomposting, which is also known as worm compost, vermicast, worm castings, worm humus or worm manure, is similar to plain compost, except that it uses worms in addition to microbes and bacteria to turn organic waste into a nutrient-rich fertilizer. Vermicompost, or vermiculture, most often uses two species of worms: Red Wigglers (Eisenia foetida) or Red Earthworms (Lumbricus rubellus) rarely found in soil and are adapted to the special conditions in rotting vegetation, compost, and manure piles.
When starting a vermicomposting bin, one starts by adding moist bedding — things like shredded paper, dead leaves and other materials high in carbon. Bedding is the living medium for the worms but also a food source, so it should be moist and loose to enable the earthworms to breathe and to facilitate aerobic decomposition. Compost worms need this bedding to function, including other basic things: a food source, adequate moisture, adequate aeration, and protection from temperature extremes.
Unlike compost, which can work its magic in a pile in a backyard, vermicompost requires a bit more structure to work, usually in the form of a bin. Bins can be made out just about anything, but they require drainage and air flow to be built into it.
Imaysay did not realize that his attempt at vermicomposting will turn out to be a profitable venture, one that also provided jobs to his fellow farmers.
Raymundo Imaysay’s vermicompositing farm in Narra now provides jobs to ten other farmers from the same barangay.
His vermicomposting business is very profitable that he quickly recovered his initial investment. The vermicast which is produced from his farm costs P500 per sack. At present he said he can produce 15 sacks of vermicast each month, and they are doing their best to produce more, since the demand is also increasing.
“Kulang na talaga ang production, kasi tumataas na ang demand, parami na nang parami ang gumagamit ng vermicast sa kanilang palayan at sa kanilang mga farm kasi organic,” he explained.
At present, Raymundo is pleased to make an average of P30,000 profit each month for selling vermicast but the pressure of a quickly increasing demand has offered him a welcome challenge.
Raymundo said that he had hired workers to gather animal manure, kakawate and ipil-ipil leaves, and other biodegradable wastes for vermicomposting. There were times he had to buy leftover food and wastes from Narra’s public market to supplement his vermicomposting needs.
Raymundo is content at how his vermiculture venture has quickly grown, and in the realization that he was making concrete contributions to helping protect the environment.
“Sa ganitong paraan, masaya ako na natutulungan ko na maging organic ang mga farmers, walang chemical, at nakakatulong pinaka-importante sa ating kalikasan,” he said.