Kenya start-up company making profit and helping farmers with locust insects
A start-up company in Kenya is transforming locusts into profit and bringing "hope to the hopeless" whose crops and livelihoods are being destroyed by the insects, turning them into protein-rich animal feed and organic fertilizer for farms
Kenya is battling some of the worst locust plagues in decades. The pests have destroyed crops and grazing grounds across East Africa and the Horn.
Scientists say unusual weather patterns exacerbated by climate change have created ideal conditions for surging locust numbers. They say warmer seas are creating more rain, waking dormant eggs, and cyclones that disperse the swarms are getting stronger and more frequent.
In central Kenya's Laikipia, clouds of locusts are devouring crops and other vegetation. "They destroy all the crops when they get into the farms. Sometimes they are so many, you cannot tell them apart, which are crops and which are locusts," farmer Joseph Mejia told Reuters.
The Bug Picture is working with farmers in central Kenya to harvest the insects and mill them, turning them into protein-rich animal feed and organic fertilizer for farms.
"We are trying to create hope in a hopeless situation, and help these communities alter their perspective to see these insects as a seasonal crop that can be harvested and sold for money," Laura Stanford, founder of The Bug Picture, told Reuters.
Between Feb. 1-18, the project oversaw the harvest of 1.3 tons of locusts, according to Stanford, who said she was inspired by a project in Pakistan, overseen by the state-run Pakistan Agricultural Research Council.
The Bug Picture is targeting swarms of 5 hectares or less in inhabited areas not suitable for spraying. Swarms can travel up to 150 km (93 miles) a day and can contain between 40-80 million locusts per square kilometer.
The start-up company pays farmers and their neighbours 50 Kenyan shillings ($0.4566) per kilogram of the insects. The locusts are collected at night by torchlight when they are resting on shrubs and trees.
The insects are crushed and dried, then milled and processed into powder, which is used in animal feed or an organic fertiliser.