Black Soldier Fly changes fortunes of poultry farmers

Joyful Women Group members get a feel of the maggots hatched from Black Soldier Flies ICIPE, Nairobi, on  October 18, 2023.

Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Studies show Black Soldier Fly-based meals increase good bacteria in chicken guts, keeping the birds from needing too many antibiotics and improving their general health.

Jane Olunga Ichami is a small-scale poultry farmer from Kakamega. The venture has enabled her educate her children up to university. However, high feed prices have been a threat for years.

“That is about to change as we are learning ways of supplementing the feed with a high-protein alternative,” she says when we meet her at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), Nairobi.

Olunga is among 100 women from 31 counties being trained on Black Soldier Fly (BSF) production.

“The flies are easy to rear. They are rich in crude protein, fatty acids, amino acids, vitamins, chitin, and flavonoids, all important in poultry, fish and pig nutrition,” says Chrysantus Tanga, the ICIPE head of the Insects for Feed, Food, and Other Uses programme.

“The use of insects for organic waste conversion and alternative protein sources for animal feeds is sustainable and is gaining momentum.”

Protein is the most expensive component of poultry, fish, and pig feed, accounting for up to 70 per cent of production.

The protein feed is costly because of the competition for consumption between animals and humans.

“Omena is eaten by people and animals. We are providing high-protein alternatives that will work best for animals and leaving the rest for human consumption. This also promotes food security. BSF is cheap as the main medium is organic waste,” he says.

Studies show BSF-based meals increase good bacteria in chicken guts. This keeps them from needing too many antibiotics.

MaMa Doing Good, an initiative by First Lady Rachael Ruto in partnership with ICIPE, is conducting a five-day training on the establishment and rearing of BSF for 100 women from 31 counties in cohorts of 12, every week between October 2 and November 24. Mama Doing Good carters for all expenses.

This is going to be an annual occurrence, with this year being the first.

Alice Muchiri, the Project Manager for the Circular Green and Blue Economy at Mama Doing Good, says 70 per cent of the trainees are women. Data shows that 60 per cent of Kenyan women are involved in agriculture.

Those eligible should be poultry farmers in the 31 counties as there are climatic considerations that they must meet.

“Availability of organic waste is key. The regions should have a consistent temperature of 25–35 degrees Celsius and below 50 humidity,” she says.

Beneficiaries become the trainers of trainers in their counties.

Mama Doing Good has a tool that enables it track the progress, in addition to making regular visits.

“BSF farming is gaining traction globally as a strategy for high-quality protein, organic fertiliser for crops and as a form of recycling waste,” she says.

The World Bank says Kenya generates 3,000 to 4,000 tonnes of waste a day. Some 60 per cent of this is organic waste. Tanga says one only needs a bin, larvae and organic waste for BSF farming.

“The larvae feed mainly on low-fibrous waste – over-ripe fruit, vegetables and leaves. The medium in which they breed has a big impact on their nutrition. If the medium is rich in protein, larvae will contain a high amount of protein,” he says.

Later, the larvae shift from the wet environment to a dry one, where they transform into pupae.

The process takes two to three weeks. The lifespan of the fly is seven to nine days. It does not need to be fed, it only needs water.

Their adults’ main role is to mate and produce fertilised eggs.

A farmer needs to plan for nests where females will lay eggs. These can be made from honeycomb cardboards.

“The larvae should be harvested after two weeks as that is when their nutritional value is at its highest,” Tanga says.

Caroline Afandi Kanyanga from Vihiga, a trainee, says she is confident the lessons learnt will change her fortunes.

“I cannot wait to go and share the nuggets with other women back in the village,” she says.

The only problem – also mentioned by other trainees – is where and how to get the supplies needed to set up the BSF rearing environment.