Mak-CAES, UNBS Launch Edible Insect Products & Standards

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (6th R) together with the ED UNBS, Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru (5th R), Principal CAES, Dr. Gorettie Nabanoga (6th L) INSBIZ Project team and representatives from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) and Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) after the launch of edible insects products and standards on 28th March 2022.

Edible insects have the potential to fill the nutrition and income gaps in Uganda and Kenya. They are rich in protein and cheaper to manage. However, edible insect value chains are under-developed yet the demand is high. Business enterprises for rearing and processing quality insect food products do not exist and the business potential has not been evaluated.

Through a project titled INSBIZ – INSect-based agriBIZiness for Sustainable grasshopper and cricket production and processing for food in Kenya in Uganda” researchers from the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES), Makerere University in collaboration with partners from the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) set out to improve the profitability and nutritional benefits of edible insects.

The Vice Chancellor Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe (C) and the Executive-Director of UNBS Mr.-David-Livingstone Ebiru (L) getting information on the products from the Project PI Dr Dorothy-Nakimbugwe (R).

Objectives of the project
The development objective of the project was to contribute to improved food and nutritional security, job creation and income generation, and reduction of the gender gap for the most vulnerable groups in East Africa in general and specifically in Kenya and Uganda through edible insectsproduction and processing.  Specific objectives included; (1) assessing the market size and testing the market performance of insect-based foods; (2) adapting and piloting of mass rearing protocols for crickets and grasshoppers; (3) developing, characterizing and commercializing insect-enriched food products; and (4) creating a favourable enabling environment for insect-based food through policy/standards, advocacy and awareness creation.

Some of the products launched at the INSBIZ Project closing workshop.
Some of the snacks enriched with cricket powder launched at the INSBIZ Project closing workshop.

The three-year project funded by the Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA) through the BioInnovate Africa Programme Phase II was headed by Dr Dorothy Nakimbugwe, an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition at CAES. Other members on the project included Dr. Geoffrey Ssepuuya from the same department, and Dr. Jackline Bonabana-Wabbi from the Department of Agribusiness and Natural Resource Economics.


Project closing meeting

During the project closing meeting held in the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering Conference Hall on 28th March 2022, Makerere University together with Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS) launched edible insect products and standards for the enterprise. The event was presided over by Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe and Uganda National Bureau of Standards Executive Director, Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru. It was witnessed by the Principal of CAES, Dr Gorettie N. Nabanoga; the Commissioner in charge of Entomology at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr. Gidudu Masaba Ambrose; and representatives from icipe led by Dr. Chrysantus Mbi Tanga.

The products launched included shelf-stable, safe and well packaged grasshopper products, cricket enriched flours, snacks, and cookies enriched with crickets.

Project outcomes

The PI Dr. Dorothy Nakimbugwe presents an overview of the project.

Addressing participants, Dr Nakimbugwe said the products would largely reduce nutritional challenges. “The majority of our people are not able to improve their diets because the foods that are high in protein, vitamins and minerals like chicken, beef and fish are expensive. We turned to insects because they address some of those problems. They are more nutritious than the conventional animal proteins like chicken, beef and fish. In addition, they take a shorter time to grow. Crickets grow in a matter of weeks compared to the other livestock. They can be harvested within 4 to 7 weeks. They also have a high feed conversion. The amount of feed you need to produce 1kg of insect is only about one and half kilogrammes. When it comes to the producing 1 kg of chicken, the amount of feed increases to about 5 kgs. If you are to produce 1 kg of beef, the amount of feed you need is 50kgs. The insects convert feed rapidly and efficiently and produce protein faster and of the same quality. They also require less space for rearing and present an opportunity to close the food and nutrition gap especially around proteins, vitamins and minerals,” she explained.

According to Dr Nakimbugwe, the project also sought to formalize the sector to make it more profitable. “For a long time, we have not had a certified product on the market because the Uganda National Bureau of Standards did not have a standard. The sector has been very informal. Insects are sold on streets and not controlled. In this project, we wanted to improve that situation. Together with the UNBS, we developed a standard for Uganda which was approved and is now available for use. For the first time you will be able to find certified insect products on the Ugandan market,” she noted.

Other contributions included building capacity for research in this field. “The research in insects for food and feed is fairly new compared to other fields so we needed a lot of capacity development. The project was able to train the farmers and harvesters on handling of insects. We also trained students from PhDs, to MAs, undergraduates, fellows and technicians. This was necessary to sustain the research and development of this fairly noble field.”

