Enriched top soil production in Belarus is gaining popularity and offering stable income potential to a number of entrepreneurially-minded people. There were about 100 small-scale vermiculture operations in the early 90’s but the vast majority of them failed, mainly because they looked at the worm business as a get-rich-quick opportunity and were unwilling to make long-term investments. Today, however, there has been a resurgence in commercial worm composting.
Spinning Compost into Gold
With limited opportunities to learn about new and innovative practices in vermiculture, two Belarusian private enterprises – BelRosBioTech and PromKhimElectro looked to USAID Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers to help them produce enriched topsoil and compost products more profitably.
Belarus VOCA In June 2006, two volunteer experts helped the enterprises increase the quality and quantity of their worm casting-derived compost, as well as find new markets. During the two week assignment, Peter Bogdanov, Executive Director of VermiCo and the author of the 420-page Best Management Practices in Vermi-composting manual, and his wife Layne Bogdanov, a marketing specialist, held individual consultations with the two Belarusian vermiculture producers. The volunteers acquainted the entrepreneurs with the complicated process of raising red worms and producing organic compost. Mr. and Mrs. Bogdanov helped them develop a detailed evaluation of their marketing strategies and make specific recommendations for their implementation.
Acting on volunteers’ recommendations, both enterprises have developed collaborative relationships with neighboring manure producers to obtain manure at a minimal cost. Fresh manure helps the enterprises produce healthier worms. The volunteer also helped the enterprises improve their feedstock preparation and application practices; create attractive packaging for their product and establish a demonstration garden to educate potential consumers.Trip Report for Belarus 2006 (1)
Today, both businesses are busy and thriving. Since the project’s inception less than a year ago, they have increased their compost production from zero to 350 tons and red worm production to four tons. All produce was sold in Belarus, through retail shops, bringing almost $25,000 in total revenue from sales and even generating a small profit.
The next step the enterprises hope to take will be to develop worm-derived medications, foliar sprays and soil drenches in partnership with another Belarusian private company.
Employees of Cherven Vermiculture Company pack worms for use as fishing bait. USAID Volunteers Assist Growing Vermiculture Operation in Belarus
Since the project’s inception, the business have increased their compost production from zero to 350 tons…all produce was sold in Belarus through retail shops, bringing almost $25,000 in total revenue.