Elevating Kenya’s food security with protein-based animal feed
Agriculture is the back-born of Kenya’s economy, contributing 26% of the GDP. Unfortunately, the adoption of conventional farming methods has led to the use of synthetic chemicals (fertilizer, hormones, pesticides, etc.), causing environmental pollution, climate change, and health issues. According to a recently published report dubbed “Kenya and the Netherlands: Working Together Towards Circular Agriculture in Kenya”, adopting circular, regenerative, and inclusive farming practices has shown great potential to make the country’s second-largest industry more sustainable overall. For instance, circular agriculture is enabling Kenya to mitigate climate change, elevate her food quality and improve food security.
Under this backdrop, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Kenya hosted a Circular Economy Roundtable on alternative protein-based animal feed on the 6th of April 2022 in Nairobi; to raise awareness and inform the target group on the status of current successful developments in Circular Agriculture in the country. Participants of the roundtable also discussed their collective vision for a more sustainable sector in the country, as well as challenges and next steps to grow opportunities locally and regionally.
Speaking at the roundtable, Sustainable Inclusive Business Kenya (SIB-K) Project Director Karin Boomsma stated, “Agriculture brings us and businesses back to nature. We are part of the environment, and thinking that we are disconnected has caused an imbalance with nature. Our activities are driving the extinction of nature, but we can re-imagine and make the desired change”.
There’s a high demand for protein-based animal feed in Kenya
The livestock sector in Kenya is developing at a fast pace. The demand for protein-based food is increasing due to population growth and changing consumption patterns. However, the development of the livestock sector is constrained by the slower development of the animal feed sector. Feed users and producers could increase their performance by using better feed and applying better feed practices.
Reusing by-products and waste streams in the food chain is one step in making the animal feed more circular.
One way of doing this is by breeding insects on organic waste streams from agriculture, industry, and urban centers. These insects can then serve as a resource for food and animal feed. This alternative to livestock farming consumption is also a way to reduce the number of antibiotics given to livestock farming production. The re-use of by-products of livestock can also lead to the production of bio-energy.
During the roundtable, the Netherlands Agricultural Counsellor for Kenya and Tanzania Ms. Ingrid Korving highlighted that as Kenya and Netherlands endeavor to better the sector, “we need to consider other alternatives for animal protein feed and make this a future model for agriculture. It is the only way to secure a sustainable future and this is the right time to make the needed changes to achieve circular agriculture in Kenya.”
35,000 metric tons of alternative ingredients in Kenya by 2027
The roundtable brought together approximately thirty-six participants drawn from different organizations, who collectively proposed “sandboxing" to allow the alternative animal protein feeds industry to grow as regulations embrace the sector. The group set a target of getting to 35,000 metric tons of alternative ingredients in Kenya by 2027, which will be made possible by among others increased investments in technology; creation of enabling policies; de-risking the sector; awareness creation in both the private, public, and farmer levels; reduced waste throughout the value chain; having a larger source of protein feeds; knowledge transfer and uptake of alternative feeds; further collaboration, and networking.
“There is a need to work together in consortia, to better sustainable growth in the sector and draw down the costs of animal proteins. Regional scaling calls for all stakeholders (Public and Private) to come together and spearhead the discussion on improving the circular economy status in Kenya,” said Wouter Van Vliet, Director of Larive, adding that “Kenya should take the lead in transforming Agriculture in East Africa, by identifying the existing challenges and demystifying the circular economy concept to improve the role of the farmers and empower them on quality production”.
Kenya’s fast-growing population and urbanization are leading to several challenges such as excessive waste and the limited supply of protein-rich food. To reduce the amount of waste in the environment, the “National Sustainable Waste Management Policy Bill” will encourage businesses to handle their waste sustainably. This offers opportunities for innovative circular businesses. Another challenge is feeding this population with sustainable protein-rich food. Fish is a very efficient form of animal protein in terms of feed, water usage, and emission. Unfortunately, the production of local fish has been difficult partly due to the high prices of protein-rich fish food.
