by Hummam Sheikh Ali
DAMASCUS, Feb. 27 (Xinhua) -- The 65-year-old farmer Hassan Khalifa has developed an obsession a decade ago to raise worms to produce organic fertilizers, the first such project in Syria.
The idea started in Khalifa's mind when he was listening to a news report on TV in 2006 about how Germany was manufacturing high-quality organic fertilizers using land worms.
The concept attracted his attention due to the benefits of organic fertilizers for vegetables and people's health in general.
A year later, he met an Iraqi agricultural engineer who brought up the subject of worm composting and that's when Khalifa decided to focus all his attention on this project.
The man started experimenting with various kinds of worms until he was finally able to get worms from Europe through Lebanese fishermen.
He started with 10 worms which died soon, but he didn't lose hope and got more. This time he was able to make them reproduce and had made good results.
Time has passed and when he was finally able to start the project after getting all the experience and knowledge for a worm farm, the war in Syria broke out, putting on the side all his dreams.
Khalifa left for Africa and worked there for a couple of years and returned to the Middle East. This time he went to visit his friend in Iraq where he got more knowledge about worm composting and experimented in a farm for two years.
When the situation in Syria got better, he brought worms' eggs back and let them grow and reproduce as every one kg of worms became 60 kg a year later.
At first, he started growing worms in boxes in his house and when he got a large number of worms, he rented a piece of agricultural land in the Damascus countryside and has already been growing worms for a year and a half.
"I am the first person in Syria to work in worm composting since 2007, but the war has stopped me from working. When I returned, I continued to work in this project and spread it across Syria. Now we have more than 100 people, who are working in worm composting," he said.
Walking alongside his grandchild in the worm farm, where he has several concrete lanes filled with soil and worms, the man told Xinhua that the main goal of the project is improving the Syrian product of vegetables by using organic fertilizers with this technique.
"The main goal behind this project is to extract organic fertilizers for the vegetables. This will keep us away from chemical fertilizers and diseases such chemicals cause," he noted.
He even said that enlarging this project will bring economic benefit to the country and farmers as well as it will save a lot for the government in importing chemical medicine for the vegetables and will also save money for farmers and eventually consumers.
Most importantly, this is a major recycling project as worm composting uses worms to recycle food scraps and other organic materials, which usually go to waste.
"This project helps recycling the organic waste that we are feeding to the worms. So instead of throwing them away, we feed them to the worms and benefit from the worm compost that is also called the black gold," he said.
After finishing his day time on the farm, Khalifa exchange experience with more than 100 people from Syria and other Arab countries via a social media group he runs to benefit other farmers.
He said that this project has spread across Syria and people are becoming more aware of its benefits as he is receiving orders on daily basis from those who want the worm compost for their farms.