Dunga Beach in Kisumu county is popular for fishing activities and tourist attractions. However, a youth group at the beach on Lake Victoria, is changing the narrative through cricket farming.
Dunga Eco-Tourism Environmental Group ventured into the business in April last year. The farm produces on average 6kg of live crickets every week for sale at Sh700 per kilo.
“We have started recording good business from the sale of crickets. Our client base revolves around Kisumu county and its environs,” says George Oweke, the group’s deputy coordinator and manager of the crickets farming project.
The farm is supplying the insects to local universities for research purposes and a few residents who eat them. On average, the group earns Sh20,000 monthly from live crickets sales. “The venture is viable; in a month, we can sell up to 25kg, which is inspiring,” says Oweke.
The group has invested Sh68,000 as seed capital, being financial support from the Anglican Church of Kenya (ACK) Development Services (ADS) Nyanza programme. This was in collaboration with Flying Food, a Dutch NGO. The money was spent in buying 36 crates, feeds and setting up pens.
The youth started the initiative to supplement income due to the dwindling and irregular fish stocks in Lake Victoria. The group has 35 members, most of them fishermen. “Given that the fish stocks in the lake is declining, we decided to rear crickets as an alternative source of income,” says Oweke.
Normally, crickets are noisy insects that pose a nuisance to humans.
However, Oweke says they are valuable sources of proteins. “Cricket rearing requires little space and money to undertake and is not dependent on climatic conditions like other crops or animals,” he says.
To start off, they trapped a few mature garden crickets, put them in a closed set-up. Weeks later, the adult females began laying eggs and the stock multiplied gradually. The farm also acts as a study centre, regularly hosting researchers and students keen to learn about cricket farming.
Crickets go through three stages of life cycle growth — the egg, nymph and adult. The females lay fertilised eggs under wet cotton wool placed in a substrate material. On average, the insect can lay 300 to 500 eggs in its lifespan, which take between 12 and 14 days to hatch into nymphs.
The nymph feeds on vegetables, soy flour and water. On hatching, the pinheads (young crickets) are transferred to a pen or crate where they are reared until maturity.
An adult cricket weighs roughly 0.5 to1.5 grammes. They can live for over six weeks and their entire life cycle lasts two to three months depending on the environment.The Dunga Group has constructed sheds for the insects that are kept clean and regularly supplied with clean water, crushed grain, sukuma wiki and herbs. The insects are fed in the morning and evenings on soybean, fishmeal and some minerals dissolved in water. “Crickets need plenty of proteins and minerals,” says Oweke.
Hygiene is a must for the insects to grow healthier. “You must constantly clean the pens,” he says. The group plans to start processing crickets into finished products such as flour for baking cakes. It also want to recruit and train 120 farmers from the neighbourhood to boost productivity.
Oweke cites negative cultural beliefs as major drawback to the practice. “Despite numerous nutritional and health benefits from eating crickets, many despise eating the insects due to misconceptions associated with the insects. They perceptively view insect consumption with disgust and as a primitive practice,” he says.
Richard Ojijo, the group coordinator urges the youth to take advantage of such viable agricultural ventures to generate incomes. “A pen area of four metres by three metres can accommodate 100 crates of crickets,” he adds.
Ojijo also appeals to the county governments in Western Kenya region to empower potential cricket farmers as part of interventions to boost food security.