Strained for stockfeed, farmers turn to maggots

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
THE rising cost of stockfeed has forced some farmers to start to look for protein from unusual sources — and it cannot get more unusual than maggots, says Victor Marufu, director Zimbabwe Organic and Natural Food Association (Zonfa). Not only that, at the household level, maggots can be used to stabilise domestic bio-degradable waste — something that continues to be a nightmare in Harare’s townships, he says.

Further, maggot farming is now being touted as a sustainable long-term solution to addressing Harare’s long-standing challenges with solid waste management — a key source of climate change-causing methane gas.

Such farms may be installed at wastewater plants, too, say experts. Wastewater plants attract an enormous amount of houseflies, which are essential to maggot production.

The maggot — a small, white crawling worm — finds pleasure in decomposing waste, but with up to 65 percent of protein and 25 percent fat, it is a darling for chickens, other poultry, pigs and fish.

By comparison, feed produced from soy contains 35 percent protein, says Marufu, whose organisation has started to train farmers and individuals on maggot production. It’s producing feed from nothing, really. And here is how a small operation might look like.

With two old buckets stacked one on top of the other, holes are drilled on the lids of both buckets, and on the base of the top bucket. Organic waste such as chicken droppings or food left-overs is placed inside the top bucket, allowing flies to fly in and lay their eggs.

The emerging larvae (maggots) will feed on the waste. One kilogramme of eggs turns into around 380kg of larvae in just three days, Zonfa says. Once the larvae are mature enough, they will self-harvest by crawling out into the lower bucket as they search for a place to pupate. These are then harvested for feed to chickens or fish.

Emissions reduction
At such a large scale, maggots can be used to produce commercial feed for poultry farming and aquaculture at much lower financial and environmental cost compared to soy-based stockfeed.

“This (maggot feed or magmeal) is the core product consisting of dried and de-fatted maggots that are ground into a high protein meal,” said Marufu, by email. “This feed can be blended into a variety of other animal feed and be used like any other protein…”

The Zim Earthworm Farms, a private farming technology firm, is doing just that.

Chief executive, Dr Ephraim Whingwiri, said they have been producing maggots for over a year now. The harvested worm is then killed and dried before being mixed with other feed produced at the Farm. “We feed the mixture to our chickens here, but there is strong potential for doing this at a commercial scale,” said Dr Whingwiri, by telephone.

He did not provide specific figures on the amount of ‘magmeal’ produced at Zim Earthworm Farms. Zonfa has now begun negotiations for the commercial production of magmeal with local stockfeeds manufacturer, Agrifoods. Marufu said they had agreed terms with Agrifoods, and a Memorandum of Understanding will be signed soon.

Maggots could cut Zimbabwe’s 417 gigatonnes emissions of methane, the second most potent earth warming gas methane after carbon dioxide. The waste sector alone released 68,1 gigatonnes of methane or 16 percent of the national total in 2000, according to statistics from the Environment Ministry.

Worldwide, at 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions equivalent (CO2e) for every tonne of magmeal delivered, maggots achieve five times less CO2e compared to soy-based stockfeed, say experts.

As waste in open places and at landfills decay, it produces methane gas. Two years ago, the Pomona dump site burned for days on end, releasing huge plumes of dangerous soot. Methane gas burns when exposed to high temperatures.

God is faithful.

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