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News & Updates


University proves insect value in nutrition and alleviating food waste

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences has teamed up with crickets – the insect and not the sport – in a successfully piloted food chain project that alleviates hunger and malnutrition.  The ‘Food Waste-2-Cricket Feed’ enterprise produces cricket feed from food waste and then turns the insects into a nutritious food supplement.

The UCU agriculture research team, led by Geoffrey Ssepuuya, a senior lecturer, established that there is a daily production of 768 metric tons of food waste in Kampala.

The project aimed at developing a processing protocol for converting food waste to a safe and shelf-stable cricket feed. It was funded by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Florence Agwang, the grants officer at UNCST, says the undertaking was especially viable because the country has long struggled with waste management. 

“If this project succeeds and is able to get support from the government, we shall be able to greatly reduce the problem of waste in Uganda,” Agwang says.

The project involves collecting food waste from the UCU university dining hall in addition to remains from restaurants, hotels and markets.

Collected food waste such as bananas, rice, etc. is heat treated, dried, ground into powder and mixed according to predetermined formulation proportions into feed for the crickets. The crickets are reared in aerated food containers and provided with hide-outs because the crickets are nocturnal (comfortable in dark places).

In a bid to ensure sustainable cricket production in the country, the project is working towards continued production and distribution of this low cost “protein and micro–nutrient rich cricket feed.” The developed cricket feed is nutritious with a performance similar to that of broiler starter mash. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, while with local feeds, crickets take about 12 weeks to mature. 

Crickets can be used to enrich the diet with protein and other nutrients when added to the daily meals. It is a common practice in Uganda to eat fried insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. In this project, crickets, which have more protein than fish and beef, are ground to be mixed with staple flours for porridge and food. 

“Instead of consuming cassava bread that is only about 2% protein or even less, communities can supplement it with crickets which are 50 – 65 % rich in proteins,” Ssepuuya says. “So, with the feeds now available they can rear the crickets, dry them under the sun, grind them into powder and add the protein rich powder to their food.” 

The most common sources of proteins such as meat, milk and chicken are not affordable to many Ugandans, yet it can now be redeemed from eating crickets. 

Dr. John Livingstone Mutyaba, Head of Agriculture (Postgraduate), explained that rearing crickets can be a new source of income for farmers through rearing and selling them. Crickets (Acheta domesticus) lay hundreds of eggs, which makes them multiply in a very short time.

Mutyaba says unlike what some commonly believe, crickets are not demanding in terms of housing and food.

The biggest challenge is feed in addition to proper management of heat and humidity. This is because crickets are more comfortable in dark places, and during cold days, they need heat.

There also is a need for labor and sufficient space to dry the crickets when they reach maturity. This is because they are best when dried before consumption.

The project is also supporting research by students like Derrick Kizito Okettayot, a fourth-year student of Food Science and Technology. To Okettayot, crickets are a delicacy.

“When I was young, we used to pick a few crickets hiding under the grass, roast and eat them,” Okettayot recalls. “I used to eat them in small quantities because they were rare, but I am so glad that I have now learned how to rear crickets, and I can now have enough of them.”

He adds that one can even blend crickets with fruits to make a protein shake.

“This is a win-win solution when we use food waste to feed the crickets and later feed on the crickets, so the food waste comes back to us in a different format to benefit us and the insects,” Dr. Rose Mary Bulyaba, the dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Science says.

Food Waste-2-Cricket Feed’ project product brief.

Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is facing hunger and malnutrition challenges combined with a high and the fastest (2.6 %) growing population in the world, a third of which is young, that is, below 24 years of age (UNFPA & PRB, 2012; Plecher, 2019; World Population Review, 2020). Simultaneously there is high annual per capita food loss/waste of 120 -170 kg (Sheahan & Barrett, 2017). Hence, food waste is anticipated to increase with the increasing population. Through the ‘Piloting the Production and Distribution of a Low Cost ‘Protein and Micro-Nutrient Rich Cricket Feed from Food Waste in Kampala’ (Food Waste-2-Cricket Feed) project in the UCU Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, a team led by Dr. Geoffrey Ssepuuya has established: (i) that there is a daily production of 768 metric tonnes of food waste in Kampala; (ii) a processing protocol for converting food waste to a safe and shelf-stable cricket feed; and (iii) that the developed feed can support the growth and development of the house cricket Acheta domesticus. The proto-type cricket feed is nutritious with a performance similar to that of broiler starter mash. It contains a minimum of 21 % protein content, 8 % fat, 3 % fibre, 6 % ash, and 380 Kilo calories of energy.  The prototype product has been branded for marketing and distribution.

