An international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Rainforest Alliance, has embarked on a programme of popularizing insect rearing as a new lifeline and source of income among youth and women in Embu and Kirinyaga Counties.
The NGO’s Mt. Kenya Sustainable Landscape and Livelihood Programme official Susan Kinyua said edible insect farming especially of crickets and black soldier flies was a rapidly growing enterprise providing income, affordable protein for human and animal feeds as well as a means of environmental conservation.
Speaking on Thursday in Embu town during a one-day training workshop cum exhibition on insect farming for over 150 youth and women in the county, Ms. Kinyua said cricket and black soldier flies rearing had proven to be a viable economic activity as their demands were on the rise for food and feed.
“Our aim is to expose youth and women to technologies that can be turned into viable business enterprises for those without any economic activity as well as livelihood diversification for those with other economic engagements,” the officer said.
She said insect farming was easy to implement as it was cost effective in terms of setting up owing to the small space required, not labor intensive and not a threat to other competing priorities.
Ms. Kinyua said they were implementing the project in partnership with an array of stakeholders both from the government and private sector to help boost the uptake and absorption of the new trend as well as link farmers with markets for their produce.
Facilitator Ms. Sharleen Muriuki from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), Enterprise Department, said insect farming offered a highly economical and sustainable solution to food and nutrition insecurity in the country.
She said return on investment was good as a kilo of mature crickets and black soldier flies could fetch up to Sh2, 500 with 3 grams of eggs fetching Sh1, 500 in the market.
Ms. Muriuki said investment could be converted into profit within a duration of a month or less given that the insects have a short lifespan of 14 days for black soldier flies and 45 days for crickets to reach maturity.
She said the insects have high protein content of up to 60 per cent and could be used to do value addition to foodstuffs such as flour or be incorporated to animal feeds.
She continued that they were also very useful in environmental conservation as they mainly feed on leftovers foods and waste crops that they later convert into organic waste that could be used as manure in the farm.
Beneficiary Faith Mbogo who is into banana value addition though production of flour and crisps, said it was a good line of diversification she was keen to pursue with a view of fortifying her products especially flour.
Another beneficiary who is in mango processing Aloise Mbogo said the insects would greatly assist his group in reducing waste especially during the peak season.
“By rearing these insects, we will not only be assured of generating income from them but also reduce wastage of our spoilt mangoes,” the farmer said.
Programme Manager Dida Wario called on farmers to replicate the training in their farms as a means of securing financial independence.
He said they have established a demonstration farm in Kirinyaga where those interested can visit and learn more.
County Commissioner Eddyson Nyale hailed the initiative, saying it was a sure way of keeping the youth, majority of whom are jobless, away from crime and challenged them to be “early adaptors” of the project and other emerging technologies.
By Samuel Waititu