On a sunny morning, Catherine Compaoré Ouédraogo is looking forward to visiting her garden in Betta, a village in the municipality of Ziniaré in Burkina Faso. Mrs. Compaoré grows various vegetables and is very satisfied with how her plants are growing.
In June, she multiplied sunflower seeds. She says, “When I see the stalks, which are really strong, I know I’m going to harvest a lot of seeds, thanks to vermicompost.”
The magnificent appearance of her garden is the result of vermiculture, or earthworm farming, which provides her with a natural compost to enrich her crops.
Mrs. Compaoré stands at a raised bed made of wood about a metre and a half square and a half-metre deep, and lined with plastic. This is her vermicomposter and it’s full of worms and dirt. The bin is in the shade and can be covered, as worms do not like light or too much heat.
She explains: “When I started, it was just two kilos of earthworms that I bought at 25,000 FCFA per kilo, and they were small…. After two months, when I arrived, I found that they had become big and were multiplying.”
The earthworm population doubles about every 90 days. They consume food waste—about a kilogram of waste per day for a kilogram of worms.
When adding materials to the bed, it’s important to ensure that they’re damp. Newspaper, cardboard, composted manure, old leaves, and coconut coir can be added, as long as the material is non-toxic, as the worms will eat this, as well as food scraps. Paper and cardboard can be soaked in water and ripped into small pieces. This should be mixed with a few handfuls of dirt and some crushed eggshells, which provide calcium. The worms turn all of this into rich, dark soil.
Mrs. Compaoré explains, “They go to the bottom [of the bin] and you collect this manure, which is very rich and very black.”
Mrs. Compaoré’s garden regularly attracts farmers who want to learn more about this agroecological practice. Jean Lenglengue is a farmer who is curious about vermiculture. He says, “After seeing the benefits of vermiculture, I’ve decided to adopt the practice. I’d like her help in setting up a vermicomposter.”
Worms were previously largely neglected by farmers in the area, as worms are not eaten for food. Mrs. Compaoré says many farmers underestimated her at the beginning, but are now impressed by how the earthworms multiplied and how solid and liquid vermicompost produced results.
Mrs. Compaoré explains, “The earthworms we breed, all our vegetables, all our plants that you see—it is with our vermicompost that we [succeed].”
Ablacé Compaoré is an agroecology trainer and coordinator of the Association Interzones pour le Développement En Milieu Rural. He stresses the importance of worm excrement for enriching soil and fertilizing plants. He says: “When you ask the elders, when they went to choose a field, the droppings of earthworms is one of the indicators that the soil is really fertile and that we’re going to be able to produce well.”
He says farmers today look at other, “superficial” characteristics to choose agricultural areas, especially as worms disappear. He adds: “We know that the absence of earthworms also means that other micro-organisms and macro-organisms in the soil aren’t there either. And if they aren’t there, our production is put at quite considerable risk.”
Victor Sawadogo is a farmer who is learning more about agroecology. He says: “Vermiculture has many advantages for all farmers. Even in the old days, when you went into the bush, you could see earthworm droppings. But these days, with the use of chemicals, earthworms are disappearing.”
Mr. Compaoré says farmers need to be made aware that they have all the tools and advantages to treat their soil in an agroecological way and avoid using chemicals that can harm soil fertility—and earthworms.
This story is adapted from a video published by AgribusinessTV, called “Burkina Faso: She breeds earthworms.” To watch the video, go to: https://agribusinesstv.info/en/burkina-faso-she-breeds-earthworms/ 
The story includes information from Planet Natural Research Center’s page on “Using Worms,” found here: https://www.planetnatural.com/composting-101/indoor-composting/vermicomposting/