The Kenyan goose that lay golden egg for Rwandese poultry keeper

Dr Phenius Tuisenge displaying flies trapped in sacks inside a greenhouse.

Dr Phenius Tuisenge displaying flies trapped in sacks inside a greenhouse.

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • After learning that some Kenyan farmers were rearing black soldier flies for making livestock feeds, Jean Baptiste sent his workers for lessons in Kenya.
  • It turns out that this is the boost his 100,000 layers farm needed to flourish.
  • The venture produces over 90,000 eggs daily with a gross income of approximately Sh30 million per month.

In December last year, Rwandese poultry farmer Jean Baptiste sent his two workers, one a veterinary doctor, to Nairobi for lessons on insect farming for livestock feeds at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).

The two workers during their stay in the country also visited three farmers in Kiambu County, who were producing the black solder flies (BSF)on a small-scale for use as protein in livestock feeds.

Armed with the knowledge from Kenyan farmers and Icipe scientists, Baptiste, a farmer based in Mayange village, Bugesera District, on the outskirts of the capital Kigali, implemented the lessons he had learnt.

His 100,000 layers farm now thrives on the Kenyan lessons, with the farmer producing over 90,000 eggs daily with a gross income of approximately Sh30 million per month. He sells the eggs at RWF3,500 (Sh4-7) per crate.

“I sent my workers to benchmark and learn more about insect farming from Icipe because I had come across interesting information on what was happening in Kenya,” says Baptiste, who quit a banking job in Europe to become one of the biggest poultry farmers in Rwanda.

The farmer notes that he took the step as the cost of producing chicken feeds using soybeans as the main source of protein was expensive.

“With the changing climatic conditions, which have impacted on crop production, coupled with the growing demand for soybeans, especially in Indian and Chinese markets, the cost of producing our chicken feeds using soy-cake as the main source of proteins was unaffordable,” he offers.

Baptiste runs the largest BSF production unit in East Africa, chucking out turns of  BSF powder daily.

He plans to set up a new chicken unit hosting 100,000 broilers at the low cost of feeds.

108 staff

His enterprise employs 108 staff who work on the layers and the insect farms as well as on his upcoming broiler unit.

He keeps the black solder flies, which he harvests the larvae, dries and crushes into a powder that is then mixed with other ingredients like maize germ or barley to form a compound feed for his chickens. 

“Since I started eight months ago, I have so far stocked over 20 tonnes of dried powder BSF larvae. It is the best substitute for soybean because the larvae feed on vegetable and fruit wastes, which turns out to be a safe way of dumping it from the market, and after harvesting, the waste remains are very good fertiliser rich in potassium and nitrogen,” says Dr Tuisenge Phenius, the farm manager.

To produce the BSF larvae, the farmer has put up two huge greenhouses. The first one is where mature flies are kept and allowed to lay eggs. The tiny eggs are then collected and brooded to hatch into very tiny larvae.

Dr Phenius notes that the tiny larvae are fed on chicken layers of mash for two to three days before they are transferred to the second greenhouse where they are fattened using fruit and vegetable waste materials.

“We get the waste materials from juice-making companies as well as markets where we have about 50 young boys and girls who collect and deliver to us at a fee,” says Baptiste.

The BSF only live for eight days. According to Dr Phenius, the first two days after hatching are for adaptation to the new environment, then they spend the third and fourth-day mating, and in the remaining four days, each female fly will lay between 300 and 900 eggs before it dies of old age on the eighth day.

“During their lifetime, flies do not eat. They only take water. So we don’t bother about feeding them,” he explains.

However, during the larvae stage, they consume a lot of food and when they are ready for harvest, 70 per cent of the larvae are dried and crushed into powder to be used for making animal feeds, while the remaining 30 per cent are left to hatch so that they can keep laying more eggs for the cycle to continue. 

“It is a highly demanding exercise because one day in a fly’s life is a lot of time,” Dr Phenius tells Seeds of Gold.

As a way of improving food production and sustainable food systems, the Rwandese government is encouraging farmers to venture into smallholder insect farming as a source of protein. 

“Research on broiler production has identified the rearing of insects as one of the most viable ways of producing animal feeds that are rich in proteins for commercial as well as household levels,” says Dr Solange Uwituze, the deputy director-general in charge of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Resources Development Board.

“The government-sponsored research is suggesting BSF’s larvae could be very effective in the production of quality animal feeds through easily adaptable processes of production,” she told journalists during the visit to Baptiste’s farm on the sidelines of the ongoing Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Kigali.

Insect species

In Kenya, Icipe in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation researched more than 28 insect species, including locusts and crickets, before settling on the BSF larvae as a source of animal feed protein.

BSF is not considered a pest or vector of diseases and does not constitute a nuisance. They are believed to have originated from temperate regions in America before moving to other areas around the world, including Africa.

A study in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed published by Wageningen Academic Publishers found that the flies have a capacity to convert organic waste into high-quality protein, control certain harmful bacteria and insect pests, provide potential chemical precursors to produce biodiesel and for its use as feed for a variety of animals.

With a reliable source of protein, Baptiste is working on expanding his poultry empire.