By Irene Best Nyapendi,
Geoffrey Ssepuya, a Senior lecturer at Uganda Christian University (UCU), has won a grant, worth USD 63,750, from Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). The grant focusing on “Piloting the production of low cost protein and micronutrient rich cricket feed from food waste in Kampala,” will run for 18 months.
Out of over 400 people who applied for the grant, only three won it. That is to say; Dr. Geoffrey Ssepuya from the UCU Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Prof. Charles Muyanga and Prof. Archileo Kaaya from Makerere University.
On October 10, during the UNCST grant launch at UCU, Deborah Kasule, Outreach & Information Management Head, announced the winners of the grant on behalf of the UNCST executive secretary as she highlighted on their partnership with UCU.
“We value the partnership we have with UCU and recognize the role higher education plays in knowledge generation,” Kasule said.
UCU Vice Chancellor Applauds Ssepuya’s Groundbreaking Research in Cricket Feed Production
Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi the UCU Vice Chancellor congratulated Ssepuya upon this win, mentioning that it is through research that the university can make an impact on the innovation sector in Uganda.
“At UCU we are consciously making efforts to build our research portfolio. It is a joy for me to witness this award ceremony to scholars taking ground breaking research addressing a national need,” Mushengyezi said.
He also commended UNCST for considering and supporting private universities.
This is the second phase of Ssepuya’s research as he looks at how to sustain increased cricket feed productions.
During the first phase, his finding was: high returns on investment if one used the formulated feeds and the cost of production is relatively low. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, faster than on normal food waste where they will take about 12 weeks.
One of the areas he is focusing on in this second phase includes enhancing the packaging and distribution of the formulated feeds.
Specific objectives of the study:
Establishing sorted food waste collection/supply from households, markets, and food service centers.
Establishing and equipping a private sector pilot food waste up cycling facility.
Training food waste handlers, feed retailers on processing and storage practices.
Relevance of the research project
This project aims at converting food waste to cricket feed, support cricket growth, and increased protein availability.
Crickets can be used to enrich the diet with protein and other nutrients when added to 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.
Outcomes of the research
Sustainable production of nutritious (low cost) cricket feed.
Increased farmer participation in cricket rearing due to increased profitability.
Increased conversion of food waste to cricket feed.
Reduced disposal of organic solid food waste at non-gazetted areas.
Increased employment opportunities for youth and women (Those employed to process food waste).
Increased access to information about food waste processing and cricket production.
Increased research and feed processing capacity built.
Increased collaboration among researchers and stakeholders in solid food waste management.
Dr. Nicholas Odongo Research Fellow African Centre for Technology, the keynote speaker at the UNCST grant launch mentioned the need of turning research into market.
“Today universities are called upon to go beyond knowledge generation into generation of more practical and less abstract solutions. If the research doesn’t lead to employment creation, then it has been half useful,” Odongo said.
He added that innovation needs not to be part of but rather the core culture of a university because technology is the only means for socioeconomic transformation.