Zimbabwe: Drought opens can of worms for poultry farmers (Trust)

| March 21, 2016

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Lovemore Kuwana cheerily lifts the lid of a container full of fresh maggots. He keeps the worm containers in his backyard, and, once he dries the worms, he will feed them to his poultry.

Zimbabwe’s worst drought in 25 years has killed more than 19,000 cattle in the last few months, and 2.8 million people are facing hunger. Now, some farmers are looking for new sources of feed to keep their animals alive.

Shortages of maize- and soy-based feed have led to soaring prices. In response, Mr. Kuwana is producing maggots—small, white, crawling worms that feed on waste—to provide protein for his flock of 120 free-range chickens and 1,000 quail.

Unfazed by the swarming flies and the stink of decomposing waste filling the air, the 40-year-old entrepreneur says, “I have struggled to find nutritious feed for quite some time now.”

Photo: Chickens flock around the containers where Lovemore Kuwana breeds maggots to feed his poultry in Harare, the capital of drought-hit Zimbabwe. Credit: TRF/Jeffrey Gogo

Photo: Chickens flock around the containers where Lovemore Kuwana breeds maggots to feed his poultry in Harare, the capital of drought-hit Zimbabwe. Credit: TRF/Jeffrey Gogo

Mr. Kuwana began experimenting with raising maggots in September 2015, and the results have been, in his words, “exceptional.”

But the business is not for the faint-hearted. Mr. Kuwana stuffs pungent bird faeces into an old, 20-litre plastic container, allowing flies to lay their eggs there. He stacks two containers, and drills holes in their lids and the base of the top container.

As the eggs start to hatch, the emerging maggots feed on the waste before crawling out to pupate in the bottom container, where Mr. Kuwana harvests them, then dries them for feed. According to experts, the entire process takes less than a week.

Mr. Kuwana drills through quail droppings to release an avalanche of maggots and flies, and says, “The birds can’t resist the worms. My birds now look healthier than before.”

He is unsure how many maggots he harvests monthly and how much he saves on feed. But each container can house thousands of maggots.

Victor Marufu is with the Zimbabwe Organic and Natural Food Association. He says maggots are 65 per cent protein and 25 per cent fat, compared with 35 per cent protein in soy-based feed.

The organization trains farmers to produce maggots. According to Mr. Marufu, one kilo of fly eggs turns into about 190 kilos of dried larvae in just three days. He adds that producing maggots creates value from nothing, a big advantage over other feed supply chains.

For some, producing maggots may be the stuff of nightmares. But others are hailing it as a dream come true for controlling waste and emissions of greenhouse gases. Experts say maggot production could help cut Zimbabwe’s annual emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas.

Happymore Mbiza is an urban water systems specialist with the Chinhoyi University of Technology. He says, “Maggots can be farmed at wastewater treatment plants where primary sludge attracts a lot of house flies.”

Researchers at Chinhoyi University found that producing livestock feed from maggots generates only one-fifth the amount of greenhouse gas emissions as producing soy or maize feed. For every tonne of livestock feed made from maggots, about two tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is emitted. This compares with about 10 tonnes for soy-based feed.

Zim Earthworm Farms is a farm technology enterprise based in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. After a year of trials, the company wants to go commercial with maggot production.

According to chief executive Ephraim Whingwiri, “We have been producing a sizeable amount of maggots that are killed in the biogas digester, dried, and then mixed with the maize-based feed we produce.”

The mixed feed sustains about 300 chickens at Zim Earthworm Farms, and Mr. Whingwiri wants to expand. Pigs and fish can also eat the mixed feed.

Mr. Whingwiri and his team have discovered that having a constant supply of fresh waste is key to maintaining a high population of flies.

He says, “The work tends to put many people off. But the worm itself doesn’t smell bad at all.”

To read the full article on which this story is based, Zimbabwe drought opens can of worms for poultry farmers, go tohttp://news.trust.org/item/20160309112436-npko7/?source=fiDontmiss