Kalmanthai slum

Published on 28/05/2011

First Update 28/03/2017

In urban slum areas without proper waste disposal and rubbish collection systems the build up of household waste is a huge problem.

One of WaterAid’s projects in India has found a novel approach to tackle this dilemma and generate income. Their solution lies with worms.

The community living in the Kalmanthai slum in Tiruchirapalli has worked hard to rehabilitate and build communal sanitation blocks for men, women and children.

They have also established water supply projects and credit schemes which they manage themselves.

The slum is adjacent to a wholesale banana market where truckloads of fruit, leaves and stems arrive every day. Discarded produce litters the area. With no proper disposal systems the community groups realised they would have to manage this and the other waste in the slum to ensure they had a clean environment to live in. WaterAid’s partner, Gramalaya, suggested the community ran a pilot vermiculture project.

Vermiculture uses worms in a controlled environment to do what they are best at- converting organic waste into nutrient-rich compost in nature’s way of recycling.

Members of the community groups underwent training and initiated a small-scale trial project investing Rs.2,200 (£29) they had raised from the sanitation blocks. They bought 4,000 red worms, Eisenia foetida, commonly known as the red wiggler or manure worm, which are best suited to composting.

Encouraged by the initial results the community then set up a larger scheme. An area of land by the communal toilet blocks was set aside with a small shed and composting arrangements for the worms.

Now in every 45 day cycle, for an investment of Rs.500, nearly one tonne of compost is produced. The compost is packed in bags and sold for Rs.5 per kilogramme, making nearly Rs.3000 per cycle.

The success has spread to other slum communities and individual households, which are now also carrying out vermiculture projects. The original project now even breeds and sells worms to those wishing to follow its example. But vermiculture isn’t only a solution in urban areas; another of WaterAid’s partners in India, REEDS, is now implementing a large-scale vermiculture project with rural farming communities in Andra Pradesh.

This scheme shows a highly successful and profitable way of waste disposal that provides communities with employment and funds to carry out their own future development work. As the members of the community proudly claim the scheme is ‘generating wealth from waste’.

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