Talash Huijbers, founder and CEO of Insectipro, realized she could tackle both problems simultaneously with a circular and sustainable solution; the production of the Black Soldier Fly (BSF). The Black Soldier Fly, an insect common in Kenya, has a spectacular ability to convert organic waste into protein and is renowned for easy handling. The fly larvae can consume as much as 70% of their body weight in waste every day.
“We must fill the Agri protein value chain gap by being innovative and creating alternatives. The BSF is a good protein feed for animals, and needs waste as a breeding space, thus eliminating the waste challenge and contributing to environmental protection. For every kilogram of organic waste that the BSF consumes, we produce nearly 50 grams of protein that is used as a feed supplement for commercial livestock such as poultry or fish. Moreover, the leftover product, which remains after the decomposition process, is used as a high nitrogen organic fertilizer.”
Rigid regulatory environment among identified challenges
Moreover, addressing the identified challenges will help to expedite the process of scaling the adoption of alternative protein feeds for animals, as well as improve their availability, quality, affordability, and knowledge of the feeds. These challenges were identified at the roundtable: limited investment to scale the sector, especially due to the lack of trust in agriculture by banks, thus leading to minimal financing for attractive business ventures in a Circular Economy. There’s also a rigid regulatory environment; a lack of comprehensive policy and adequate awareness of regenerative agriculture at the farmer level; production inefficiency, plus the fact that Kenya is a net importer of grain, which makes agriculture quite expensive. Furthermore , too much waste is produced from Agricultural products and food waste, most of which can be avoided. This is coupled with a lack of proper agricultural/organic waste management infrastructure (especially logistics and separation at source), worsened by the unwillingness of producers to invest in sustainable waste management.
Matchmake SMEs with investors to increase their chances to scale
There exist immense opportunities in the alternative protein-based animal feed space and players must identify and take advantage of the scope and the range of materials to improve the quality of alternative protein animal feed. These urgent actions could be the bridge required to achieve more circular agriculture. In the longer term:
- Increasing agriculture entrepreneurs’ ability to create bankable business plans to easily access financing from banks and other financial institutions; creation of jobs and income diversification;
- raw material availability at local markets;
- creating markets for sustainable agricultural products including protein animal feeds;
- providing cheaper feeds for livestock and fish farmers in East Africa;
- developing and enacting regional policies across East Africa to open more markets;
- driving policy change at the national level;
- nutritional value improvements versus ‘regular’ feed (a better and more sustainable product);
- mapping of waste and waste streams to improve management at the producer, and consumer levels;
- reducing greenhouse gas emissions by the sector;
- sustainable production and taking the forefront on the continent;
- mobilizing acceptance by farmers, by providing hard evidence that regenerative agriculture works, and that alternative protein animal feeds like BSF as a sustainable solution are available.
In the shorter term, the roundtable suggested some quick actions that would make a great difference when prioritized:
- matchmaking SMEs with investors to increase their chances to scale;
- initiating an awareness campaign on cost-effectiveness at the farmer level, as well as about circular agriculture in general;
- optimizing the BSF diet for livestock and fish (formulation);
- bringing together stakeholders in follow-up forums both within and outside the participating group;
- sensitizing farmers at the larvae level (work bottom-up), but also, at all levels;
- creating a task force on alternative proteins in Kenya;
- lobbying for a fitting regulatory framework;
- establishing a training facility, and working out a fitting training model(s);
- showcasing best practices and learning from failures and successes.
The demand for animal feed ingredients in Kenya is high; currently, 70% of animal feed ingredients are being imported. In 2018, legislation for the use of insects in animal feed was introduced in Kenya. The insect feed sector is rapidly growing and the industry is constantly changing. The number of animal feed mills has almost doubled since 2008. As the ecstatic InsectiPro CEO emphasizes, “the future of this sector is bright; many opportunities are arising, not only for animal feed but also for human consumption. Before you know it, we will be eating cricket burgers”.
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