With the rising cost of livestock feed prices, farmers have been looking at alternatives means of feeding their animals, such as black soldier flies. The FLYgene project, funded by the Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA), seeks to use selective breeding to ensure insect breeding for livestock feed is more sustainable and streamlined.
The project will focus specifically on black soldier fly (BSF) production in Kenya and Uganda.
The FLYgene project hopes to help farmers in livestock production, as The World Bank reports that East Africa is one of the regions with the fastest-growing livestock production industry, especially in pig and poultry rearing. Feed prices, however, are rising rapidly, forcing farmers to find alternative means of feeding their animals.
“A viable and efficient insect rearing sector allows massive job creation especially for landless youth and women due to the space-saving nature of insect rearing.
“Affordable quality insect meal improves productivity of the livestock sector benefiting millions across the livestock value chain and replacing feed importation, thus cutting foreign currency loss and climate impacts of feed shipping. Insect meal is shown to have high digestibility and nutritional value in different livestock species,” cited a study released by the University of Nairobi’s Department of Animal Production.
The breeding of black soldier flies is already gaining popularity in both Kenya and Uganda. The FLYgene project, however, hopes to make farmers aware of the benefits of using genetically-improved larvae as many are using larvae harvested in the wild.
“By developing innovative, large-scale phenotyping and rapid BSF family identification systems, as well as genomic tools for genetic, marker-based monitoring of the genetic diversity and tracing of pedigrees, we will be able to design BSF breeding programmes focusing on both large-scale producers and smallholder farms as multipliers and producers,” said Grum Gebreyesus, an assistant professor at the Center for Quantitative Genetics and Genomics (QGG).
A total of eight students will also be working on the project, four masters and PhD students respectively.
“We will build both physical and human capacity for insect breeding research in both countries,” project coordinator and senior researcher, Goutam Sahana explains. “More precisely, four PhD students and four masters students will be enrolled in local universities in Kenya and Uganda, co-supervised by researchers from QGG and with a research stay of at least one year at Aarhus University, and three research assistants will be employed in Kenya and Uganda.”
The project will contribute to several of the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs), including poverty alleviation (SDG1), food security (SDG2), gender equality (SDG5), decent work and economic growth (SDG8), sustainable consumption and production patterns (SDG12), climate action (SDG13), quality education (PhD training; SDG4), and the establishment of partnerships (SGD17).