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Mojatu Foundation

Farmers are turning to vermiculture farming to deal with Harare’s uncollected garbage problem and to produce affordable livestock feed, writes Farai Shawn Matiashe for Next City.

On a sunny and windy morning, Brighton Zambezi scooped up a kilogram of black soldier fly larvae into a box. In a few days, he’d dispatch them to a farmer in neighboring Botswana.

The agricultural entrepreneur breeds these insect larvae – wormlike creatures that eventually become adult insects – at the back of his mother’s house in Sunningdale, a high-density suburb in Zimbabwe’s capital city of Harare.

“I expect to send the larvae across the border anytime this week to a farmer who wants to start black soldier fly farming,” says Zambezi, a 38-year-old single father.

Black soldier flies are harmless insects that are attracted to decomposing waste. They can be found in dumping grounds and urban landfills, but they can also be found at illegal dumpsites in residential areas with uncollected garbage such as Sunningdale, where Zambezi collected the larvae he put in a small cage when he kick-started this maggot project back in 2019.

A technician by profession, Zambezi developed an interest in insect farming after overhearing a conversation between his seatmates on a flight to neighboring South Africa. After researching the process further, Zambezi became convinced that insect farming would help tackle various problems his community was facing, from uncollected garbage to a lack of affordable high-protein feed for chicken and fish.

Now, Zambezi travels to nearby countries, including Botswana and Mozambique, to help people set up black soldier fly stations at their farms.

Uncollected garbage is a menace in Harare. There is inconsistency in garbage collection by city authorities, particularly in high and medium-density suburbs forcing residents to find alternative places near their houses to dump the garbage. Yet for humans, decomposing garbage is a health hazard, forming a breeding ground for deadly diseases such as cholera and typhoid. The removal of garbage from these dump sites also cuts down on methane and carbon dioxide emissions produced by decomposing waste.

Zambezi feeds these insects, housed in different trays and recycled containers under a black net, with vegetable and fruit waste he collects from dumpsites in his neighbourhood.

“Insects are our future food innovation”

Brighton Zambezi, insect farmer

Under this net, there are shrubs and weeds where black soldier flies lay eggs after mating. After five days, the eggs hatch into maggots – the wormlike, juvenile form of the fly – which are then harvested and sold as cheap and protein-rich feed for farm animals.

Zambezi runs a small poultry project in the backyard. “The larvae are fed straight from harvesting to animals like fish or chicken,” he tells Next City. “It has a natural protein content of about 60% compared to other feeds like soya.”

Some people even consume these insects due to their high protein.

“Insects are our future food innovation,” Zambezi says. “It runs throughout the year and does not get disrupted by climate change. With the right equipment, black soldier fly farming flourishes even in winter.”

Ultimately, Zambezi aims to become a commercial insect farmer.

“If proper land is provided, I am going to be one of Zimbabwe’s first commercial black soldier fly farmers,” he says. So far, he has not received any support from the government, nor has he secured any corporate partnerships or bank loans.

But the Zimbabwean government has publicly noted black soldier fly farming’s potential to transform local livestock feed formulation. Agronomist John Basera, Permanent Secretary in Zimbabwe’s Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Water and Rural Resettlement, tells Next City that black soldier fly farming has full support from the government.

“It is a noble program. We just need to look at how scalable it can be,” he says.

This story is part of the SoJo Exchange from the Solutions Journalism Network, a nonprofit organisation dedicated to rigorous reporting about responses to social problems.

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