Copyright 2018 - #

Makerere Launches project for sustainable grasshopper and cricket production and processing for food and business in East Africa

Mak PI Dr. Dorothy Nakimbugwe shaking hands with Hon. Min. Christopher Kibazanga during the launch

Makerere University in collaboration with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecologogy (icipe) on 5th April 2018 launched the INSBIZ project (INSect- based agriBIZness for sustainable  grasshopper and cricket production and processing for food in Kenya and Uganda.

The project will be co- implemented by a number of partners and collaborators including: Agrarian Systems (U) Ltd., Treasure Industries (K) Ltd., Nutreal (U) Ltd., Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) and Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS).

The project was launched by the Hon.Minister of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) represented by the Minister of  State  for Agriculture Hon. Christopher Kibazanga at the Conference Hall School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio engineering, Makerere University.

This project is part of the Bio- innovate Africa Phase II Program funded by  the Swedish International Development Aid (SIDA).

The cricket and the grasshopper

The project aims to contribute to  improved food  and nutritional security, job creation and income generation and,  reduction of  the gender gap for the  most vulnerable groups (youths and women) in  East Africa in general and specifically in Kenya and Uganda through insect rearing and processing.

It also intends to increase the population’s awareness about edible insects and create a favourable policy environment for edible insects use in both countries.

The function was attended by officials from the Ministry of  Agriculture, Uganda  National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Non- governmental organisations, representatives of consumer organisations, insect farmers, harvesters and processors, researchers from Kenya and Uganda as well as management, staff and students of Makerere University among others.

Hon. Minister Kibazanga addressing participants

Launching the project, Hon Min. Christopher Kibazanga commended Makerere University for the great job done towards developing the country through different research initiatives.

“ This has made Makerere one of the best  Universities in Africa and the world at large. Thanks to Makerere University leadership  for steering the institution through numerous challenges to deliver  this progress” The Minister said.

Minister Kibazanga said, although Africa was referred to as a dark continent, her fore fathers lived a happy life and had the ability  to discover many things without application of science and possessed  a lot like food to feed themselves.

He observed that despite the many PhDs, today,  Africa cannot feed herself despite being gifted by nature, and that nothing has been added on or domesticated since the departure of the fore fathers.

“Now I am very very proud that Makerere is adding on something and very very disappointed that  you are adding on a few  and only two(grasshoppers and crickets).

Min. Kibazanga interacts with Prof. Benard Bashaasha and Prof. Archileo Kaaya after the project launch

Many times we are struggling with people especially on lakes. Why can’t you also  help us breed Mukene ( silver fish ) outside the lake? It was God’s design that mukene is food for sea animals. Why not  add it on the list to develop it and  domesticate it to avoid competing with Nile perch feed? Instead of hunting people, Makerere is giving us a solution.” Min. Kibazanga challenged researchers.

Hon. Kibazanga expressed concern over the increasing demand for silver fish for human and animal feeds saying this denies sea animals their food.

He also told participants that grasshoppers and locusts are supposed to fall in the water bodies to be eaten by fish and therefore,  trapping them disorganises the ecology and defeats the  purpose for which the insects exist.

“Makerere is doing a very big job and that is why I am here. Domesticate the insects, stop competing with fish over insects.  Makerere is adding on the stock of knowledge and this is the best thing. You have made me proud”. Kibazanga emphasised.

The inside of the locally constructed grasshopper rearing  house

The Minister said, this initiative by Makerere University on domesticating edible insects has challenged government in terms of developing policies.

“ Makerere has challenged us. There is no policy for bees. So from here we have to start right away and add two policies on edible insects”. Min. Kibazanga stated.

To the Project Investigators, the Minister described Dr. Dorothy Nakimbugwe (PI Mak) as being next to God citing the bibilical teaching on the story of creation.

“ It is written in the Bible that you go and add on or procreate but we have spent 100 years without adding on. Why aren’t you next to God?”As  Minister  I am going to support you so long as people can rear their own  insects on farms and leave the natural ones”, he pledged.

In his  welcome remarks read for him by Prof. Bernard Bashaasha, the Vice Chancellor Makerere University welcomed participants to the university describing it as  the hub of Africa’s research.


He  noted that for many years, Uganda has been faced with food insecurity.

According to the National Food Security Assessment Report for January 2017, Prof. Bashaasha said at least 10.9 million Ugandans are facing acute food insecurity with the country risking real disaster.

He said, the need to double the productivity especially foods with high protein quality has escalated with the increasing population yet their production has reduced, to high cost and low quality of conventional protein sources for use as ingredients in animal feeds.

“The recognition of food insecurity in the country has heralded the need to identify alternative ways of widening Uganda’s food plate by adding insects to the food menu.

For this to be sustainable, commercial production of insects such as grasshoppers is essential. However, this need could be hampered by the lack of methods to rear and produce the insects, rendering rearing and processing businesses unsustainable and non-viable.

Often when one talks of a Ugandan insect snack, the mind will quickly switch to Nsenene. Even foreign visitors enjoy Nsenene, to the extent that those who have already been here will always ask for them on return and those who have read about them, will ask for them on arrival ,” Part of the speech read.

The Vice chancellor expressed happiness that the project being launched was ready to develop and commercialize insect-based products that respond to the needs of communities and promote health, food and nutrition security, especially among the most vulnerable groups.

Prof Bernard Bashaasha reading the Vice Chancellors speech

“Hon. Minister, the country will have a taste of products such as porridge flour, and cookies with crickets and Nsenene. Secondly, we are ready to witness Nsenene production all year round. The products to be manufactured will be rich in high quality protein and other nutrients, especially those of public health concern such as Iron, Zinc and Vitamin A. This is an innovation we are proud of as an institution and we’ll give it all necessary support to ensure its success”, The VC stated.

