Jenifer Ladwong had never thought of feeding insects to her chickens, although she had seen chickens scratching the ground for worms near rubbish pits. But when she heard about how to rear insects on the radio, she immediately decided to see if it could work for her.
Mrs. Ladwong rears chickens in Iowok village, in the Omoro district of northern Uganda. For a number of years, her biggest challenge was the high cost of chicken feed. She nearly gave up poultry farming. But in November 2016, the 35-year-old learned about feeding insects to chickens through Mega FM.
A month later, Mrs. Ladwong tried to put what she had heard on the radio into practice. She explains: “I collected cow dung, put it in a basket, and poured water [on it]. I left it for three to four days and realized maggots had formed. I gave the chickens [the maggots] to eat and I realized they liked it very much.”
Mrs. Ladwong started rearing insects for her chickens because she didn’t have enough affordable feed. She was also afraid that her chickens would wander too far from home while looking for food, and that wild animals would eat them.
Since starting to raise maggots in a basket, Mrs. Ladwong has added a sack and a paper bag to ensure that her chickens have enough food every day. This saves her money on chicken feed. But she is also saving her maize and sorghum harvest, which she can now feed to her family rather than to her chickens.
At first, Mrs. Ladwong thought that rearing insects might be difficult because it can be dirty work. She says it was scary at first. She explains, “[At first,] I closed my eyes when pouring the maggots for the chickens to eat, but now I no longer do that.”
She encourages other women not to fear insects, but rather to understand that they help the farm.
Because of the radio program on Mega FM, Mrs. Ladwong has joined a farmers’ group in Omoro district. The group members use insects as fish feed.
Kenth Ojok is one of the fish farmers in Omoro district. He hangs a lamp over the fish pond and insects, attracted to the light, fall in the pond. The fish eat them immediately.
Mr. Ojok sells his fish for 3,000 to 6,000 Ugandan shillings ($0.82 to $1.65 US) each. He says that his fish grower faster and bigger from feeding on insects, but that the taste of the fish doesn’t change.
Mrs. Ladwong learned from the group members how to raise fish, and has built a pond for raising catfish and tilapia. She was trained by Insfeed Uganda at Makerere University in Kampala on how to rear black soldier flies as fish feed.
Dorothy Nakimbugwe is a senior lecturer at the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition at Makerere University. She says insects have more protein than feeds such as soybean and sunflower seed cakes, which are expensive for farmers to purchase.
Miss Nakimbugwe adds that insects are cost effective and also that farmers can ensure that their feed is good quality since they are in control of the process.
Mrs. Ladwong’s chickens are now growing more quickly and producing more eggs. The chickens used to need eight months to reach a marketable size. But with the change in diet, they grow fat within six months. In addition, they start laying eggs earlier and lay more eggs than before the change in diet.
Mrs. Ladwong currently has 21 free-range chickens, which she rears for food rather than sale. Since she is saving money by rearing insects, she plans to add more chickens and more fish. This will require raising even more insects.
As a result of all her activities, Mrs. Ladwong now has more food for her family. And it’s all because of insects.
This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Ottawa, Canada, www.idrc.ca , and with financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca