By Gift Briton

The Australian government through PROTEINAFRICA, a collaboration project between the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research(ACIAR) and International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology(icipe), has committed AUD 3million to develop and facilitate the adoption of insect-based farming business in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda.

Luke Williams, the Australian High Commissioner to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, and Rwanda made this announcement during the launch of the  PROTEINAFRICA project in Nairobi Kenya, noting that Australia remains committed and determined to support agriculture collaborations and sharing of research and knowledge from the agricultural sector with colleagues in the East Africa region.

According to him, with the war in Ukraine creating shortages of crop fertilizers across the region, finding indigenous solutions(African-based) to chemical fertilizers that would be of benefit to farmers and consumers is imperative.

Luke Williams

“Insect farming has the potential to solve the problem of high cost of chemical fertilizers currently being experienced in the region and can provide sustainable alternative to animal protein feed,” Williams noted.

“The Australian government is willing to support the good work that is already being done in the region and to work with partners around the agricultural sector that natively address the challenges of finding more sustainable ways of producing crops.”

Furthermore, experts have noted that insect based farming including the use of black soldier fly to produce alternative feed protein for animals and organic fertilizer, has a huge potential to create employment opportunities, address the food insecurity issue in the region while also mitigating the climate change. And with the rising cost of living, having collaborations to find better ways for producing food to the rapidly growing population is crucial.

Dr. Segenet Kelemu, Director General icipe, registered the organization’s pleasure to launch PROTEINAFRICA project and host a planning workshop with local partners from East Africa region including Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Australia, private sector, researchers and policy makers to try and address the high prices of chemical fertilizers and as well as to provide alternative solutions to animal protein feed while also creating employment opportunities and conserving nature and biodiversity.

According to Dr. Kelemu, insect farming for improved animal feed and fertilizer continues to gain global recognition due to their high feed conversion ratio, nutrient-rich biomass, reduced water and land requirements, reduced capital and labor investment, and low ecological footprint, with Kenya being the first country in the world to allow for the use of insect based feed for both animal and human consumption.

Dr. Segenet Kelemu

Thus, she challenged the African governments and policy makers to create an Africa-wide policy on the use of insect based protein for animal feeds and organic fertilizer in order to create an enabling environment to facilities and support its adoption to scale.

According to Dr. Kelume, black soldier fly insect can be used to produce organic fertilizer that can provide long-term sustainability production system of the soils. The fertilizer can also mitigate climate change, retain soil moisture and create beneficial microbes in the soil.

“As icipe we will use our knowledge to develop evidence for policy makers to create an enabling environment for adoption of insect based farming and support the private sector with the knowledge analyze the nutrient content of the organic fertilizer and trying it on different crops and experimenting on the best substrate to raise the insects,” she noted.

The project is expected to bring a broad range of environmental and health benefits to communities in target countries and will also ensure enterprises that build opportunities for women and youth remain central to activities and proactively monitor gender balance in all stakeholder engagement activities to encourage female participation.

Furthermore, the project will  identify best cost effective, sustainable and gender sensitive supply chain models for adoption, train 11,070 households in insect mass rearing and processing for feed, producing insect feed for poultry, fish and pig in Kenya and Uganda, identifying and recommending best scaling-up methods leading to wider uptake of quality and sustainable insect production and processing for animal feed, training 60 small-medium size enterprises on insect farming and backstopping, publishing at least 10 scientific papers published, developing curriculum on insect use in animal feed for use in universities and incubation centres, training three Masters students and one PhD student as well as increasing protein availability for feed, reduced protein cost, and improved animal productivity and income generation.