Uganda: Feeding insects to fish boosts farmer’s income

| December 5, 2016

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When one hears the word “maggot,” the creatures associated with rot and stench, one always associates it with unwanted things with no value. But some farmers are creating wonders out of rot, including a better income.

Paul Mawerere is making millions of shillings rearing maggots. Mr. Mawerere raises farmed fish in the Kyebbe sub-county of Rakai district, in Uganda’s Central Region. He says: “I started fish farming 11 years ago. Just like any other farmer, I wanted to make a profit. But things didn’t work out because of the high cost of fish feed. I instead ventured into breeding maggots as an alternative, which later worked very well for me.”

According to Mr. Mawerere, breeding maggots is easy and affordable, since it does not involve purchasing many raw materials. He says, “I only spent money on building the concrete tank. [I] used bricks and sand I already had at home. I only bought the cement.”

Mr. Mawerere gets clotted blood and slaughterhouse waste free of charge from an abattoir. The maggots feed on these products, and, when they have multiplied to a reasonable amount, he collects them to feed his fish and chickens.

Mr. Mawerere says the benefits are great. He explains: “My fish have doubled in size. It takes just four months now for a fish to mature and be ready for sale, compared to a whole year in the past. And I no longer suffer from buying adulterated feeds on the open market. I make my own feeds and they are high quality.”

Not all insects can be used as animal feed. Dorothy Nakimbugwe is a senior lecturer at the department of food technology and nutrition at Makerere University. She explains: “The ones recommended should be both safe for people and the environment. [So they] should not bite or sting, should not carry diseases for humans, crops, or livestock, [and] should not harm the environment in any way.”

​She adds: “Insects such as cockroaches and locusts are also being explored in some countries [such as] China, but much care has to be taken to ensure that they do not escape into the environment and damage crops or infest facilities.”

Mrs. Nakimbugwe advises farmers to always be watchful when rearing insects and worms. She says: “Good agricultural practices and good manufacturing practices have to be followed to avoid passing on germs or harmful chemicals to the livestock, and possibly eventually to humans.”

She says that, if people use waste materials such as household garbage or farm waste to feed insects, the reared insects must be processed appropriately to kill germs. This can be accomplished through boiling, steaming, and then drying. The processed insects must be stored safely to maintain their quality and ensure that they do not rot or go mouldy.

Mr. Mawerere says his family was initially very negative about the idea of rearing maggots. But he says patience will be rewarded—in his case with a good business. He adds, “As for my family members, now that they see the quality and quantity of our fish and eggs, and the good responses from our customers, they are very positive.”