A little compost goes a long way // October 27th, 2011

imageThis year, Coffee Kids’ worm-composting project is getting a lot of attention. Why? Because it’s a perfect example of how much can be done with just a small investment.

Our program partner, the December 5th Coffee Producers Network (RED 5), out of Oaxaca, is leading the project. In just one year, they’ve set up worm-composting bins for 39 participating families and generated more than 15,000 pounds of compost, which they use in their family vegetable gardens.

One of the few people chosen to participate in this first round of worm composting is a man named Ángel Jiménez García. “I was very excited when I got my worms,” says Ángel. “I’ll put all the castings they produce in my vegetable garden. I grow some heirloom tomatoes that’ll benefit from the worms…I just feel fortunate to receive these worms, and I’ll care for them.”

This region of Oaxaca has, over the years, suffered topsoil depletion. The worm-composting project will directly address this urgent issue by replacing essential nutrients and allowing farmers to grow their own vegetables both for their own consumption and to sell in local markets.

A RED 5 farmer spends, on average, $320 USD per year on organic fertilizer. Given that this represents around 30 percent of his annual income, composting translates into significant savings. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) website, about half of the population of Mexico lives in poverty, and the state of Oaxaca is one of the poorest with one of the highest rates of malnutrition.

“When I was a kid, my dad used to take me to the field to work,” remembers Ángel. “Those were long, hard days, but we always had something to eat…Now the situation has become harder for my children. If I want to provide them with enough food, I have to work twice as hard.”

Other members of the community share Ángel’s experience. This project marks the beginning of a trajectory in sustainability. In six years’ time, all of RED 5’s participants will have worm-composting bins. They will have family and community vegetable gardens, and an alternative source of nutrition and income.

Rarely is it more apparent what a little bit can do.