Vermiculture (worm farming) is the keeping of worms for production mainly of vermicompost and their waste liquid called leachate. I came upon this idea after looking for an organic way to add nutrients back into the soil as opposed to using inorganic fertilizer.
My research into this made me look for a source of worms to start up my project. My search led me to a local university where a lecturer had a project she was doing on vermiculture. After I had contacted her and gotten an appointment, I went to get my worms. She was interested in how I arrived at my conclusion on vermiculture. She said it was unusual for a man to be interested in that kind of thing as she had mainly dealt with interested women. She went as far as to tell me that women had even formed cooperatives in India to produce vermicompost.
Once she had explained how to take care of the worms and how to collect the vermicompost, I bought my container full of worms to go and start my vermiculture venture. As the worms were too little to start right away in a large pit, I had researched and saw that I could begin with a few plastic containers fitted into each other with holes drilled into one for leachate removal, and air for the worms to breathe.
I wanted to used all the farmyard waste to create compost using the worms. This was to include cow dung, cow feed waste and weeds. This was to be achieved by digging a shallow pit with a slight incline for the leachate to drain and be collected on one side. Once all the pit has been filled with the material to be composted, it is wade wet with water and covered with some leaves or plastic covering. The worms would then be put in one side of the pit and covered. The worms usually start at the top layer and work their way down in the compost conversion. The pit should be checked about once a week and once the manure has been broken down it will usually look a darkish colour. This top layer can then be removed and used on the plants.
The leachate is the liquid that the worms excrete and is also believed to be highly nutritious to the plants and have beneficial microbes to plants. It is however not to be used as is and should be diluted in a ratio of at least 1:10 with water.
As my initial production was still small, the little compost and leachate I got was first used on house plants and a few selected plants in the kitchen garden. The results looked promising after my initial trial. I thus decided to try a small plot of land with my first sizable production of compost.
In this trial I had planted a few lines of maize as it was maize planting season. As time went by, people would ask me what I had applied to the maize as they looked healthier and growing at a slightly faster rate than the rest of the maize. This indicated that if other people could see the difference, I was onto something.
I have since grown lots of crops nourished with this compost and leachate. I found that, in my case, better returns were observed in my green leafy vegetables like kales, broccoli and cabbage.
There are some other uses whereby the worms can be used as chicken and pig feed, when you have a good supply.
Would I do it again?
I believe that vermiculture is something almost anybody can do even in an urban setting. Almost all organic kitchen scraps and waste save for the likes of meat and onion family and citrus family, can be used to create compost. This can then in turn be used to grow things in your kitchen garden. On a larger scale for farmers, it can assist in breaking down farmyard waste like cow, pig, goats and sheep manure into very highly nutritious compost for spreading around the farm.
So short answer is yes, I believe it is great for the soil and a good way to get rid of organic waste.