International Studies & Programs

Bringing Insects Back as Food and Feed in Sub-Sarahan Africa

Getting Black Soldier Flies into Local Economies

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Published: Thursday, 19 Dec 2019 Author: Mimi Anagli

In September of 2016, the AAP issued an open call for research proposals that target the AAP’s thematic areas of agri-food systems; water, energy and the environment; youth empowerment; education; culture; and health and nutrition. After receiving over sixty-five proposals, fifteen proposals were chosen to be awarded between $50,000-$200,000 towards their projects that would create long-term and sustainable collaborations between MSU faculty and partners from African organizations.

Now, three years of diligence and passion later, these research teams have finished their research. To celebrate and share this collaboration, effecting positive change in Africa through meaningful and equitable partnerships, here is a success story from one of the teams and their project, “Farming Insects for Food: Developing Partnerships for Sustainable Food Security in Malawi”.

Led by associate professor, M. Eric Benbow and assistant professor, Jennifer L. Pechal of MSU’s Agriculture and Natural Resources, the team addressed the food insecurity in East Africa due to uncertainty in local crop availability. With a long-term goal of developing and assessing the use and safety of insects as a widely available, sustainable feed for livestock production, the team focused on the following three objectives:

  • Developing partnerships and build a network of collaborators between African and US institutions and individuals for technical training and capacity building. 

  • Assess the feasibility, benefits, and optimization of insects as feed for local stakeholders while educating local students and stakeholders.

  • Secure external funding to promote research and enhance the livelihood for individuals that would implement these techniques of using insects. 

Insect larvae
Insect larvae could be used as sustainable livestock feed.

Benbow and Pechal collaborated with several faculty from Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR) in Lilongwe, Malawi, including Dr. Jeremiah Kang'ombe from the Dept. of Aquaculture and Fisheries Science, Dr. Kingsley Masamba from the Dept. of Food Science and Technology, and Dr. Andy Safaloah from the Animal Science Dept. The Univeristy of Malawi was also represented through work with Dr. Arox W. Kamng'ona from the Biomedical Sciences Dept. Through this partnership, they looked at how larvae of certain insects can be used as feed for livestock and help increase agricultural sustainability, improve feed security and can be easily introduced into local food production chains. With meaningful conversations at the city council and private industry levels,  a better understanding of the costs, impacts, and challenges of developing a continuous source of insects as protein in Malawi, and the opportunity to meet the assistant deputy head of the Lilongwe City Council Solid Waste Disposal Sites to identify potential waste streams available as a resource for black soldier fly development, the team was able to reach the stages of their research where they are discussing logistics, capacity, partnerships, and data acquisition with a consortium of insects-as-feed in the USA (i.e., Evoconversion Systems) and a private South African based company.

After 18 months of efforts funded by the AAP to get more global support for this initiative to develop a commercial black soldier fly (BSF) operation in Malawi to increase sustainable feed for livestock production and minimize the risk of malnutrition in rural communities, Benbow and Pechal have established strong partnerships with people and businesses looking to help them continue this project which will undoubtedly improve the agricultural and economic reality of Malawi.