By: Don Charles Iga
In many sub-Saharan African countries, poultry and fish industries are among the fastest growing agri-businesses. However, poor availability and the low quality of feeds, combined with the high cost of soybeans and cereals used as feed ingredients are severely constraining growth in the sector. Globally, the cost of feed ingredients has doubled in the last five years according to research.
In looking for a sustainable solution to this challenge, one of the priorities has been to identify alternative sources of protein, which is the most expensive element in commercial feeds. Through cultural and social interactions, insect protein was identified as one option, where various types of insects have been used as ingredients in home-made poultry feeds. However, little research had been done in the region on the use of insects as an alternative protein source for livestock.
As a result, Makerere University in conjunction with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), the Kenya-based International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) and other stakeholders, under the INSFEED (Integrating insects in poultry and fish feed) Project undertook research to prove the concept that insects can be used to supplement silver fish (mukene) as a source of proteins in the production of feeds for fish and poultry.
The Project research findings have confirmed that insects are a viable alternative source of proteins for production of animal feeds, especially poultry and fish feeds. With these findings, the project embarked on laying a foundation for the production of insect-based feeds by developing a standard for the products to guarantee quality and safety and open the way for private sector investment.
The standard that was developed has finally been launched at Makerere University School of Food Technology, Nutrition & Bio-engineering at a one-day end-of project workshop and Exhibition held to sensitize farmers and to raise awareness on production of high quality insect-based feeds for fish and poultry. This launched standard was developed with wide stakeholder consultation and engagement in collaboration with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) which approved it on June 20, 2017 as ‘Dried insect products for compounding animal feeds’ – (US 1712:2017).
While launching the standard on behalf of UNBS, the Deputy Executive Director (UNBS), Mrs. Patricia Bageine Ejalu highlighted that the standard developed by UNBS followed a well guided, consultative and rigorous approach to ensure that consumer safety was guaranteed. She thanked the INSFEED team together with the different sectors for the good collaboration that made attainment of the standard come to a reality.
She informed the audience that standards could either be developed locally or adopted from already existing ones from regional and international organizations like the East African Standards (EAS) and International Organization on standardization (ISO).
Mr. Raymond Agaba, Commissioner Internal Trade who represented Hon. Mrs. Amelia Kyambadde-Minister of Trade, Industry and co-operatives stated that the standard would alleviate the fear that people previously had towards use of insects as feed. He emphasized that the standard will encourage more research in similar or related areas/products and also contribute to job employment particularly to the youth.
Bishop Ambrose Gidudu, the Commissioner Entomology (Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry & Fisheries) said that the poultry and fish industry is one of the fastest growing industries in Sub-Saharan Africa. He acknowledged that the cost of feeds particularly those rich in protein was continuing to hamper production.
He therefore congratulated the INSFEED team for tirelessly working together to come up with the standard as one of the key steps to introduce insect feed in mainstream commercial poultry and fish feeds. He notified the participants that the ministry had an entomology department that had previously focussed on elimination of insects as vectors. However productive entomology was being pioneered by the ministry as one way of productively utilising insects.
The Commissioner emphasized that the challenge now laid in popularising productive entomology such that the insect rearing and utilising could be adopted by the population. He expressed ministry’s willingness to support and collaborate with the principal investigators and other stakeholders to sensitize and popularize productive entomology across the country.
The INSFEED Uganda Principal Investigator, Assoc. Prof. Dorothy Nakimbugwe reported that many Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) have taken up the businesses along the insect-based feeds value chain. This is in form of rearing of insects, trade and transportation of insect products, production of insect-based feeds, poultry and fish farming, as well as processing and trading in poultry and fish products. According to her, the end result will be job creation especially among the youth and women and a positive impact on national economic development.
Prof. Bernard Bashasha, Principal Makerere University College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences informed the audience that prior to the INSFEED Project, national and regional feed regulations considered insects as impurities and there were no regulations in Kenya or Uganda governing their use as feeds.
He stressed that the aim was to improve the quality of available feed while lowering production costs for famers and feed processors and building human capacity to support continued research and development along insect for food and feed value chain.
Prof. John Muyonga, a nutritionist and the Dean of the School of Food Technology, Nutrition & Bio-engineering agreed that the consumption of insects was widely known and accepted in Africa with over 250 insect species being consumed and insect trade being valued at over U$ 100 billion. In his perception, the insect industry is very crucial, however it is a pity that not much has been done on commercializing insect trade yet protein malnutrition continues to ravage the continent.
Among the insects chosen for feed were Black soldier fly larvae (BSFL). The black soldier fly, scientifically known as Hermetia illucens is a common and widespread fly of the family Stratiomyidae and are considered neither pests nor vectors. The fly larvae are an excellent source of sustainable protein for aquaculture, poultry and animal feed as well as human nutrition. The larvae have voracious appetites and can be used for composting household food scraps and agricultural waste products.
The 36 months INSFEED project has opened the doors for sensitization of stakeholders and preparation for implementing the standard during insect rearing and feeds production. It is worth noting that previous national and regional feed regulations considered insects as impurities and there were no regulations in Kenya or Uganda governing their use as feeds. It is therefore with great anticipation from the stakeholders that the launched standard will greatly change the mind-set of farmers about insect consumption and feed.
The INSFEED project has been funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada and the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research (ACIAR) of the Australian Government. It was established in October 2016 to investigate the potential for the utilization of insects as a source of protein and other nutrients; improve feed production for small-scale poultry and fish farming enterprises in Kenya and Uganda.