Insect farming, a practice of raising and breeding insects as livestock, is often a sensitive subject with most people, mainly because they don’t understand it. Nonetheless, the irrefutable benefits of insects such as the black soldier fly larvae have slowly been overshadowing the negative perceptions commonly associated with insects as a source of food.
In Zimbabwe, there is still a small number of farmers practicing insect farming. One such individual is Josphat Nyika, the second runner up at the 2019 Start-up Tour Bus in Mashonaland Central. Nyika believes that the black soldier fly larva is the solution to solving numerous problems developing economies face including hunger, poverty and deteriorating health.
Nyika was born in Masvingo. He is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Zim Maggot Producers (Pvt) Ltd, a Zimbabwean company which specializes in breeding the black soldier fly and processing the larva into stock feed for fish, poultry and pigs.
He migrated to Bindura in Mashonaland Central Province in search of employment, where he joined the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary education as a student teacher. At Great Zimbabwe University where he studied Agriculture at Bachelor’s level, he conducted research into the problems which were being faced by the small livestock producers of Ward 20 in Bindura District. The research showed that insufficient stock feed was a major obstacle to efficient livestock production.
In 2018, Mr. Nyika started experimenting with the black soldier fly. The black soldier fly is a foreign species and must be imported with a permit from the Ministry of Agriculture. Nyika managed to acquire the necessary permits thanks to Gi-Hubb Phase III initiative which saw the potential in the project and awarded him a grant to assist in prototyping the idea. In 2019, Nyika won several awards including an Award for Special contribution in the Agriculture Sector from The Ministry of Agriculture, Youth Connekt Zimbabwe second Runner Up, Green enter Prize Zimbabwe – Judges Special Award and CBZ- YEP First Runner – Starter Up Category.
For Nyika, the concept of processing stock feed from the black soldier fly was inspired by the desire to find solutions to problems faced by small scale farmers. Through research, he discovered that the BSF larva can produce stock feed which ranges between 45% and 60% crude protein.
The Zim Maggot Producers project is studying the economic importance of the black soldier fly in the Zimbabwean and African context. Their core business is to sell stock feed to farmers, as well as offer training and consulting services. Thus far the business model has worked for them but the long-term goal is to gain access to larger markets.
The journey has not come without its challenges. Nyika and his team have had to overcome stigma from peers and friends often dubbed the farmer of flies (murimi weNunzi). Nyika had to face people on a daily basis who thought he had lost his marbles as the majority of his work involves direct contact with organic waste to feed to the black soldier fly. Another challenge was the negative perception from stakeholders, community leaders and farmers on using the fly larva as stock feed.
To solve the first problem, Nyika had to be creative and patient, such as using the ‘negative’ labels as marketing weapons. Instead of being annoyed by the monikers, he embraced them and was quick to respond when called upon “Mr. Nunzi”, thus intriguing the masses. Dealing with the negative perception of insect farming has also been an obstacle for Zim Maggot Producers and they’ve been organizing farmer’s forums and workshops in an effort to educate farmers about the project and its positive impacts.
Going forward, Zim Maggot Producers hopes to continue building the brand to a point where the company is a household name. When asked how the Youth Connekt initiative helped him, Nyika stated:
“Youth connect exposed me to various youth who are innovative who always encouraged me to soldier on despite the challenges. It also equipped me with pitching skills which I used to get an award at the CBZ YEP 2019 as well as Green Enterprise. I therefore urge other youths out there to take advantage of the lock down to refine their business models and join the Youth Connekt as soon as possible so as to boost the productivity of their projects.”
To get in touch with Zim Maggot Producers, please visit their social media platforms noted below:
What are your thoughts on employing the black soldier fly to produce stock feed? Just how much do you think it can change the agricultural industry in Zimbabwe?