Rwandan poultry farmer reaps big from animal feed made with insect larvae

Wednesday September 21 2022
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Tuisenge Phenius displays flies trapped in sacks inside one of the greenhouses at Jean Baptiste's farm. Picture: POOL

By Isiah Esipisu

Last December, Rwandan poultry farmer Jean Baptiste sent his two workers, one a veterinarian, to Nairobi for training in insect farming for livestock feeds at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (Icipe).

During their stay in the country, the workers also visited three farmers in Kiambu County who were breeding black soldier flies (BSF), on a small-scale, as protein for animal feed. Armed with the knowledge, Mr Baptiste, a farmer based in Mayange village, Bugesera District, on the outskirts of Kigali, implemented the lessons.

His farm, which has 100,000 layers, now produces more than 90,000 eggs daily, with a gross income of approximately Rwf264 million ($250,000) per month. He sells the eggs at Rwf3,500 ($3.3) per crate.

“I sent my workers to benchmark and learn more about insect farming from Icipe because I had come across interesting information on what was happening in Kenya,” said Mr Baptiste, who quit a banking job in Europe to become one of the biggest poultry farmers in Rwanda.

The farmer said he was looking for alternatives as the cost of producing chicken feed using soybeans as the main source of protein was expensive.

“With the changing climatic conditions, which have impacted crop production, coupled with the growing demand for soybeans, especially in Indian and Chinese markets, the cost of producing our chicken feeds using soy-cake as the main source of proteins was unaffordable,” he said.


Mr Baptiste now runs the largest BSF production unit in East Africa. He plans to set up a new chicken unit with 100,000 broilers. His business employs 108 staff who work on the layers and the insect farms, as well as on his upcoming additional broiler unit.

He harvests the BSF larvae, dries and crushes them into a powder that is then mixed with other ingredients like maize germ or barley to form a compound feed for his chickens.

Tuisenge Phenius, the farm manager, said, “Since I started eight months ago, I have stocked over 20 tonnes of dried powder BSF larvae. It is the best substitute for soybean because the larvae feed on vegetable and fruit waste, which is a safe way of dumping it from the market. And after harvesting, the waste remains are good fertiliser, rich in potassium and nitrogen.”

To produce the BSF larvae, the farmer has put up two greenhouses. The first one is where mature flies are kept and allowed to lay eggs. The tiny eggs are then collected and brooded to hatch into larvae.


Dr Phenius said the larvae are fed on mash for two to three days before they are transferred to the second green-house where they are fattened using fruit and vegetable waste.

“We get the waste materials from juice-making companies as well as markets where we have about 50 young children who collect and deliver to us at a fee,” said Mr Baptiste.

The BSF only live for eight days. The first two days after hatching are for adaptation to the new environment, then they spend the third and fourth-day mating, and in the remaining four days, each female fly will lay between 300 and 900 eggs before it dies of old age on the eighth day.

“In their lifetime, flies do not eat. They only drink water. So we don’t bother about feeding them,” Dr Phenius said.

During the larvae stage, they eat a lot. When they are ready for harvest, 70 per cent of the larvae are dried and crushed into powder to be used for making animal feeds, while the remaining 30 per cent are left to hatch so that they can keep laying more eggs for the cycle to continue.

“It is a highly demanding exercise because one day in a fly’s life is a lot of time,” Dr Phenius said.


As a way of improving food production and sustainable food systems, the Rwandan government is encouraging farmers to venture into smallholder insect farming as a source of protein.

“Research on broiler production has identified the rearing of insects as one of the most viable ways of producing animal feeds that are rich in proteins for commercial as well as household levels,” said Solange Uwituze, the deputy director-general in charge of Animal Research and Technology Transfer at the Rwanda Agriculture and Animal Re-
sources Development Board.

“The government-sponsored research is suggesting BSF’s larvae could be very effective in the production of quality animal feeds through easily adaptable processes of production,” she told journalists during the visit to Mr Baptiste’s farm on the sidelines of the Africa Green Revolution Forum in Kigali in September.

In Kenya, Icipe in collaboration with the Rockefeller Foundation researched more than 28 insect species, including locusts and crickets, before settling on the BSF larvae.  BSF is not considered a pest or vector of diseases and does not constitute a nuisance. They are said to have originated from temperate regions in America before moving to other areas around the world.

A study in the Journal of Insects as Food and Feed found that the flies have a capacity to convert organic waste into high-quality protein, control certain harmful bacteria and pests, provide potential chemical precursors to produce biodiesel and for use as feed for animals.

With a reliable source of protein, Baptiste is working on expanding his poultry empire.