Uganda Christian University gets 75,000 USD grant from the Swedish Research Council.

With this award, the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences will start a network that supports capacity development in African Indigenous Vegetables research in the region.

UCU showcases at the Agricultural Exhibition

By Eriah Lule

The Faculty of Agricultural Science, Uganda Christian University (UCU), participated in the inaugural Agricultural Education Show, which was held at the Jinja show grounds.

The Uganda National Farmers Federation, Operation Wealth Creation and the Ministry of Education and Sports organized the exhibition in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries.

The exhibition ran on a theme: farming for a prosperous future. This exhibition, according to UNFFE, provides a platform for young people in schools (primary and secondary, farm schools, and other tertiary institutions) to showcase and compete in innovative ideas and enterprises in which they are involved both in and out of school.

The exhibition, which started on Wednesday, June 8, and ended on Sunday, June 12, attracted over 200,000 people to visit the different stalls. They attracted young agriculturalists from primary to institutions of higher learning that exhibited in different arenas of farming.

Ruth Buteme, a lecturer at the Faculty, noted that the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences equips its students with skills in sustainable food production, value addition, marketing, and research. The faculty produces graduates that are model scientists and agri-prenuers, able to identify and solve challenges in the community. 

Ruth Buteme (in a black mask) explaining to visitors at the UCU stall

The faculty exhibited many projects, but among them was the Cricket project, where students are making use of food wastage to make food for crickets.

Petrina Kiiza, a fourth-year student pursuing a Bachelors of Food Science and Technology on this project, said that crickets are rich in nutrients like proteins and minerals and act as feed for poultry and as a delicacy in some regions of Uganda. However, the cost of feed remains a challenge to cricket farmers. Therefore, her project is aimed at formulating an alternative cricket feed through food waste material.

The faculty exhibited a rabbit-vegetable integrated urban garden system that is targeting urban farmers with limited space. The system harbors a rabbit cage and crates on the side, creating space for the growing of vegetables. 

According to Ronald Mupuya, a teaching assistant at the faculty and an alumnus of the Bachelors of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship,

“The system helps a farmer shoot two birds with one stone; a farmer is able to earn quick money from the vegetables in the short term as the rabbits mature for sale. In addition, the rabbit excreta acts as a good source of manure for the farmer’s vegetable garden, while any waste from the vegetables can be used to feed the rabbit,” he said.

Asaba Catherine, a fourth-year student of Food Science and Technology, was also among the exhibitors. She makes both mango and strawberry jam using chia seed as a replacement for pectin, which is costly for most producers. Asaba believes that from the exposure she got from the exhibition, she has gained feedback that will enable her to better her product.

“I believe that with the ideas and feedback received, I will be able to improve my product to satisfy my customers. I also made networks with suppliers and potential customers,” she said.

Ada Nalubowa, a fourth-year student of Food Science and Technology, also exhibited her chia seed doughnuts at the show. According to Ada, Chia is a potential replacement for eggs in modern baking due to its quality and low prices.

“Some people are even allergic to eggs, but they won’t eat baked goods, which is where I come in with a solution of chia seeds to cater for people allergic to eggs but also provide an alternative ingredient,” she said.

Another product exhibited by the faculty was clean indigenous vegetable seed that has been cleaned and produced through various participatory breeding activities at the faculty. 

The faculty through a number of donor funded projects continues to conduct research on indigenous vegetables so as to avail varieties that are high yielding, have a longer shelf life and are resistant to drought, disease and pest stresses. The faculty has also trained over 300 farmers and schools in small scale and commercial vegetable production for improved income and nutrition through its community engagement program. She added that the faculty hopes to become a center of excellence in vegetable breeding.

