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Sustainable Use of Insects to Improve Livestock Production and Food Security in Smallholder Farms in West Africa (IFWA)

 

Insects are a natural food source of poultry and fish and are rich in protein and other valuable nutrients. This project works with the hypothesis that fly larvae and termites are an economically, socially and environmentally viable source of protein for poultry and fish feed in smallholder farms in West Africa.

1. Testing substrate for house fly larvae production in Burkina Faso  

​​​About the project

Background

In West Africa, smallholder poultry and fish farmers suffer from the increasing cost of feed. Many of them do not have access to feed protein sources, resulting in quantitative and qualitative feed shortages affecting production of meat, eggs and fish, and reducing family income. A solution to develop sustainable household poultry farming and aquaculture systems is the use of untapped local, easily available and cheap protein sources. Insects, which are a natural food source of poultry and fish, are one such source. Insects are rich in protein as well as other valuable nutrient, and can be mass produced locally and on-farm. Fly larvae have the advantage to many other insects of feeding on organic waste material. The most promising and commonly used species for feed are the house fly and the black soldier fly. Termites are another type of insects that can be used for animal feed. Although the use of fly larvae and termites for poultry and fish nutrition is promising, several issues have to be solved before the methods become widely adopted by smallholder farmers. In particular: on-farm fly larvae production and termite collection systems need to be optimised; the nutritional suitability of the insects for poultry and fish needs to be further assessed; the safety of insect rearing systems and insect-based feed needs to be evaluated for animal and human health; the capacity of fly larvae to recycle waste in smallholder farms and the value of residues from on-farm rearing systems need to be considered; the impacts on household nutrition, income and livelihoods needs to be assessed; the acceptability of eating animals fed with insects may have to be improved; the use of insects as animal feed needs to be promoted within the context of national policies.

Objectives

The project will test whether fly larvae and termites are an economically, socially and environmentally viable source of protein for poultry and fish feed on smallholder farms in West Africa. The concrete objectives will be:

  • To develop appropriate methods for fly larvae and termite production and utilisation in smallholder farming systems in Benin, Ghana and Burkina Faso, based on waste material;
  • To understand and ensure the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the proposed innovations;
  • To validate and implement the innovations with the beneficiaries, and disseminate the project’s findings to the stakeholders, general public, scientific community and policy makers.

Relevance

Poultry and fish are an important source of food and protein for smallholder families in West Africa, making a substantial contribution to food and nutritional security. They are also an important source of income. However, smallholder production of scavenging chickens and fish is constrained by the animals’ diet, which is of very low quality and, specifically, deficient in protein.

Providing a new, inexpensive, locally produced protein source such as insects for poultry and fish has the potential to improve production of these animals by smallholder farmers in West Africa and, ultimately, contribute to improved family nutrition, food security and income. FAO now strongly recommends the use of insects for animal feed as a tool for poverty alleviation. However, while using insects as feed and food has a long history, the science around the topic is still in its infancy.

Highlights and most important results

In the first three years of the project, the following key results were achieved:

Surveys were made among poultry farmers in the three countries to assess the present use of termites and fly larvae as poultry feed and to gather knowledge on traditional production techniques. Between 47% and 92% of the farmers use termites to feed their poultry and 5-8% produce house fly larvae at least occasionally.

Various BSF and house fly larvae production systems have been developed for smallholder farmers and micro-enterprises. An extensive substrate testing programme showed that many substrates of animal and plant origin are suitable and available for fly larvae production, but their availability is highly variable between regions and seasons.

Techniques to harvest and trap termites vary tremendously in the three countries. Farmers collect termites by destroying mounds or by trapping them with organic wastes. Various trapping techniques have been tested and show high variations in yield. Thus, there is a strong potential for improving the systems and disseminating the best trapping techniques to replace destructive methods.

Residues from the transformation of animal manure and agri-food waste by fly larvae provide high quality composts that can significantly increase cereal and vegetable yields.

Several nutrition tests are being carried out with various animal species. Results so far showed that adding fly larvae in the diet significantly enhances local chicken growth performances and egg production. Similarly, poultry fed with termites show performances that are similar to those fed with fish meal. Similar tests are presently being done with other poultry species and fish.

Health and environmental risks related to the use of fly larvae and termites in animal feed are presently being studied. Risks for livestock, consumers and producers are being considered. Economic studies have been performed to assess farm production systems and income related to poultry farming in the target regions. They will serve as baseline against which project interventions and their direct economic implications will be compared. Studies in Benin also showed that more than 80% of the farmers are interested in the production of fly larvae for animal feed and many are willing to pay for larvae.

Health and environmental risks related to the use of fly larvae and termites in animal feed are presently being studied. Risks for livestock, consumers and producers are being considered. Economic studies have been performed to assess farm production systems and income related to poultry farming in the target regions. They will serve as baseline against which project interventions and their direct economic implications will be compared. Studies in Benin also showed that more than 80% of the farmers are interested in the production of fly larvae for animal feed and many are willing to pay for larvae.

Participatory rural appraisals have been conducted, community implementation groups have been set up and pilot farms have been established in the three countries to engage with local communities and to assess community social structures, gender roles and production systems. A team of socio-anthropologists have started to observe the research, innovation and development processes, conducting in-depth interviews with the different stakeholders in order to understand the social perceptions heterogenous actors have of the technologies currently under construction.

At the end of the first three years, 10 African PhD students and more than 20 MSc and BSc students have started of completed their thesis. More than 15 publications will be published or submitted. IFWA has also allowed the development of a Master programme in Benin entitled: “Integrated systems in Agricultural production”.

Geographic scope

  • Benin
  • Ghana
  • Burkina Faso

Research consortium

Grantees

  • Marc Kenis, CABI, Switzerland
  • Marion Fresia, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland
  • Christophe Chrysostome, University of Abomey-Calavi, Benin
  • Guy Apollinaire Mensah, Centre de Recherche Agricole (CRA) Agonkanm, Benin
  • Victor Clottey, CABI West Africa, Ghana
  • Emmanuel Nkegbe, CSIR - Animal Research Institute, Ghana
  • Gabriel Koko, Fish For Africa, Ghana
  • Salimata Sonde Pousga, Université Polytechnique de Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Fernand Sankara, Université Polytechnique de Bobo-Dioulasso, Burkina Faso
  • Alexandre Aebi, University of Neuchâtel, Switzerland

Coordinator

  • Marc Kenis, CABI, Switzerland

Partnerships

Project website and link to P3

 

 

 

Further information on this content

 Contact

Dr. Marc Kenis CABI Rue des Grillons 1 CH-2800 Delémont +41 32 4214884 m.kenis@cabi.org

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