Turning waste into animal feed and organic fertiliser

Mila Project co-founder Ahmed Abeid demonstrates how the black soldier fly technology works in Soweto, Mombasa County.

Photo credit: POOL

What you need to know:

  • Traders have found a solution to waste management challenges.
  • Instead of throwing their organic waste in dumpsites, they send it to Mila Project, where it is transformed into organic fertilisers and livestock feed using the Black Soldier Fly  technology. 

Mr Mutuku Moki is busy at his makeshift hotel by the roadside in Soweto, Mombasa County. He is serving French fries to his customers and when he is done, he settles down for the interview. He tells us that he loves his job, which he has done for as long as he remembers.

Although he operates near a road, Mr Moki’s environment is clean. His trash goes into well-kept, clean and covered bins. The bins, he explains, are collected and emptied elsewhere, then brought back clean. He no longer has to worry about disposing of potato peels, a problem he had grappled with for many years.

Remembering the days when he did not have a proper waste management system, Mr Moki explains that most of the peels would pile into an unsightly mess, making his working environment unfriendly. 

This, too, is Ms Daisy Muiya’s story. We find her equally busy in her juice parlour. She is happy that she now has a means to dispose of her fruit waste. Previously, Ms Muiya would deal with c that would eventually rot, attracting vermin and making her business venture unsafe. 

Mr Moki and Ms Muiya are among traders in the county who have found a solution to waste management challenges. Instead of throwing their organic waste in dumpsites, they send it to Mila Project, where it is transformed into organic fertilisers and livestock feed using the Black Soldier Fly (BSF) technology. 

Initially, the traders would dispose of their waste by paying Sh50 daily to inconsistent waste collectors. Uncollected piles of garbage, they explain,  would expose them to health risks.

 But this has since changed. The Mila Project team consistently collects filled waste bins from these traders and replaces them with clean, empty ones free of charge. 

Project Mila’s BSF technology begins with the picking of organic waste from selected collection points. This waste is then sorted and fed to black soldier fly larvae. The larvae thrive on the waste, converting it into nutrient-rich frass and protein-packed larvae.  The rearing process involves carefully managing temperature, humidity, and nutrition —   selecting the type of organic waste fed to the larvae to ensure optimal growth.

After maturing, the larvae are harvested and processed into various products such as animal feed and organic fertiliser. This closed-loop system not only reduces waste but also produces valuable resources for agriculture and animal husbandry.

The Mila Project team spares part of the harvested larvae and allow them to metamorphosise into black soldier flies, which lay eggs and restart the process again. The project is run by Nusra Juriah, 24, Alice Mbaluka, 27, Eugene Ochieng, 25 and Ahmed Abeid, 27. 

Nusra, the founder, is a trainee nurse currently doing her internship in Kwale County. Ahmed, the cofounder, and Alice, the team’s data analyst, are non-medical practitioners who work in health facilities. Away from the project, their daily activities involve engaging health facilities and patients to identify gaps and discuss possible solutions. Eugene is a boda boda rider and is in charge of the team’s logistics. 

The group first met at a health camp, where they discussed Mombasa’s garbage crisis and agreed that it posed a health hazard.

“Plastic pollution is not the only challenge that Mombasa faces in waste management. Organic waste has been piling up and creating ground for vermin,” said Ahmed.

Alice added that raw sewage and landfills contribute to increased chances of cholera and typhoid outbreaks. 

The team saw a gap in waste management awareness. “Residents here have no problem cleaning their personal spaces. However, they struggle with keeping their environments clean, especially when it comes to waste disposal,” Ahmed noted. 

Ahmed, born and raised in Mombasa, said he has witnessed residents throwing trash from their shops and homes directly outside their premises, a situation that has worsened over the years. 

The team has faced several hurdles. First, Mombasa’s high temperatures hindered the cultivation of their first batch of black soldier flies. They had to learn to adjust temperatures to ensure the larvae’s growth. Next, heavy rains came and washed away their initial setup, forcing them to rebuild.

“Unmoved, we started over and managed to produce our first batch, processing organic fertiliser and adult flies to raise the next generation of larvae,” said Ahmed.

Ahmed said some members of Mijikenda community fear that collected waste can be used for witchcraft. Most of those approached by the Mila team questioned where their waste would end up and what it would be used for. 

To address this, the team educated the community on collective responsibility of waste management. “We started by educating traders, offering facility tours and workshops to demonstrate the benefits in agriculture and to the community. Today, more residents appreciate the initiative, its role in waste management and resource value,” said Ahmed.

The team also cited financial limitations; which have forced them to rely on volunteers. Though they offer tokens of appreciation for waste collection, they wish to operate on a larger scale and incentivise all their operations. Ahmed said this will attract more participation. 

The team plans to partner with schools for environmental education programmes and to publish children’s books that promote sustainable practices. They are currently planning a pilot programme with Pwani Junior Academy in Soweto, Nyali.

Nusra said they also wish to restructure their facility to handle larger volumes of waste. “This is now a possibility after we got financial boost that was given to young climate innovators by the Iris Project.”