In January 2021 Fair & Sustainable consulting has started a pilot Black Soldier Fly farm in Eldoret, Kenya. Everlyne Songoi is the owner of this farm. This blog post describes her story.
Everlyne Songoi (30) starts her day at 8 in the morning. When she gets to the greenhouse her workers are already there. She assigns them their tasks for the day: collecting eggs, grinding waste, sieve larvae, the whole process.
The larvae of the black soldier fly eat organic waste. They eat fast and can increase their body weight about 15 times in two weeks.
What is left from the organic waste after consumption by the larvae is organic manure. When Everlyne and her workers harvest the larvae they strip the organic manure, which they can sell to small scale farmers in the area. The larvae themselves are sold wet or dry as animal feed.
Insects as a source of protein for animal feed is becoming more and more popular. Insects like BSF contain high levels of protein and fat, plus they are rich in micronutrients, vitamins, and essential amino acids. Besides, their production only leaves a small ecological footprint while also recycling waste, which making them a perfect alternative for unsustainable protein sources.
When Everlyne was growing up, she could not have foreseen that she would become the owner of a black soldier fly farm and spend most of her time rearing larvae and collecting organic waste. Her parents were poor farmers in Kitale. They did not have the money to send Everlyne to college.
“My parents didn’t have enough money to check me into college. So I used to help my mom at the farm. It has been my passion to do farming. But we didn’t have funds. So we had to take loans all the time. (….) (We were) trying to do farming without enough resources, so you can’t grow”
Like so many young people in Kenya, Everlyne is ambitious but she had trouble finding decent employment. She started a small business selling clothes. Unfortunately, due to a lack of money to buy a store and expand, this business failed. Later on, she started a course in accounting. But again, she had to abandon this career after she was no longer able to pay the school fees.
“I would like something to do in farming. That is where I can do best. Because any other thing that I’m thinking of it will be very expensive for me.”
After her mother died and Everlyne moved back to Eldoret. She realized her passion lay with farming, she aspired to start a chicken (kuku) farm. However, on her search on the internet for the best way to manage chickens, Everlyne stumbled on many YouTube videos about BSF farming.
“When I was searching for how people are doing their kuku’s how they’re managing, I came across BSF and this one interested me even more. I can supply food, animal feed, which is cheap for small scale farmers. ( … )So that is where I got my inspiration. And I’m also trying to survive, so I thought this is something I can do.”
With the help of an elderly lady at her church, she came into contact with Mr Wilfried Schasfoort from Fair & Sustainable consulting, who was looking to provide technical support to a BSF farm. From there the process to set up the first Fair & Sustainable Insect Farm began. Fair & Sustainable assisted in developing the business plan, the technical advice, management advice and a loan to start up the business.
“So first I had to find people who were doing it. Because mostly I was being on YouTube, (back then) I couldn’t find anyone in Eldoret who was doing it. Fair & Sustainable connected me to other BSF farmers and to ICIPE.”
First, Everlyne visited Roseanne Mwangi in Nairobi, an experienced BSF farm owner, she gave Everlyne her first impression of BSF farming. Afterwards, Fair & Sustainable organized for Everlyne to follow a one-week training with ICIPE (International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology). Here, she learned the ins and outs of BSF farming and she also received a starter kit with the first larvae
“At ICIPE, I was learning the practical aspects of BSF farming. We started with the collection of eggs, then how we make their food, how we prepare the eggs to hatch and we even learned how to sanitize and disinfect the crates so that there is no disease that attacks the larvae. So I really got the experience”.
Back in Eldoret, after the county permission and papers were organized, the greenhouse was constructed and in January 2021 the first Fair & Sustainable insect farm was born. At the moment, Everlyne has four employees, and as of March, the production of larvae has started. When the colony has grown big enough, in about 5 months, they will start selling.
When asked about the challenges related to BSF farming, Everlyne mostly encounters difficulties with finding organic waste. “Before I started we thought, this will be easy. We thought those people who don’t want organic waste, they will bring it to my farm at their cost. However, that is not the case”.
Instead, Everlyne had to get her own transport and find people who collect organic waste for her. To get access to free organic waste, Everlyne has placed bags in the local market in which people throw their organic waste.
“ you have to put your bag like everywhere around the market, so people can see it as a dustbin and throw the waste there. Then you come and collect and sort again”
According to Everlyne, BSF farming is a good business. “For me, as an entrepreneur, BSF farming has given me the opportunity to employ myself. It has enabled me to cater for my son and me. I’m a single mom, so it was a challenge before and now this is something that is giving me hope.”
She also points out that BSF farming can provide new job opportunities for youth and women. All her workers are below 28 years old and out of 4 employees, 2 are women. In the future, Evelyn hopes to expand to 10 employees of which the majority should be women.
“Finding employment is not easy for women in Kenya . So BSF farming provides job opportunities for these women. It is also a good opportunity for single women since they do not need many resources”.
Everlyne has big plans for the future. In 3 years, she aims to have expanded and she hopes the F&S insect farms have grown and created many opportunities for young women and young people.
“I am very grateful to Fair & Sustainable. They have given me the opportunity to create a business for myself and jobs for my staff”.
To find out more about the fair and sustainable insect farms contact Wilfried Schasfoort at Wilfried.firstname.lastname@example.org