About a friend of the earth

Published: Thursday 30 September 2004


After he was done with evolution theory, Charles Darwin turned his attention to earthworms. In 1872 -- a few months before he died -- he published The Formation of Vegetable Mould Through the Action of Worms with Observations on Their Habits. The treatise demonstrated that earthworms are adroit workers of soil. Its author was, however, a little sceptical that his work would be taken seriously. He was right to a large extent: enamoured with the agrochemicals modern humankind did not think that "lowly worms" were any good.

But today many have turned back to the earthworm. Vermiculture -- breeding earthworms -- is now touted as a healthy alternative. But how does one deploy the creature's skill? Of course many in India -- and elsewhere -- would rely on their traditional knowledge. However, long years of disuse means that such knowledge rarely gets passed on to the fields.

This site is an attempt to plug this gap. Run by the Chennai-based Ecoscience Research Foundation, it is a treasure trove of information on the earthworm. Breeding exotic earthworm varieties, appropriate use of vermicompost, treating wastewater, how to use waste for vermicomposting -- these are some areas discussed in good detail . You are even encouraged to write back.

But who is this site meant for? For well-meaning government officials? The sensitive non-government organisation worker? Really, one must go beyond, to the farmer. Having the information in a few non-English Indian languages might be a good first step towards this end.

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