Friday, 08 December 2017 00:00

Food Security Starts with... Worms?

A concrete ring full of worms allowed a young woman in Bangladesh to start a business and make a living.

Sofeda stands under a trellis on which she grows her squash. Her husband is standing beside her. she's smiling into the camera and pointing to a large squash hanging from the trellis.

This is Sofeda in her garden today. Growing vegetables on overhead trellises helps avoid rot during the rainy season. (Photo: Kate Green/USC Canada)

It's the rainy season in Bangladesh, a notoriously difficult time to grow food. But Sofeda's garden is bursting with vegetables. She's proud of her lush garden, the food it puts on her table and the income it garners at the market. She should be proud – it's a true testament to her farming skills that the near constant damp of the rainy season doesn't reduce her garden to mud, puddles and rot.

Sofeda wasn't always a farmer though, and food wasn't always easy to come by. She began her farming journey with USC Canada as a teenager living with her parents and brothers. Her family farmed nearly a hectare of land. But when Sofeda's mother took ill and required expensive medical treatment, debt mounted. It soon grew beyond the family's means, forcing them to sell cropland to pay the bills. All that remained of the family farm was a garden barely able to produce enough to feed them all.

Sofeda began taking agricultural training through a USC Canada-supported program in an effort to help. With a group of young women her age, she learned the basics of sustainable farming practices. When they graduated from the course, Sofeda and the other young women stuck together and began a collective garden. Sofeda now had food to bring home.

Sofeda stands in a field of cabbage with a metal watering can. She's pout water on the crops. She's wearing a bright blue dress and shawl. her look is serious and piercing toward the camera.

Sofeda eight years ago during her first USC Canada supported training. (Photo: Hosneara Kondhkar)

Fast forward nearly eight years and Sofeda has a home and family of her own. Over time, she has updated her skills. Her first child, still just a toddler, benefits from the healthy, diversified diet her farming skills provide.

Recently, she had the opportunity to not only diversify her diet, but her sources of income too. She learned how to make vermi compost – a fertile concoction of leftovers from her farm, broken down by worms into an excellent organic fertilizer. Basically, worm-powered compost. With USC Canada support, she got started with one concrete pit, about waist high and as big around, and put her new training to the test.

It turns out, she's an apt entrepreneur. She now has 12 compost pits and a line up of farmers coming to buy the finished product to use on their own farms.

She received support. Now she pays it forward.


Without healthy soils, good food can't grow. This holiday season, give the foodie in your life the gift of knowing they helped someone grow good food.

Click here to check out Gifts that Grow.

Compost for healthy soils-screenshot

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We’re called USC Canada because we started out way back in 1945 as the Unitarian Service Committee, founded by the energetic Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova. We’re still planting the seeds that Lotta sowed. Find out more about our founder, Dr. Lotta Hitschmanova.

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