Dr Chrysantus Mbi Tanga from icipe addressing participants.

Under the project, the researchers developed a compound feed to sustain large scale production of the insects. “If you are going to do commercial production, it is important that you have a standardized feed. In this development, we were very careful to exclude input that are also human food like silver fish and soy. Most of the feed in Uganda is in competition with the human food chain. In the project we were careful to avoid that. We formulated feed using the Black soldier fly larvae,” she explained.

Other outputs included strengthened edible insect value chains – cricket farmers linked to markets; large scale production, processing and marketing of cricket and grasshopper products; approved insect based food standards in Kenya and Uganda; improved grasshopper trapping method (cost-effective, sustainable and safer); more sustainable cricket rearing – using developed feed and container prototypes; and improved food and nutritional security through increased diversity of available nutritious and safe edible insect foods. All the products developed have shelf-life of over 6 months. For the grasshopper product, this implies all-year availability to consumers.

The project also contributed to the improvement of consumer health and safety through consumption of UNBS (and KEBS)-certified insect food products; increased incomes as a result of lower post-harvest losses for cricket farmers and grasshopper harvesters through use of improved post-harvesting techniques to maintain quality and safety;  increased jobs creation and job security through improved capacity of young researchers, technicians and actors along the edible insects’ value chains; higher profile of and support for insect foods due to increased public awareness of their nutritional and commercial importance through various programmes.

Ms. Josephine Nabanja a cricket farmer from Masaka sharing her experience with the enterprise and how the project has supported her.

During the event, a cricket farmer from Masaka shared her experience with the enterprise. She noted that with support from the project, cricket rearing had greatly transformed her life and is now able to pay fees for her children. The project supports over 50 cricket farmers in Masaka.

Remarks by the Vice Chancellor

The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe delivers his remarks.

In his remarks, Makerere University Vice Chancellor, Prof. Barnabas Nawangwe applauded the researchers noting that the project would largely address challenges of food insecurity in the country. “Makerere University researchers are taking the issue of food security seriously. In Africa, the biggest challenge we have is feeding the growing population. The traditional foods are not expanding in volume and some are actually disappearing yet we have this abundancy of what you can call the animal world. There are insects that we have traditionally eaten but these are seasonal. There are also insects which we assume we should not eat but are highly nutritious and eaten by people all over the world. Researching into ways of making their products more attractive will largely increase their consumption and boost food security,” he explained. He acknowledged the efforts of the researchers towards transforming Makerere into a research-led University as per the 2020-2030 Strategic Plan.

Speaking on the need to move the country to middle income status, the Vice Chancellor urged the researchers to transform the innovations into business enterprises. “We need to move towards setting up companies that will address challenges of unemployment but also boost our economy. With these great ideas, you can become billionaires and less dependent on salary,” he advised. He cautioned researchers to work towards patenting their products.   

The Vice Chancellor appreciated SIDA and BioInnovateAfrica for the support extended to the project. He also thanked the Government of Uganda for supporting research activities at the University. He urged researchers to continue engaging the government and private sector in projects, noting that research is more impactful when they work together.

Remarks from CAES Leadership

The Principal of CAES, Dr Gorettie N. Nabanoga applauded the project team for what she described as cutting-edge research that will greatly address challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition and improve food safety. “You have made CAES and Makerere proud with this level of success registered from the project,” she said.

The Principal of CAES Dr. Gorettie N. Nabanoga delivering her remarks.

Dr Nabanoga appreciated the development partners and the Government of Uganda for the continued support towards research at Makerere. She also appreciated the Vice Chancellor for the untiring support towards CAES activities.

The Dean, School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, Dr. Abel Atukwase at the workshop

In their remarks, the Dean of the School of Food Technology, Nutrition and Bio-Engineering, Dr Abel Atukwase and the Head Department of Food Technology and Nutrition, Dr Ivan Muzira Mukisa congratulated the research team upon the successes registered. They also appreciated the project partners and funders for the support extended to various programmes at CAES.

Dr. Ivan Muzira Mukisa, the Head, Department of Food Technology and Human Nutrition

The Executive Director of Ugandan National Bureau of Standards, Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru urged the research team to extensively disseminate and rollout the project to other parts of the country. He called for innovative measures of ensuring sustainability of the projects when donor funding stops.

Executive Director of UNBS Mr. David Livingstone Ebiru briefs participants on the standardization process.

Article written by Hasifa Kabejja, Senior Communication Officer



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