Flying Food

Addressing food shortages in the region, the traditional habits of eating insects and the need to create economic opportunities in Uganda and Kenya, the Flying Food project aims to develop an inclusive value chain on rearing crickets for consumption and marketing. The programme is led by TNO and implemented by ICCO Cooperation in partnership with ADS, BoPInc, and private sector partners Venik and Jagran and knowledge institutions (HAS Den Bosch and BUC). The programme is funded by FDOV.

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Insects like lake flies, termites, grass hoppers and crickets are traditionally collected and consumed in Kenya and Uganda and are highly nutritious. A 2011 market exploration in Kisumu, Kenya confirmed that > 80% of the population consume insects whenever they are in season and are interested in processed insects as ingredient for other products. Since 2010 a consortium of Dutch and Kenyan partners are supporting farmers in Kisumu to pilot the rearing of crickets for consumption. During 2012 SIDA allocated funding to carry the pilot further and analyze opportunities for commercialization. In the Masaka region of Uganda up to 250 local entrepreneurs collect, process and trade grasshoppers on large scale during two short periods per year, which is a lucrative business. Based on these experiences a multi-annual proposal for the development of inclusive value chains on crickets for consumption in Kenya and Uganda was formulated.

By mid-2013, the Flying Food consortium, led by TNO and including public as well as private partners from Kenya, Uganda and the Netherlands obtained funding from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for this innovative proposal. The consortium will realize a system innovation by completing seasonally collecting insects in the wild with year round rearing and supply of crickets. With a market-based approach at least 4000 small scale cricket farms will be established in Kenya and Uganda. The crickets will be dried for direct consumption or for further processing into flour to serve as an ingredient for new food products (like blend flour, cakes, samosa’s, meatballs, etc.).

Food design, the development of recipes, consumer testing and marketing campaigns are included in this project. The project will increase availability and accessibility of nutritious quality food at local markets to 1,000,000 people at the BoP and facilitate entrepreneurship and income generation through inclusive value chain development.
Flying Food

Interview with Charles Ochiel Odira - Cricket entrepreneur in Kenya

Charles sits behind his desk, overlooking his administration. This is not his favourite time of the day. He rather walks around at the farm and talks with his employees to improve farming processes. His favourite place is his cricket-house: “Cricket farming is new, innovative and exciting. We are currently on full speed creating a market for crickets in Kenya.”

Who is Charles Ochiel Odira?

Charles grew up in Homa Bay in Kenya and was the lastborn of six children. His parents were not highly educated, but had an eye for business opportunities: “My father farmed and processed sugarcane. He owned the only sugarcane crusher in the region. My mother was also a business lady and traded in fish.” Charles inherited the entrepreneurial nature of his parents and runs now his own farm-business: “I started small and rented a piece of land. I was interested in adding value to my products. I fabricated for example a machine to crush pineapples and make juice and one to meal peanuts to make peanut butter. Not only did I sell the improved products, people started to rent and even buy my machinery too. Slowly business grew.”

Involvement Flying Food program

When Charles met the program manager from the Flying Food program in a workshop, she told him about their need for equipment to process crickets. “Initially, I was not very enthusiastic, because in this area people are not familiar consuming crickets. However, I decided to enter the program, because fabricating equipment simply means business.” The Flying Food program asked Charles if he was interested to go to Thailand with them and get to know different processing techniques, as the Thai are masters in rearing crickets. This trip changed Charles view on cricket farming completely: “I went to Thailand as a partner in Flying Food, but I came back also as a farmer. I saw Thai cricket farmers earn a lot of money with their business. Crickets contain a lot of proteins and I noticed the health benefits are huge. You do not have to eat expensive food supplements as crickets contain similar quality proteins as beef and fish. Moreover, cricket rearing does not require a lot of land or high investments.”

'Women are better in cricket rearing than men'

When Charles came back from Thailand he started cricket rearing. “It’s not heavy, you just need to clean, feed and water them at specific times. However, that does require dedication. I noticed women are better at this than men. In Berlinda I found my perfect employee to take care of the crickets. The crickets like her and she loves them. Since she started the volume is rapidly increasing.

Cricket cooperative

Charles is also part of the cricket cooperative, of 65 farmers. Counting with an established local enterprise Charles has been requested to officially manage an earmarked loan from the Achmea Foundation. This is meant for the purchase of a set of 30 crates for commercial cricket rearing by smallholder farmers. Through the project these farmers will receive training and ‘on-the-job’ advice on rearing, processing and marketing. In addition Charles will be able to provide ‘parents stock’ on a commercial basis to farmers who start rearing. The  ambition of the Flying Food project is to establish at least 300 cricket farmers during 2017 and create the basis for an inclusive and climate resilient value chain. The increase in numbers of farmers and amounts of production needs to go hand in hand with the development of the processing capacity and the market. At least during the initial phase farmers will start selling their crickets to Charles for a fixed price. They have a guaranteed market and earn a steady income. And on the other hand Charles processes the crickets in for example crickets cakes, and profits when he sells these in his stores in Kisumu.   

