Earthworms to feed the poor

2009-04-02 00:00

THE lowly earthworm joins the electioneering arsenal of the IFP with the party’s announcement that it intends to promote the worm’s “amazing” benefits in helping people grow their own food.

Addressing a recent Policy Oversight Committee (POC), the IFP’s spokesman on Land Affairs, Professor Themba Msimang, said the common earthworm holds huge possibilities for poor people in their bid to feed themselves, particularly in the context of spiralling food costs.

According to a party statement, he said it was “unbelievable” that this “remarkable but faceless creature has not yet been the subject of government and municipal emphasis”.

The worms play a role in recycling organic waste and their natural excretions enrich the soil and help to feed plants or vegetables. Using worms to convert organic waste can help people farm and garden organically.

Msimang said his interest in worms was aroused after Durban-based organic farming consultant Paula Osborn responded to the IFP’s queries concerning reducing costs in subsistence agriculture.

“Ms Osborn opened a new world to me,” said Msimang. “Over the past three months I have visited two nurseries and a number of market gardens where earthworms are a crucial component in the growth of vegetables and crops. The results are quite amazing.”

He said the ignorance surrounding the use of earthworms needs to be overcome as “a great priority” and called on the department of Agriculture to spread the word about earthworm farming through its agricultural extension officers.

Msimang said there “had to be another way” that people can both provide for themselves and be able to sell their produce without having to be confronted by the “astronomical costs” associated with fertilisers and the like.

“There is a far larger picture here where municipalities can seriously explore the option of having earthworm farms in order that certain organic waste collected can be deposited into these farms for decomposition. There are huge waste possibilities here and this would complement our food and agricultural programme.”

According to the IFP, the party’s R150-million Xoshindlala food security programme, introduced in 1997, was abandoned by the ANC when it took over provincial rule.

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