KAMPALA – As climate change threatens natural resources like fodder for feeding cattle, a principal scientist has said insects could be the ideal animal feed in place of soybean and folder.
Dr Sunday Ekwesi the programme leader at Insect feed for poultry and fish production in sub-Saharan Africa, (INSFEED) who investigated how insects can be utilised for animal feed said using insects as feed limits the level of harmful gases being released into the environment.
“Insects are an excellent source of proteins with nutritional qualities similar to those of meat and fish and could be used in animal feed as a significant way to contribute to food security and reduce emissions into the atmosphere,” said Dr Ekwesi.
A paper released by Dr Ekwesi titled Grubs up: insects for nutritious animal feed says livestock farming currently accounts for around 18% of human-induced global emissions, which will increase with rising demand for animal products.
The paper adds that as the demand increases, so does the necessity for livestock feed, of which protein is the most expensive component (provided usually in powder form, as well in granules from soybean and fishmeal).
“Nitrous oxide is released from fertilisers applied to fodder crops grown for livestock feed and using insects as feed, instead of fodder, limits the level of harmful gases being released. 25 kgs of feed are required to produce 1 kg of beef compared to 2.2 kgs required to produce 1 kg of crickets,” explains Dr Ekwesi.
“We can, therefore, play a role in mitigating climate change as well as ensuring protein and other essential minerals are available in nutritious animal feed” adds Dr Ekwesi.
INSFEED is developing an open-access inventory of insects detailing specific nutritional qualities of commonly-found and easily-reared insects.
“So far, an Africa-based list of 500 species of insects have been identified as a starting point and this will help us focus on the species with the most potential for use in poultry and fish feed,” explains Dr Ekwesi.
He revealed that they are looking at appropriate insects with basic requirements for rearing and harvesting in Uganda like grasshoppers, crickets, black flies, fruit flies and beetles and that the next step will be to develop rearing and harvesting guidelines for small-scale farmers.
The project that already started in Uganda and Kenya is aiming to engage small-scale poultry farmers to rear their own insects, to mix them in with other ingredients used for poultry feed, which they are currently doing but with more expensive protein sources.
“Then they will be able to buy cheaper but safer commercially produced, insect-based feed on the market and then use their own reared insects in other livestock feed, or to sell to larger companies for processing,” said Dr Komi Fiaboe, senior scientist and coordinator of the INSFEED.
Dr Fiaboe explained that small-scale insect farmers could also create associations to produce insects for sale as raw material or semi-processed (e.g. dried whole insects or ground into flour) for sale to smallholder, and medium to large-scale poultry and fish producers.