Kenyan startup The Bug Picture transforms desert locust into animal feed, organic fertilizer

KENYA – Necessity is the mother of invasion. Kenyan regenerative agriculture startup, The Bug Picture is turning the locust invasion menace that has engulfed Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia and Yemen, into an opportunity by turning the insects into animal feed or an organic fertiliser.

The startup is dedicated at addressing environmental challenges in East Africa via the sustainable use of insects, producing competitively priced sustainable alternative protein source.

With support from Danida emergency funding, The Bug Picture has mobilised affected community members around the areas of Laikipia, Isiolo and Samburu in Kenya to harvest the insects.

“We are trying to create hope in a hopeless situation, and help these communities alter their perspective to see these insects as a seasonal crop that can be harvested and sold for money.”

Laura Stanford – founder of The Bug Picture

Once they are collected, the members receive immediate payment via mobile money transfer platform Mpesa at a rate of Ksh.50 (US$0.45) per kilogramme of the insects.

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According to a Reuters report, the project oversaw the harvest of 1.3 tons of locust between February 1-18, with the locals being paid Ksh. 50 (USD0.46) per kilogram of insects.

The insects are crushed and dried, then milled and processed into powder which is used in animal feed or an organic fertiliser.

“We are trying to create hope in a hopeless situation, and help these communities alter their perspective to see these insects as a seasonal crop that can be harvested and sold for money,” Laura Stanford, founder of The Bug Picture.

This unique approach of community-based harvesting and processing of locusts is said to be suitable for small swarms that are not targeted by the spray operations being carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, either due to the size of the swarm or its close proximity to people and settlements.

Kenya is grappling with the worst locust plague in decades. The country is already facing high levels of acute food insecurity and the ongoing desert locust invasion is worsening the situation.

According to FAO, a single square kilometre of swarm has the potential to consume the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.

With every new generation of breeding, their numbers can exponentially increase 20x after three months, 400x after six months and 8000x after nine months.

icipe launches mass release of indigenous natural enemies to control fall armyworm

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Meanwhile, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) has launched mass releases of indigenous natural enemies of fall armyworm (FAW) in Kenya.

In Africa, the cultivation of maize represents one of the most important sources of food security, income generation and employment for over 300 million people.

However, the recent invasion by FAW has led to yield losses of 8 – 20 million tonnes of maize on the continent.

Maize is attacked by diverse species of native and invasive stemborer pests in Africa, however, the FAW has become the most devastating.

It attacks all the developmental stages of the maize plant attracting an unprecedented scale of broad-spectrum application of chemical insecticides by the growers.

To this end technologies such as the use of icipe’s Push-pull technology, maize-legume intercropping and biopesticides have proven to be a key part of sustainable management strategy for FAW, particularly under smallholder maize production systems in Africa.

These technologies are eco-friendly and compatible with the use of biological control agents.

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