We caught up with Dr Komi Fiaboe, senior scientist, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE), an organization headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, to hear more about the regulatory developments.
As coordinator of the Insect for Feed for Poultry and Fish production in Kenya and Uganda (INSFEED) project, which was funded by the International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC) and the Australia Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the scientist was one of the stakeholders involved in getting the regulatory changes needed to allow insect feed be used in the Kenya market and in partnership with Makerere Univeristy, in the Ugandan market.
In many African countries, feed, and particularly feed protein, represent the most important constraint in livestock production, particularly in poultry and fish production systems. In Kenya for instance, between 2013 and 2015, the cost of silver cyprinid fish, the main source of quality protein in poultry and fish feeds, more than doubled from US$ 0.65 to US$ 1.44 per kilo, said Dr Fiaboe.
To address that and to provide an alternative protein source for poultry and fish feed production in Kenya and Uganda, the project partners conducted research focused on nutrition, microbial safety and performance of insect based feed in poultry and fish. They also worked actively with policy makers from both countries to remove the regulatory barriers preventing insect feed use, he added.
“Over 80% of the poultry consumed in Africa comes from small scale farmers who rear chickens in their backyard; everybody knows, [in such a setting], that chickens feed on insects. Yet, we discovered that, when we tried to get commercialization of insect feed going in Kenya and Uganda, the existing legislation didn’t explicitly allow the use of insects in feed as they were considered contaminants, and could not be regarded as an ingredient,” he said.
However, the deepening protein crisis across the African continent meant that as soon as the INSFEED team had collated all the results in relation to the safety and animal performance benefits from trials into substituting fishmeal with insect meal, the policymakers were keen to get the approval process underway, continued Dr Fiaboe.
“We had all the elements, we had all the facts in place, so when we took the data to the authorities, they jumped on it as they were in hurry to solve the ever increasing cost of feed. We fully expected the standards development to take one year but, in fact, they gave us only a few months to get back to them on outstanding issues; this allowed us to quickly develop the standards with the governments in both countries,” he added.
In terms of the main steps in the legislative process in Kenya, the project team met the country's national animal feed technical committee in November 2016 and that committee then developed a draft standard, following a workshop with the INSFEED team, in December 2016. The draft legislation was put to public consultation in January 2017 and the final approval was given in March this year. In Uganda, the process began in December 2016, with the standard given the green light in June this year.
Dried insect products are now approved for use in all animal and fish feed in both countries: “We initially looked to get approval for poultry and fish but the technical committees for animal feed in both Uganda and Kenya realized that it could be allowed across the board, in all animal production segments."
“Unlike in Europe, the rearing substrate is not an issue. The focus is the end product and ensuring there are no heavy metal, microbial or mycotoxin contaminants in that,” said Dr Fiaboe.
Moreover, in Kenya and Uganda, there is a challenge around processing waste management and so a process centered around the rearing of the Black Soldier Fly relying on a variety of waste sources brings additional sustainability benefits to those markets, he said.
The hope now is to work on insect feed policy development beyond those two countries, to create a regional standard for use of insect feed in livestock feed. “We want to expand our activity to other markets. There has been little progress in terms of regulation elsewhere. The problem is that there is a whole process for each country.”
Each country needs data from its own territory to validate the safety and nutritional value of insect protein in livestock production in their own market, he said.
‘The market is huge, the demand is high’
We also spoke to Dr Chrysantus Tanga, a postdoctoral fellow at ICIPE, who runs the insect feed project - Improving livelihood by increasing livestock production in Africa (ILIPA) - a collaborative effort with Wageningen University and other partners; it is funded by Dutch donors, WOTRO.
That project is aimed at exploiting the commercial potential of insects in the production of affordable, high-quality protein for the poultry, pig and fish industries. It is looking to develop an effective agribusiness model in East Africa, training farmers, women, youth groups and extension workers in insect rearing and in business and entrepreneurial skills.
The research also focuses on creating awareness and identifying market opportunities.
“The large feed millers in Kenya [are interested in seeing] a business channel that produces and sells insect protein [whole dried insects] to them that is more cost effective than fishmeal right now. As long it is cheaper, they will buy it,” said Dr Tanga.
Currently, very little insect protein production is underway in Kenya or Uganda. However, ideally, in the future, insect protein will replace fishmeal in animal feed in large volumes.
“The market is huge, the demand is high. The volumes will increase if we can encourage young entrepreneurs or small scale farmers to enter the business and channel all the way to the feed producers through supplying a centralized storage depot."