Nutritious benefits of crickets

“I believe in the future of cricket rearing. People are not interested because of a lack of knowledge. When people get to know the nutritious benefits the market will grow. Two weeks ago I was invited to talk at national radio about cricket rearing. Ever since, 35 people called and showed their interest in the cricket products. I have to disappoint them today, but I’m not going to disappoint them tomorrow!”

Target group

4,000 small farmers in Uganda (Masaka) and Kenya (Kisumu)
200,000 BoP consumers


Financial sustainability:
The project is based on a business case that is sustainable, supported by business driven actors: farmers, already earning from their farming activities. They have already demonstrated willingness to invest, with support of financing mechanisms, in starter kits for rearing and will achieve break even within a year, while consuming and selling their production. Cooperative break even is estimated around 2 months, due to low level of investments and high volume. Processors in the value chain have already commercial activity and are ready to invest in new tools for processing, to generate increased revenue. Their break even point after investing in new processing equipment is expected after 2 years. Traders and Retailers have no investments. Profit margins along the value chain are considered typical for the respective countries (Farmer 27%, Cooperative 5%, Processor 9%-12%, Retail 12%). In Uganda, there is already a financially sustainable model existing for seasonal collection and sales of grasshoppers.

Institutional sustainability:
All parties involved in the value chain development are local actors who will be made responsible for the sustained delivery of the services or products after the project period. They are involved at very early stage in the project so that they take great responsibility. The involvement of NGO (ADS, ICCO) and association (BADDA, farmers associations) ensure that the interests of the most vulnerable and/or poor groups in society are represented

Ecological sustainability:
Recent research has shown that insects produce much less greenhouse gas than usual livestock. For example, pigs produce 10-100 times more greenhouse gas per kilogram growth than mealworms. Their emission of ammonia (responsible for contamination of groundwater) is also 8 to 12 times higher per kilogram of growth, compared to insects such as grasshoppers and crickets. The production of manure is significantly lower than normal cattle and the land use is much lower than conventional animal production.
Based on the above it can be concluded that insects are more efficient and environmentally friendly producers of protein. Furthermore, they reproduce much faster than cattle, are easy to rear and need far less living space. In the processing, new processes and equipment will be designed and developed based on minimum energy consumption to reduce the cost of operation for the processors (eg drying process will be done by sun exposure).

Technical sustainability:
The development of a knowledge centre gives the insurance that all technical aspects of the rearing, processing and selling crickets will be available locally for further implementation
The already running pilot rearing facility in Kenya at the Bondo University, indicates that rearing is well possible and simple under local circumstances. The farmers from BADDA in Uganda already started rearing crickets and the found enthusiasm reduces the risks of the project. By gradually building up the number of cricket farms, experience is build up and eventual diseases among crickets can be solved at small scale. The Dutch partners, who already rear insects and crickets, will bring in their expertise on these subjects. The gradual growth in cricket production results in a gradual expansion in market penetration and gives time to develop adequate processing and new product designs. The development of processing equipment will be done locally, to ensure capacity for replication and maintenance. The choice of technologies will be done based on local competences.

Social sustainability:
The project answer to the demand of farmers to develop more activities, thus increase income and of the market to get cheaper access to nutritious food.
The short, locally founded value chains that are set up, with NGO and farmers organisation involved, makes corruption not to be expected.

Goals overview

- Food Security & Sustainable Consumption (Output)
- Food Security & Sustainable Consumption (Outcome)
- Food Security & Sustainable Consumption (Other)
- Economic Empowerment (Outcome)

Eunice Achieng Omoto
66 years old
Married 4 children (1 boy & 3 girls)

Rearing crickets with a purpose

In a small house somewhere in Kisumu an old lady is sitting on the couch watching television. Crickets are buzzing in the background. Eunice looks at her watch, stands up and pushes back a curtain in the back of the living room. Behind the curtain several grey crates with crickets are piled up. “Yes yes, you are hungry. Don’t be upset, I’m going to give you food,” she mumbles.”

Eunice used to work as a nurse, but she was forced to retire because of severe back problems. At a farming exhibition last year, Eunice heard for the first time about cricket farming. “I joined the Akado self help group, got registered and borrowed 78,000 Kenyan shillings to buy parents stock and crates. Moreover, I got an extensive training and I was in business.”

“It is precise work, but not heavy at all. You just need to clean, feed and water them regularly.” Eunice, started only a few months ago rearing crickets and sold two crates for 2,000 shillings. She is not only interested in cricket rearing because of the money. “You need something to wake up for and stay active in order to be physically, mentally and spiritually balanced. That’s when life becomes enjoyable.”

The volume of Eunice’s crickets is steadily increasing. However, she still notices quite many are dying as well: “The house gets quite hot. I’m not sure this is the reason they are dying. The project officer of Flying Food advised me to change their diet. I hope this helps. In four months I will start paying of my loan.”

