Technologies | Resources
Vermicomposting Enterprises for Rural Women
C. Ashok Kumar, September 1998
Development Alternatives (DA) launched a project at Tumkur, Karnataka, in mid-1996
to help underprivileged rural women develop vermiculture micro-enterprises. The project
was initiated with support from the Council for Advancement of Peoples Action and
Rural Technology (CAPART), which was keen to promote the vermiculture technology as a
first step towards a larger programme on sustainable agriculture.
The primary objective of this 18-month project was to help women from rural and
peri-urban areas to set up micro-enterprises based on vermiculture technology. The
secondary objectives included the improvement of soil fertility and increased crop
productivity through ecological methods of farming.
The rural area selected for the project were three gram panchayats of Huliyar Hobli in
Chikkanayakanahalli taluk of Tumkur district. The peri-urban areas included the small town
of Bukkapatna in Sira taluk and Huliyar town in Chikkanayakanahalli. The project area was
around 155 km north west of Bangalore.
The entrepreneurs were selected on the basis of criteria such as levels of income and
backwardness, availability of space, access to water and the willingness to spend time on
the vermicompost training.
The field staff of DA, simultaneously carried out studies on the availability of
different types of organic wastes in the area, crops and use of manure, land holding
patterns and related aspects.
The training programme covered technical aspects of breeding earthworms, managing
collection of organic wastes, application of vermicompost for various crops, managing the
production system, accounting and marketing.
Today, 25 women-run enterprises are functional and making good profit, in these areas.
Of these, two case studies are presented below.
Case Study 1 - Entrepreneur: Farida Banu, Ganadalu village
Farida Banu, a young lady, was among the first to set up a vermicomposting
enterprise in the backyard of her parents house. Having begun with a population of
2,000 earthworms of three epigeic species, she regularly harvests close to 400 kg of
vermicompost every month. Her unique marketing strategy involves meeting potential
customers. Farida has tie-ups with the Social Forestry Department in Chikkanayakanahalli
and farmers in towns, such as Sira and Huliyar. Sometimes, she even gets customers from
Bangalore. Farida earns an income of around Rs 1,000 a month, after covering all the
expenses. The sale of earthworms gives her income a further boost. Today, Farida is a
confident young woman who has the capability to market the vermicompost produced even by
Farida has come a long way as a consequence of her training. Abandoned by her husband,
her life took a turn for the worse when she began to live with her parents, since her
brothers wanted her to leave the house. In their view, she had become a burden on them.
The turning point for Farida was clearly the setting up of her vermicomposting enterprise.
Case Study 2 - Entrepreneur: Jayamma, Marenadu village
Jayamma and her husband Gopala are homestead farmers in Marenadu village. Gopala is
a progressive farmer who has been experimenting with agro-forestry, cover crops,
inter-cropping and the use of organic manure. However, the quality of farmyard manure was
not up to the mark. Discussions with the family gave us the idea that Jayamma was a good
candidate for the entrepreneurship training.
Jayamma set up her enterprise around the end of 1996. Her unit has a production
capacity of about 400 kg of vermicompost a month. Unlike Farida, who sells all her
produce, Jayamma uses it on vegetable patches and for her fruit trees. A lemon tree has
already produced over 1,000 lemons in 1997 and has earned 1,000 rupees for the family.
Jayamma and Gopala have also been developing a horticulture farm for which vermicompost
is their main nutrient input. They have been growing chillies and many vegetables, both
for their own consumption and the market. They are convinced that both the quantity and
quality of their produce has improved considerably.
Jayamma values her vermicompost at market rates and has convinced Gopala about her
contribution towards the development of their homestead farm.
Today, Jayamma is thinking of increasing production in order to produce vermicompost
not only to meet their farm requirements but also for sale, thereby increasing their
As the examples of Farida and Jayamma demonstrate, the vermicomposting project has
given an opportunity to uneducated, under-employed women to become income generators and
supplement their families income. In the process, they have gained tremendous
confidence and have been successful in turning their previous psychology of
defeat into the psychology of success.
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