Blogs

Flying Food steadily to the market

Creating markets for nutritious crickets in Kenya and Uganda. That is the ambition of the Flying Food partnership. Marijke de Graaf of ICCO was on the spot.

Flying Food steadily to the market

Late June I met face2face with the Flying Food team in Kisumu, Kenya, together with experts from TNO and KRECA. We visited farmers, who are operating the validated cricket rearing system based on a set of 30 plastic crates. It has been great to see concrete results of our joint efforts that started in 2013 to adapt Dutch-based large scale cricket rearing towards a smallholder rearing model in Kenya and Uganda.

The Flying Food project started in May 2013 in the Nyanza region in Kenya and the Masaka district in Uganda, with the aim to promote local production and consumption of crickets. The project is a PPP, counting with financial support of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Achmea Foundation.

The international project team, which is led by TNO, consists of Dutch, Kenyan and Ugandan insect rearing, agri-food and business development experts (see Flying Food project for an overview of all partners). ICCO Cooperation is responsible for coordination of project activities on-the-ground, overall monitoring of results and facilitation of the learning agenda.  

Nutritious and climate change resilient

Project partners share the vision that rearing crickets for consumption forms an efficient and sustainable contribution to food security for smallholder farmers as well as (low-income) consumers. Crickets need six times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of animal protein, use significantly less water than conventional livestock and are therefore more drought-resistant and as such climate change resilient.  By 2018 the project aims to have established inclusive and sustainable value chains in both countries. This includes 600 smallholder farmers, producing a total of about 3,000 kg fresh crickets/month generating at least € 200 additional income per household per year. In addition at least two viable local enterprises are to be established that focus on processing crickets into branded products for local markets.

Rising demand and supply

More and more farmers want to start rearing crickets. Beforehand they have to participate in a hands-on training (rearing, processing, basic business skills, record keeping) and be registered by the project. Subsequently they have to procure a basic set of 30 plastic stackable crates, specially adapted for cricket rearing and some crickets as parent stock . The full package of training, hardware and parent stock  requires an investment between € 600,- to € 800,- per farmer. In case farmers lack the financial means, they can request a loan via microfinance services linked to the project. At this stage, with new farmers joining and scaling of activities, existing cricket farmers focus merely on the production of crickets for reproduction to be sold as parent stock to new farmers.

Jacqueline Oloo with money
Photo: Jacqueline Oloo – Florence Otieno Gundo with KES 9100 (€ 75,-)  that she earned with sales of crickets as parent stock

As for monitoring of results at output and outcome level, the project makes use of Akvo FLOW, a web-based dashboard for real time data management in combination with mobile devices for field level data collection.  This mechanism facilitates sharing of data and related insights among project teams in Kenya, Uganda and The Netherlands as well as reporting to third parties.

Last but not least, there is a steady market uptake of crickets for consumption at local level. This is illustrated by the Akado farmer cooperative, a group of farmers near Kisumu, Kenya, that rears crickets and processes them into cricket flour. This protein-rich flour is subsequently used to make fortified food products’. Local consumers are willing to pay 25% more for fortified buns or bread on top of the price for regular ones.  

Companies step in

But even more important, local agri-food companies such as MIXA Foods and Beverages in Kenya and EntoAfrica and FX Ssalongo in Uganda have developed convincing business cases. EntoAfrica aims to establish large scale production of crickets and simultaneously develop into a cricket knowledge and reference center. MIXA has a similar agenda in Kenya. In addition MIXA and FX Ssalongo focus on production of cricket flour and subsequently food products enriched with this animal protein-rich flour. To safeguard on the one hand continuous and high quality supply of crickets and on the other hand a secured  demand, they are drafting agreements with smallholder farmers, with support from the project. Depending on the farmer’s situation and interest these agreements could cater for a loan to obtain necessary hardware as well as tailored technical training and support.   

Lesson learned

Looking back we realize that it has been a long and intensive process to establish a cricket for consumption value chain from scratch in two countries at a time in Africa. Communication and exchange of findings and insights generated has been and remains a challenge. The monitoring mechanism, led by ICCO, is instrumental in gathering, sharing and using relevant data. The use of mobile devices and a web-based dashboard, that is accessible to country level project coordinators facilitates sharing of information, participation and ownership.

The design and validation of a cricket rearing model for Kenyan and Ugandan smallholder farmers turned out to be more challenging than anticipated. On the other hand, market uptake of especially processed crickets has developed more or less organically. In order to establish a viable value chain from farmer households producing crickets to consumers, local enterprises turned out to be key. There is a clear need for national commercial parties that have the institutional capacity to invest and count with a long term vision. Tailor made business development as well as loans for commercial purposes can be facilitated through the project. However the vision and determination of national entrepreneurs such as the directors of MIXA, EntoAfrica and FX Ssalongo are indispensable as a basis for a sustainable value chain.

Towards sustainable value chains

African women and youth in rural areas frequently face challenges to secure their livelihoods and make ends meet, due to their limited access to natural resources. The learnings from Flying Food demonstrate that commercial rearing of crickets for consumption by smallholder farmers in combination with processing and marketing by local entrepreneurs, holds great potential. With the need for only a shelter of about 6 square meters, small supply of fresh water and a limited starting capital and low operational costs, cricket rearing for consumption has the potential to be a viable income generating activity.

To realize this potential for the coming years the project still needs to cover different grounds at the same time. We will further optimize production, processing and marketing mechanisms on the ground, through applied research and broad capacity building. We also need to  carefully monitor and document results and impact for learning. Generated data and findings are also used to raise awareness and interest among donors, investors and researchers as we still need support in kind, in grants and in loans for further innovation, outreach and scaling.

In case you would be interested to join forces with Flying Food please contact: Marijke de Graaf: marijke.de.graaf@icco-cooperation.org