What you need to know:
- The project is successful as it has reached out to smallholder farmers who have been trained in Black Soldier Fly (BSF) technology as a waste management technique and generating alternative sources of proteins for their animals.
- BSF technology is used to process organic wastes and presents a practical option for organic waste management by producing feed materials (protein, fat) and biofertiliser which smallholder farmers use to boost food production and reduce food insecurity.
In the bustling Njokerio trading centre outside Egerton University in Njoro Sub-county, Nakuru County, John Mwaura stares at a heap of slurry from his 10 pigs and turns it with a big wooden shovel.
He then collects it in a wheelbarrow and dumps it in an open hole or burns it, releasing toxic smoke that creates carbon emissions — a public health concern.
Mwaura is unaware that this kind of disposal of pig waste is dangerous for the environment.
“I have been doing this for the past three years since I started pig farming,” he confesses.
Mwaura is contemplating reducing his pig stock as he is unable to manage the increasing production of pig waste, which has become a challenge for him as he owns an eighth of an acre piece of land in the densely populated trading centre.
However, Mwaura need not worry any more about the best practices to dispose of the waste.
A group of six Egerton University students, popularly known as Ressect, are providing an answer to this challenge by collecting pig waste straight from the farmers around the Njoro campus and recycling it.
The Ressect group is incubated by the Centre of Excellence for Livestock, Innovation and Business (CoELIB) at the Njoro Campus and supported by Nakuru Living Lab. The project is funded by a Dutch foundation, IKEA, whose objective is to create sustainable livelihoods and cope with climate change.
The students say they realised there is a problem in waste management and some of the farmers were disposing of their waste in the open, which was finally swept into river Ndarugu and ended up in Lake Nakuru.
“We came together during the pandemic and our intention was purely to kill boredom as the university was closed for a prolonged period,” said Charity Kelsy, a fourth Year Bachelor of Science student.
She continued: “We thought it wise not to waste valuable time in the social media space and came up with an idea on how to help farmers in our neighbourhood in finding a solution to waste management.”
“We’re a premier agricultural university and we had an obligation to help the neighbouring community to manage its waste,” said Kelsy.
“No one else is going to come to clean our neighbourhoods. It is up to us to keep it clean by giving the farmers skills on how to manage the waste from their farms,” said Kelsy, one of the students in the programme.
Prof Bockline Bebe, the project lead, said the project is successful as it has reached out to smallholder farmers who have been trained in Black Soldier Fly (BSF) technology as a waste management technique and generating alternative sources of proteins for their animals.
“BSF technology is used to process organic wastes and presents a practical option for organic waste management by producing feed materials (protein, fat) and biofertiliser which smallholder farmers use to boost food production and reduce food insecurity,” said Prof Bebe.
Agriculture experts say crops like maize produced under organic fertiliser have a reduced intensity of Greenhouse Gases (GHG) emissions at 15 per cent less than those under sole mineral fertilisers.
“We started as a pilot project and we have reached out to hundreds of farmers whom we have trained on waste management from their farms, which we tell them is hidden wealth,” says Kelsy.
But how does BSF technology work?
“We place BSF eggs in box-like structures along with organic waste, where they incubate for three days and then hatch. The larvae begin feeding on the waste immediately,” explains Kelsy.
According to Kelsy, the larvae grow over about 14 days and then all but 10 to 20 per cent are harvested into feed.
“The remaining BSF perpetuate the colony. Within two weeks, they pass through the pupae stage before becoming flies. The flies live for about 10 to 16 days more on a diet of water only and during that time they lay the eggs that begin the process again,” she added.
The process is used to make organic fertiliser, which the students sell to farmers at a subsidised price of Sh600 for a packet of five kilos and Sh120 for a kilo as an additional value-added product for increased crop productivity.
“I’m now contributing to global sustainability and climate-smart agriculture through converting my waste into fertiliser,” Mwaura said.
Prof Bebe said the most expensive component of raising animals is the protein cost in feeds, which accounts for 60 to 70 per cent of the total production cost.
“BSF technology is a game-changer to farmers ravaged by the effect of the pandemic and high cost of living. It is more affordable. Farmers using organic fertilisers have reported increased earnings in their ventures,” said Prof Bebe.
Another poultry farmer, Mary Ann Nyambura, says she uses BSF technology on her farm to feed her chickens and pigs.
“I no longer use conventional feeds, which are expensive. I use BSF technology, which I was taught by Egerton University students and it has many direct advantages. I have improved my poultry production. I used to sell 10 trays of eggs today I have increased to 15 trays,” said Nyambura.