Knowledge matters and it empowers


March 13th, 2017

Three female Muscovy ducks were splashing in greenish water kept in a small concrete tub when we reached Bhumisara Poudel’s house. The drake was tethered to a post near the coop and the area was covered with a mosquito net. Nearby, a manure yard measuring 6 ft x 4 ft made from cement blocks was also covered with a mosquito net.

I wondered why they had mosquito nets everywhere around the manure yard.

The net stops rats and moles from eating earthworms,” said Baburam Poudel, Bhumisara’s husband. “These are not ordinary earthworms, each one costs NRs 3. We bought half a kilo of earthworms for NRs 1,500 (Around 15 USD) and these creatures have been helping us produce vermicompost enough for our seven kattha (1 kattha = 338 sq. m) farm.”

Demand-driven training to farmers

Jyoti Ale Magar, a social mobiliser at the Sauraha Community Library and Resource Centre (CLRC) told us how Bhumisara started raising the earthworms for vermicompost. “We trained 20 farmers from this area on vermicomposting,” she said. “We organise the trainings as per the demand from the community.

With the support from Practical Answers Knowledge Services Programme, 22 CLRCs in 15 districts of Nepal have been organising trainings for farmers, interaction with agriculture experts and practical sessions at regular intervals.
Linking farmers to government and non-government organisations

During one of the interaction sessions, the CLRC connected Bhumisara with the Agriculture Service Centre in the area. The service centre provided a grant of NRs 25,000 to Bhumisara to construct a shed and a manure yard, and buy earthworms for vermicomposting.

As we were talking about the benefits of organic fertiliser, Baburam dug out a handful of vermicompost from the pit. Two small earthworms wriggled out of the dark brown compost. Putting them back to the pit, Baburam showed us how to determine whether the fertiliser was ready to use.

The ready-to-use compost is like a handful of dry CTC tea (black tea made by crush, tear, curl method),” he said. “It’s easy to carry and administer to the soil – not like the wet livestock manure.”

All they needed to do was to add livestock manure, dried leaves to the pit, keep it cool by sprinkling water at regular intervals. The earthworms would do the rest of the work.

Improving food security and livelihood

Learning how to prepare and handle vermicompost, we went to the adjacent farm to see how the vegetables were faring. The couple had recently harvested a crop of potatoes and the newly planted bitter gourd saplings were climbing up the stakes, with their tendrils coiling around them.

We harvested 10 quintals of potatoes in this three kattha plot,” said Baburam beaming with joy. “Earlier the plot yielded not more than 5-6 quintals. We sold some and have stored a quintal of potatoes in a cold store.”

The manure pit produced vermicompost enough for the potato cultivation. In addition, they had applied the compost to the bitter gourd saplings and the flowers at the front of their house.

Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others.

Bhumisara Poudel is happy with her vermicompost venture. She happily shares her knowledge with others. (c) Practical Action/ Prabin Gurung

Spreading the knowledge

Close to the vegetable farm, I could see an outlet protruding from base of the manure pit and a reddish brown liquid dripping from the pipe. The water sprayed on the manure yard converts into a nutrient after getting in contact with the manure and earthworms. And according to Bhumisara and Baburam, it is more nutritious than the compost and can be collected in a bottle.

Bhumisara quipped, “Earlier the fertiliser used to be carried in truckloads, then in sacks and now in bottles.”

Appreciating his wife’s knowledge, Baburam said, “She learnt all this at the CLRC and I learnt from her.

Many people come to see how we are raising the earthworms and producing vermicompost,” added Bhumisara. “We are happy to teach them all the tricks of the trade.”

Now, they no more need to carry truckloads of wet livestock manure. It used to be a back-breaking chore before cultivation and lasted for 5-6 days at a stretch. The vermicompost can be stored and stacked in sacks and the liquid nutrient adds to the productivity of the crops.

Practical answers to the farmers’ queries

As we were having coffee after the snapshot of the manure yard and vegetable farm, Baburam let go the tethered drake. It started chasing the other three ducks and the place became lively with the ducks’ quacks.

The social mobilisers at the CLRCs respond to the queries of the farmers. They provide the related knowledge materials and invite experts to interact with the farmers.  This gives the farmers a better idea on managing their land, cultivating crops and starting alternative income generating activities.

I’m planning to dig a pond by the side of the coop,” told Baburam. “So that these ducks can swim and we can get fish to eat.”

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