The Nyeri government is training farmers to rear the ‘black soldier fly’, which will be used to feed both humans and livestock. The programme is being undertaken in conjunction with the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology to help farmers diversify their enterprises.
“The idea here is how we can incorporate some of the insects as human food and animals feed. This is because it has been a tradition in this region that very few of us eat insects,” Agriculture executive Robert Thuo said.
“But if you go to western parts of the country and western parts of the region, such as Uganda, Congo and Ghana, there is a lot of eating of insects, which are actually very nutritious.”
Briefing the media at the Wambugu ATC recently, Thuo said the county started working with ICIPE on the project in September last year. He said ICIPE will offer technical support to farmers on their rearing as the officials have been on the ground and have learnt several things they will share with farmers.
The executive said since residents are livestock farmers, rearing of the insects will come in handy in boosting protein levels in feed, which has been an issue in the area.
ICIPE research scientist Tanga Mbi said the project is being sponsored by the Netherland’s government and is meant to improve livelihoods by improving livestock production.
“If you want a cheap and an easy option to provide quality protein through insects to your chickens, pigs and fish, you can now opt for black soldier fly larvae,” Tanga said.
“They also help break down organic waste to compost for use in agriculture. It is an agribusiness model focusing on commercially producing high quality insect-based protein for fish, pigs and poultry.”
ALTERNATIVE SOURCE OF PROTEINS
Fishmeal and soya beans are the key protein components in animal feed, and they come at exorbitant prices, are seasonal, at times have to be exported, and are in high competition between animals and humans, hence the need for an alternative.
“In the 28 insect species we have profiled, the protein levels are between 35 to 73 per cent, which are comparable or sometimes superior to the protein levels in fishmeal and soya beans,” Mbi said.
He said insects are a vital source of protein that can be used to replace fishmeal and soya bean components in animal feed.
Throughout the project, ICIPE invited farmers to visit the centre to see its mass production facility, and most of them have taken start-up population and started engaging in insect production.
Mbi said ICIPE will get to Nyeri and other areas and start establishing pilot facilities in each county. At least 50 pilot facilities will be established, whereby model farmers will start mass production of the insects.
ICIPE is also working closely with feed manufacturers with a view to getting them to pick up these products and start replacing them in animal feed.
James Kariuki, a fish farmer from Narumoro in Kieni, said farmers have been trying to keep insects but the projects fail due to lack of technical knowhow on their rearing.
Thuo said use of fish as a protein ingredient in animal feed has led to harvesting of immature fish, interfering with the ecosystem.
IMPORTANCE OF BLACK SOLDIER FLY
The Black Soldier Fly larvae make good animal feed and compost. BSF (Hermetia illucens) is one of the most beneficial insects to humans. The larvae are an excellent source of food for many animals, including poultry, and a bait for fish and pigs.
At different stages of their life cycle, especially at larvae stage, BSF consume large quantities of food wastes. Agricultural waste products are decomposed and eventually converted into manure, which restores soil fertility besides maintaining a healthy environment.
As an essential decomposer, the black soldier fly reduces the volume and weights of any waste obtained, reduce potential pollutants such as organic chemicals in manure, prevent houseflies from laying eggs in the waste, cause a significant reduction of E. coli and Salmonella enterica in chicken manure, and are not attracted to human habitation and foods. They inhibit flies and houseflies from flying around.
STAGES OF GROWTH
The BSF larvae are dark, flat grubs, and the adults look like tiny wasps, but they do not sting. The adults only live for a few days, but their larvae can live for several days, and during this time, they can consume huge quantities of food waste or manure.
Moreover, neither the larvae nor the flies are considered pests or vectors. BSF grubs can eat practically anything, except high cellulose items like grasses, leaves and paper.
BSF larvae go through seven stages before pupating. A few days before pupating, they turn brown, and this is when they are best to feed to animals. When the larvae are ready to pupate, they secrete their digestive system, lose their mouth, and produce an antibiotic coating.
Therefore, unlike houseflies, they cannot carry disease between wastes and foods consumed by humans. This also makes them safe to feed to our animals.