Drs. Mathilde Miedema
- Developing countries
- Development Cooperation
- Inclusive Business
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I had the lucky opportunity to interview Zahid; a chance to ask him about his ambition and drivers. I met a charismatic man, entrepreneurial, open-minded and intrinsically motivated to impact low-income groups. A dual Canadian-Ugandan citizen, Zahid was raised in what was then Zaire (now DR Congo) to where his great-grandparents from Gujarat, India, immigrated about 100 years ago. Since 1996 he has been living in Uganda and has been helping start a family business in hair- and skincare products that are traded in East Africa. In the last two years, he has also embarked on a parallel enterprise with his Belgian wife, Tine, developing and marketing organic and fair trade shea nut butter that involves around 2,000 post-insurgency, resettled independent farmers in Northern Uganda.
Zahid has always been interested in development matters and nutrition. In Uganda the eating of grasshoppers (‘nsenene’) is popular; consumers like the taste. Says Zahid, “I was interested in this protein-rich product because it is a local and lucrative business. The nsenene are caught in the wild in the Masaka and Kampala regions only during the rainy seasons. While researching how to breed grasshoppers indoors, I came in contact with the Flying Food project, which is also active in the insect business. Dutch partners started up the rearing of crickets in a controlled environment decades ago in the Netherlands. Now there are active in Uganda and Kenya to ensure a year-round supply . I adopted the farming technologies of Flying Food and received training and support from them. This support is essential for me, and without their knowledge and experience on rearing and feed formulations I couldn’t be successful in this total new field of business.”
After a successful harvest he developed processing technologies and manufactures the consumer product BUUKA!, which means ‘Jump!’ in the Luganda language. “The brand was chosen to illustrate the highly nutritious properties of crickets which contribute to a healthy, active lifestyle.” BUUKA! are crickets fried in locally produced, low-fat sunflower oil seasoned with salt and/or chili, similar to how nsenene are sometimes prepared. He is selling it for UGX 1000 (€ 0.24) for a 10-gram pack, a cost that is within reach of most consumers looking for a healthy snack food. Presentation of the product last September at the Health & Nutrition fair in Kampala resulted in interest from a broad range of consumers.
Zahid: “I believe in crickets because they are easy to grow, they multiply fast, they are nutritious, affordable and the market is there. Many people do eat insects here. I sell BUUKA! directly to independent vendors, wearing bright, branded yellow t-shirts and they sell it on the street. This way I can keep a low price, targeting low-income consumers, and fulfil some of the recommended daily intake of protein, calcium and iron, among other nutrients. I also see other market opportunities for crickets. One is cricket flour, sold to bakeries, supermarkets and as a local fortifier to the World Food Programme. Another interesting line is marketing the flour to be blended with water by the consumer for an energy drink. A further opportunity is marketing cricket flour as a core ingredient in instant food or porridge, suitable for all ages. To jump into those markets I need high volumes with a continuous supply. I’m so grateful that I received a matching grant from the Innovation Against Poverty programme; now I can kick on! Next year EntoAfrica will produce 17 tonnes of crickets in its first stage, making it the largest cricket rearing facility in Africa.”
EntoAfrica Ltd. is a partner in the Flying Food project. This project aims at rearing, processing and eating crickets as a delicious, affordable and healthy solution for malnutrition. The project aspires to increase the availability of tasty and nutritious food for low-income consumers in Africa. This large group often has a shortage on proteins, vitamins and minerals. Eating insects such as crickets provides a solution. The Flying Food project is based on a consortium between Kenyan, Ugandan and Dutch partners. It is setting up a new value chain from rearing to processing, marketing and eating of crickets. Flying Food runs at the shores of Lake Victoria, in particular the Nyanza region in Kenya and the Masaka region in Uganda.
In this four-year project, 600 small farmers have started rearing crickets in Kenya and Uganda and one larger company per country. Around 1500 kg of crickets per month are being processed for human consumption and sold in 10 market outlets, resulting in 10,000 servings a month for low-income households. This value chain is boosted with knowledge centres, micro-finance institutions and financial support from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Achmea Foundation. We started in 2014 and are progressing in achieving business with huge social impact. We are at the stage of scaling up within Kenya and Uganda, but also in other African countries.
Do you like to join the cricket business? Please, contact Zahid or TNO to explore opportunities for collaboration.