Nairobi, March 22 (IANS) Farmers in Kenya are rearing insects commercially on human and food waste and other organic remains. The reared insects are utilised as protein-rich insect-based products for animal feed.
By doing so, they are serving twin purposes.
First, the reared black soldier flies with high 37 to 63 per cent protein are an important replacement for expensive animal feed-protein additives that are used in fish, poultry and pig feeds.
And second, they contribute to manage waste in an environmentally safe manner.
Experts at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe – all lower case), a 50-year-old organisation based in Nairobi, say the dried insect products used in livestock feed enable to reducing feed costs by 40 to 50 per cent.
In Africa, there is a wide scarcity of protein-rich feed additives such as fishmeal, sunflower meal and soybeans, some of which are also consumed by humans. The price of these raw ingredients is growing significantly year on year.
With technical and capacity building support from icipe, farmers are rearing the black soldier flies, scientifically known as Hermetia illucens, that look like a wasps and revolutionising the livestock feed industry.
At the larvae stage, they are tiny worms.
Twenty-eight-year-old Adam Mohammad, who is commercially rearing black soldier flies on the outskirts of Nairobi, told IANS that he is earning Ksh (Kenyan shilling) 300,000-500,000 ($3,000-5,000) per month by selling dry insects.
He and his team daily collect food waste from hotels in Nairobi for rearing the black soldier flies. “For this, we pay half a cent per kg to hotels,” he said.
Icipe scientist say the maggots can also grow on human faeces, chicken droppings and all other forms of municipal waste.
Mohammad, who ploughed Ksh 100,000 into a venture named Eco Du Du, said his commercial farming of insects for animal feed has been growing quickly, prompted by the rapidly rising costs of standard feed.
A single black soldier fly, which has a gestation period of four weeks, hatches between 300 and 600 eggs at a time and they rapidly multiply.
The eggs are grown in especially-designed containers until the larvae (maggots) emerge.
The fat maggots are then harvested before they turn into pupae and then into adult flies.
The harvested maggots are dried, either mechanically or naturally and converted into pellets that are mixed with other animalfeed ingredients.
“The animal feed produced from the black soldier flies brings down our overall costs by up to 50 per cent,” said Lucy Mimano, coordinator for the Kiamumbi Aquaculture Project.
Researchers Tanga Mbi Chrysantus and Sevgan Subramanian told a visiting IANS correspondent that the farmers have been adopting this new technology to reduce cost of animalfeeds and as a business venture for young entrepreneurs.
The black soldier fly feed also serves as a crucial source of protein supplement with 60 per cent protein and fat content compared to the conventional feed that would only have about 10 per cent of proteins.
“We are selling our products in a rapidly growing $290 million market for protein and $500 million market for organic fertiliser in Kenya,” David Auerbach, co-founder of Sanergy, is one the largest organic recycling factories in Nairobi.
(Vishal Gulati was in Nairobi at the invitation of UN Environment. He can be reached at [email protected])