The Vice Chancellor applauded the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, for its tremendous engagements in research and innovation that have raised Makerere University to greater heights.

With its experience in finding solutions societal problems, the College has identified solutions to agricultural, environmental, food and quality of life concerns.

In the same spirit, the Vice Chancellor appreciated the School of Food Technology Nutrition and Bio engineering and the Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition for creating a strong human capital resource for Uganda.

The Vice Chancellor informed the  Minister that the Department has engaged in nurturing viable knowledge based agro processing enterprises, creating employment and, improving food and nutrition security.

During 2015-2017, the College and School in conjunction with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) under the INSFEED (Integrating insects in poultry and fish feed) Project undertook research to investigate the potential for the utilization of insects as a source of protein and other nutrients, to improve feed production for small-scale poultry and fish farming enterprises in Kenya and Uganda.

“I am happy to note that the project developed and tested insect-based feeds for the sustainable, safe, and cost-effective production of fish and poultry.

It identified suitable insect species for use as ingredients in animal feed; developed rearing protocols for these insects; assessed the acceptability and market potential for insect meal and, together with Uganda National Bureau of Standards, and other partners, the project developed a standard for insects as a feed ingredient in animal feed.

I am therefore confident that the INSBIZ Project will also achieve its aims and objectives”, The Vice Chancellor  promised.

He  thanked  the project implementers, development partners and all stakeholders that are taking part in this research to ensure the best results.

He  also acknowledged the funders, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA) under the Bio-innovate II Program, for investing in this research.

A demonstration on how crickets and grasshoppers can be reared using locally available materials

Through the Hon. Minister, the Vice Chancellor extended appreciation to the Government of Uganda for the support towards research at Makerere University.

He further commended the organisers of this workshop and the keynote speakers and most importantly, their message to the university and all participants.

The INSBIZ Project Coordinator Makerere University Dr. Dorothy Nakimbugwe said, insects are consumed in more than a half of the world’s population with Africa topping  the list with over 50 countries consuming insects.

“Insects already supplement the diets of more than 2 billion people worldwide who consume over 2000 insect species. In Africa, over 470 species are consumed.

These insects in several instances are either comparable or superior in nutritional value to beef, fish and plant sources.

In East Africa, particularly Kenya , insects account for 5-10% of the protein intake among communities residing  around L. Victoria region”. Nakimbugwe said.

 Dr. Nakimbugwe said, edible insects have the potential to fill the nutrition and income gaps in Kenya and Uganda but insect value chain are under-developed yet the demand is high.

She noted that Business enterprises for rearing and processing quality insect food products do not exist and the business potential has not been evaluated.

“ Grasshoppers and crickets  come fourth in line of  important insects and are un-tapped potential to fill  nutrition and income gaps. The percentage of insect protein is very efficient because we consume up to 80% of the insect”. The Don said.

The cricket  bucket rearing technique

Dr. Nakimbugwe reported that  Uganda is projected to have  75 million people by  2040, 68% of those, below 24 years of age.

She also said the country is faced by rampant malnutrition with 29% of the children stunted and 9% severely stunted.

The underlying cause according to Dr. Nakimbugwe is poor quality cereals and legume-based diets and  low  quality animal feeds, and,  the reason why insect-based diet presents the  solution to malnutrition problems.

Dr. Nakimbugwe outlined some of the problems the INSBIZ project will address.

She said, most of the insects consumed are seasonal, unsustainable, declining and harvested in the wild. The other problem  is the perishability of the insects  which can only have a shelf life of 24 hours and the informal and  unregulated insect sector  which posses a healthy  risky.

“ We have developed rearing protocols for grasshoppers and crickets ready for up scaling; developed and optimising processing protocols for insect based feeds and test marketed ready”, She said.

To address the afore mentioned problems, Dr. Nakimbugwe said the project seeks to: i) assess  the market size and test  the market performance of insect based food products so as to provide  advance insights into the profitability of the venture;

ii) Adapt and pilot grasshopper and cricket rearing protocols to medium scale enterprises’ conditions;

iii) Develop and characterise ready-to eat whole insect flours for use as ingredients in food preparation and processing insect-enriched porridge flours and cookies;

iv) Promote a favourable and enabling environment for insect-based  food through policy, advocacy and awareness creation.

Participants posing for a group photo with the minister after the project launch

Uganda’s edible  insects and prospects

Insects have been an integral part of diet and culture, contributing in many ways to the social and economic livelihood. Insects including crickets, worms and maggots are also important in soil formation.

In the nineties, commercial harvesting of grasshoppers was started in Nyendo-Masaka and now it is practiced in many districts in the Central and Western regions of Uganda.

White ants are also being harvested for commercial and domestic purposes. Insect harvesting in Uganda has positively contributed to the wellbeing of many communities.

However, harvesting from the wild is not sustainable especially in view of climate change and urbanisation.

Research initiatives such as INSBIZ focussing on commercialisation of mass rearing and processing of insects especially grasshoppers, introduces insect farming as a new   agribusiness opportunity in addition to the already existing fish and livestock farming.

Insect farming and processing will ensure the availability of edible insects all year round and create business and income opportunities especially for unemployed youths and women and improve food and nutritional security among vulnerable communities and individuals such as women of reproductive age and children less than five years.

Participation of women in the relatively low investment insect-rearing ventures will also ensure reduction of the existing economic and social gender gap between men and women.

Report compiled by;

Jane Anyango

Communication Officer, CAES


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