Emmanuel Igar, Assistant Academic Registrar Admissions and Student Records, stated that the faculty members who participated in this exhibition also informed the public about what UCU is doing in terms of research and student innovation.

“The faculty has networked with various exhibitors, shared knowledge and if handled well may result into increased student numbers and partnerships for future projects that will enhance the country’s agricultural sector,” Igar said.

Faculty of Agriculture holds a mental health  campaign

By Vanessa Kyalimpa

With the end of semester exams knocking at the door, the Uganda Christian University (UCU) faculty of agricultural science found it fit to hold a mental health campaign for their students. 

The worrying rates at which students panic and get anxious during the exam period were among the reasons that influenced the launching of the campaign.

The campaign was intended to help the students protect their mental health before it is too late for them to control it.

The campaign drew several students, including Rosemary Bulyaba, the dean of the faculty, the head of the department of agricultural sciences, several lecturers, and the counselor of the Ruth Nkoyooyo wellness center, Irene Nabwire.

Bulyaba the dean of the faculty of agriculture said that mental health has been ignored in Africa. She will work hard toward helping students during this examination period.

“So now as we head to exams. it is when people are really unsettled in between. i don’t our students to feel like they are here for only educational purposes. We care about them as an individual,” added Bulyaba.

Dr. Bulyaba talking to students during the mental health campaign

Grace Katona, a student pursuing a bachelor’s in Food science and technology in year 4 said that the campaign was very beneficial. It helped landmark the issues people have been struggling with silently like depression.

“It is of great help that we have found an outlet and a reliable source of professional help to battle our mental health problems,” said Katona.

Jackie Mwesigye, a laboratory technician in the department of food science said that during the session she was able to look at her life and she realized there were those things she ignored that was affecting her mental health slowly, and yet she needed to address.

“Mental health is a very serious issue which hasn’t been addressed in most of our societies and this was a very great opportunity for all of us to get to know how to point out and overcome the mental health issues,” said Mwesigye.

Alami Henry, a student pursuing his Bachelor of Science in agriculture and entrepreneurship said that session was impactful because as a man there are things we don’t want to share with anyone and they end up damaging our mental health. 

He also said that the campaign helped him realize that there are ways he can deal with such issues other than keeping quiet and suffering emotionally.

Mental health is the psychological and social well-being of a person. It affects the way people think, feel and act. Mental health shows up in so many forms like depression, and anxiety which is the most common.

Dr. Bulyaba wins USD 69,630 grant from The World Academy of Sciences

Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba, Head of the Department of Natural Resource Economics and Agribusiness, has won a grant, worth USD 69,630, from The World Academy of Sciences. The grant, focusing on Exploiting the potential of cowpeas for vegetable use in Uganda, will run for two years.

Specific objectives of the study:

  • Evaluate genotypic and phenotypic variation for leafy vegetable attributes in cowpea genotypes
  • Assess consumer preferences of promising cowpea lines (post-harvest storage quality, nutritional, taste & leafy morphological traits)
  • Build capacity at masters level in cowpea crop improvement

Relevance of the proposed research project to the institution and country

In Uganda, 28.9% of children below 5 years are stunted. About 3.6% of children suffer from moderate acute malnutrition, while 1.3% have severe acute malnutrition (Adebisi et al., 2019). Additionally, 28.5% of women aged 15 to 49 years continue to be affected by chronic anemia.

Dr. Rosemary Bulyaba is the Head of Department of Natural Resource Economics and Agribusiness at UCU.

The high protein, amino acid, carbohydrate, soluble and insoluble dietary fiber or expected phytochemical content of cowpea make the crop an important nutritious food in the human diet. Increasing its production and availability through crop improvement is one step towards eradicating food and nutritional insecurity among those vulnerable groups.

This research project funded by The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) on cowpea will also build the capacity in cowpea production and cowpea improvement for farmers in Uganda as a whole. This is in addition to supporting and empowering 2 female MS students at Uganda Christian University in the Faculty of Agricultural Sciences.

Overall, through the research project, the researcher(s) hope to develop the cowpea leafy vegetable value chain while aligning it with the needs of local populations to ensure that there is sustainable access to nutrient-dense and affordable food crops that are also well suited and adapted to their local environments in Uganda.