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Room to grow – Nephile’s Story

By Practical Action On 01.07.2024 FarmingBlog

Farmer trades hospitality for horticulture, with Practical Action

In 2020 Nephile Atieno, a hospitality management specialist, worked at a large hotel in the city of Kisumu in western Kenya.

The 28-year-old struggled with unsociable hours and a low and unreliable salary, so she handed in her notice to start an agribusiness selling poultry, and eggs.

She said: “Managing the unpredictable work shifts with a young family was not easy. Also, the salary was not sufficient. Sometimes I would be paid half the salary without prior communication.”

However, she still faced financial uncertainty in her new livelihood because costly commercial feeds were eating deeply into her income. Then she discovered Black Soldier Fly (BSF) larvae, an affordable source of chicken feed, which also feed on and break down organic waste which would have gone to landfill; these insects can form the cornerstone of a circular, regenerative approach to farming.

What this means is that the black soldier flies can tackle several challenges at once — reducing food waste (they can consume nearly any organic waste), providing high-quality proteins for animal feeds (they can grow 2,000 times their original size in twenty days), and improving soil health (via fertiliser / manure that they excrete).

The insect’s larvae can therefore transform organic waste into a protein-rich and cost-effective source of sustainable animal feed. Nephile originally produced 5-6 six kilogrammes of larvae daily for her poultry business before she began working with Resilient Agriculture that Works for Young People (RAY) a Mastercard Foundation initiative in partnership with Practical Action Kenya.

Thanks to the training she received, she now produces 12 kilogrammes of larvae daily, plus five bags of organic manure weekly as a by-product of the larvae feeding on organic waste. The extra income enabled Nephile to grow her business and she now employs five people.

“Thanks to my partnership with Practical Action, I have gained market exposure and customers,” she said. “My major clients are pig farmers in Kakamega County and I also sell to customers in the poultry and fish business.”

Recognising the soaring demand for BSF larvae and being unable to meet demand, Nephile has trained 50 more young people to embark on a similar venture, including two of the ten people she has mentored under the RAY project. She even collects the larvae from the trainees to sell them to her clients.

Despite her success, Nephile’s entrepreneurial spirit is undiminished. Her larvae feed on the fruit and vegetable waste she sources daily from Kisumu’s Kibuye Market, but she has plans to set up a BSF facility at the site to reduce the cost of transporting the waste. Her business also has environmental benefits because it reduces the amount of waste dumped in landfills.

“I look forward to scaling up production since I cannot meet growing demand,” she adds. “I also have a vision for going into feed production that includes BSF larvae as an ingredient.”

Nephile wants her fellow young people to know how agribusiness can transform their family’s fortunes, saying: “Agribusiness is not for life’s losers – it has many opportunities that can change your life.”