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Earthworms: Wiggly weapons against poverty

If you’ve ever gardened (or even if you haven’t), you understand that worms are great for your soil: they gobble up organic matter, and poop out nitrogen-rich “castings” that feed your plants. They’re also a great composting solution if you’re low on space: a small bin and some red wiggler worms can take care of the organic matter for most small households (and, once again, you’ve got plant food).

For most of us in the developed world, such activities are a way to put our green values into practice, or to just save some cash on fertilizer. In places like Oaxaca, Mexico, though, these wiggly critters can serve as a weapon against disease and poverty. Since most people in the impoverished Mexican state lack access to basic services like waste disposal, trash gets dumped and/or burned in the street. This creates an environment ripe for disease: the waste in these communities consist largely of organic material, which creates a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of pathogens.

With just a little infrastructure, though, that same trash that produces disease can not only be handled safely, but even create economic opportunities for people. Non-profit SiKanda, which has worked in Oaxaca for four years, wants to build The Worm Composting Center of Oaxaca (WCCO), a space not only for composting organic wastes, but also for training local people how to do it themselves. If the people dumping their trash in the streets start disposing of it in a worm bin, they’ll end up with a valuable material that they can use to grow their own food, or to sell to others (and if you’ve priced bags of worm castings, you know this can be relatively lucrative).

SiKanda has created a fundraising campaign on indiegogo to raise money for the center. Fortunately, worm composting doesn’t require any fancy equipment, so their needs are pretty modest: $15,000 will do the trick. Take a look at the video above, and consider tossing in a few bucks if you’re so moved.

My own experiments with worm composting have been hit and miss – it’s good to know ahead of time, for instance, that kitchen scraps can liquefy! If you’ve had better luck, or even done it on a larger scale (like the planned center), share your experiences with us.


Image credit: Screen capture from “Worm Composting Centre of Oaxaca” video