Monica Ayieko
Associate Professor Science and Technology
Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University

Bondo University improves cricket-rearing techniques

Behind Bondo University college professor Monica Ayieko houses thousand and thousands of crickets. She looks into one of the breeding systems to check the number of crickets and their activity. “Did you notice any abnormalities after we changed their food?”, she asks the caretaker.

Professor Ayieko manages a research program at Bondo university to improve cricket rearing techniques. She started on a very small scale with just a handful of crickets: “I had no idea what I was doing. Everybody thought I was completely crazy to start this research project. But, I believed in the quality of crickets. They are climate resilient, nutritious and cheap to rear. It was a process of trial and error to find out how to house, feed and take care of them. I’m very proud we finally developed an established colony. Moreover, we process crickets and sell our products at the university and around. Student love our cookies. The profit,all goes back into the research project.

The knowledge gained at the university is used to improve the flying food program and train farmers. “There is still lots we don’t know”, professor Ayieko explains. “We are learning every day and we use our knowledge to adjust and optimize the cricket rearing system.”

Berlinda Achieng Kwach
20 years old
Not married & no children
One older brother

Rearing crickets to pay study fees

The crickets make soft chirping sounds when Berlinda opens a grey crate. She gives them new water and food and smiles: “I love these sounds. It’s like they are whispering good morning.”

Berlinda was born 20 years ago close to Kisumu. Her family was poor. When her father died in 2011 of typhoid it was difficult to make ends meet. “My mother struggled to pay our school fees. After I finished secondary school I decided I did not want to burden her anymore and I started looking for a job. On a farmer exhibition I met Charles (program manager of Flying Food)  and he asked me if I was interested in taking care of his crickets. The first day I was scared and afraid they would bite. Soon I found out they are very friendly. It is like taking care of any other animals, for example chickens.”

Berlinda received training and learned how to take care of the crickets properly. The volume of the crickets rapidly increased, from three to 25 crates: “I’m earning about 10,000 Kenyan shillings a month. The steady income enables me to save money for studying. Next year I’m planning to study agribusiness at Kisumu University. For cricket rearing you do not need a lot of land or high investments. I’m dreaming about managing my own cricket business next to my studies.”

Elsha Adhiambo
36 years old
Kabondo Division
2 children (2 girls of 11 and 9 years old)

Crickets, a way to adapt to climate changes

Cheerful sounds arise from a little shed in the fields of Kabondo division. Inside of the shed Elsha and her sister Elizabeth are taking care of their crickets. “Your volume is really increasing Elsha,” her sister mentions. “But you still have a long way to go before you beat my number of crickets,” she laughs.

Elsha learned too early what it was to be independent. Her parents died at a very young age. She married a smallholder farmer, but he died while she was carrying his second baby. Elsha’s eyes stare into the distance: “Life is not easy. My two girls are going to school, but sometimes I’m struggling to pay their school fees.”

Elsha grows vegetables and fruits in her garden, which she sells at the local market. Recently, she followed the example of her sister and started farming crickets. “Because crickets don’t depend on rain, I decided to enter the cricket rearing business. It is actually very easy, because you do not have to dig in the garden in the burning sun. And when I’m short of money I can feed my children crickets. I learned they are extremely healthy and nutritious and my children like them.”

Like Elsha, many farmers in Kenya are struggling with climate change. Farmers use to know exactly when to plant and harvest. “However, nowadays everything seems to be mixed up.” Crickets on the other hand do not need a lot of water and do not depend on certain weather conditions. They are very safe to farm considering Kenyan capricious climate.  

Florence Otieno Gundo
71 years old
Happily married
10 children (5 daughters and 5 sons)

Health benefits from eating crickets

In a field near Kisumu twelve children are running behind an old lady. They look eagerly at the basket with cricket cakes she is carrying. She laughs: “There are enough cricket cakes for everybody. Just find a place, sit down and we will enjoy them together.”

The 71-year-old lady is called Florence. She is a busy bee. She set up an orphanage for abandoned children. Together with her husband she owns a farm where she grows for example chilli, aloe vera, roselle and other medicinal plants. Next to the orphanage, there is a small shed where lady Florence rears crickets. “The first thing I do when I wake up in the morning is check on my crickets, clean, feed and water them.  Than I’ll check temperature and I write everything down in my notebook. Because of my dedication people call me: mama cricket.”

“I am amazed about the nutritious value of crickets. Sometimes people bring me abandoned children, who are also malnourished. When I started to give them cricket porridge the results were amazing. The children recovered much faster, than before. Before I spend monthly at least 10.000 Kenyan shillings on hospital bills. But these days I rarely go to the hospital at all.”

“People came to me and asked if they could buy the cricket flour, of which you make the porridge. The 36,000 shillings I earned so far, I used it to pay the school fees of the orphans.” Lady Florence is confident that there is a market for crickets in Kenya. I believe when people get to know the nutritious benefits of crickets they want to buy it.”    

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