Small scale edible insect farming: A climate smart approach to addressing undernutrition and food insecurity in orphanages
Insects are highly nutritious and environmentally friendly to farm. We train orphanages how to farm this popular, wild-caught food source.
I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria, and based on its description, I am eligible to apply to the CSV Prize 2017.
Farms for Orphans, Inc.
Start-Up (a pilot that has just started operating)
Annual budget in 2017 (USD)
Number of beneficiaries impacted so far
Nonprofit, NGO, or citizen sector
Headquarters location: Country
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)
Headquarters location: City
Location(s) of impact
Plans to expand operations to Mbuji Mayi in central DRC in 2018.
Farms for Orphans beneficiaries
Farms for Orphans beneficiaries
Palm weevil larvae are a popular, (typically) wild-caught food source throughout the Congo Basin. The larvae are rich in protein, vitamins, micronutrients and fat (note the white in this photo- that's all fat!).
Farm kits. Insect farming requires minimal technical or capital expenditure. Materials include our farm manual, plastic bins, insect egg laying substrate and feed (sugar cane, cornmeal, rice bran, palm kernel cakes), temperature and humidity gauges, spray bottle, and scale.
A small-scale insect farm. Insect farming requires minimal technical or capital expenditure. Materials include plastic bins, insect egg laying substrate and feed (sugar cane, cornmeal, rice bran, palm kernel cakes), temperature and humidity gauges, spray bottle, and scale.
Our insect farm trainer, Nelly, teaching orphanage representatives how to farm palm weevil larvae.
Problem: What problem is this initiative trying to address?
Half of all deaths in children under 5 yrs are attributable to malnutrition. For millions more, chronic malnutrition causes poor health, stunting and a reduction in mental functioning. Malnutrition exacerbates poverty by reducing one’s ability to work and learn. The problem of malnutrition is particularly grave for orphaned children who receive little-to-no economic support. Further, facing increasing water and land scarcity and the consequence of climate change the world needs climate-smart food production systems.
Solution Summary: What is the proposed solution? What do you see as its most promising aspects for creating shared value?
To address the challenges of malnutrition and poverty in orphanages, Farms for Orphans (FFO) has launched an insect farming program within food-insecure orphanages, starting in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
Insects are a popular, culturally appropriate food in many parts of the world, but are typically wild-caught and available only seasonally. Insects are highly nutritious, rich in protein and micronutrients. Insect farming requires a fraction of the resources (e.g., land, feed, water) as traditional livestock to produce equivalent amounts of protein.
Orphanages, with little-to-no capital or land, can easily raise their own protein and, because insects are often considered a delicacy and cost as much as other proteins such as chicken or beef, orphanages can generate income by selling surplus yields. Our initiative transforms orphanages from an economic drain on their surrounding communites into a community resource.
Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Specify both the social and the environmental impact of your work
FFO is successfully farming palm weevil larvae, a traditionally wild-caught food, and has built insect farms on four orphanages caring for a combined 1,000+ children. We have shown that insect farming is a viable solution for orphanages with no land to grow their own protein.
We continue to evaluate our program and expect that insect farming will improve the lives of orphans in two key ways, by decreasing hunger and improving health through the consumption of insects and in the economic autonomy achieved through the sale of farmed insects at market.
We expect to see decreases in stunting and improvement in child growth patterns. Because palm weevil larvae are rich in iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium and fat-soluble vitamins, we also expect to see decreases in iron deficiency anemia and micronutrient/vitamin deficiencies. With this improved nutrition, these children have a better chance to be educated, grow into healthy adults and make positive contributions to their community.
Financial sustainability plan: How is this initiative financially supported? How will you ensure its financial sustainability long-term?
FFO has funded its project in DRC through individual donations and a gift from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. We expect to meet our ongoing needs through grants and continued crowdfunding. Future revenue will go toward expanding our initiative across the DRC and globally.
The startup costs and needs of an individual orphanage insect farm are minimal (we have created startup farm kits for $200 USD), but we expect the orphanage farms to be self-sustaining. For example, once an orphanage farm in the DRC is producing the palm weevil larvae, we estimate they can generate approximately $300 per month in income by selling surplus larvae at market, in comparison, the average annual income in DRC is just $473.
Unique value proposition: What makes your initiative innovative? How does your project differ from other organizations working in the same field?
1) Most nutrition programs are aimed at addressing malnutrition from fetal development through one year of age, but the average orphan is 7 years old and stunted. Studies have shown that children can exhibit catch-up growth if their nutrition improves. 2) We are introducing a proactive, sustainable solution to malnutrition rather than a reactive handout. 3) We are introducing the cultivation of a popular wild-caught food; our insect farming initiative in orphanages is the first of its kind.
Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that sparked the beginning of this initiative.
Our founder will never forget the first pictures she saw of her adopted children: tear streaked faces and large, bloated bellies. Her heart broke. Malnutrition had taken a toll on their health. When she brought her children home from the DR Congo in 2013, they were so small they were not even on US growth charts. With good nutrition, her son grew seven inches and her daughter grew five inches in one year. Today they are happy, thriving and so full of potential. Unfortunately, there are millions of orphaned children around the globe who are still bound to a life of hunger and poverty, unable to live productive lives. Where others see merely children, we see future doctors, farmers and teachers. Given the chance, all children have the capacity to be active and committed global citizens. We are unleashing that potential, one insect farm and one orphanage at a time.
Where did you hear about the Nestlé Creating Shared Value Prize?
Program Design Clarity: We are hungry to know more about what exactly your model consists of. Succinctly list a) what main activities are you doing with your beneficiaries, b) where you carry out the activities? c) how often? d) for how many hours? e) who delivers the services? and f) any other brief details
FFO works in collaborative partnerships with orphanages to implement insect farming on orphanage grounds, which provides a healthy and sustainable source of protein, fat, and micronutrients for the children in their care. The orphanages can generate income by selling surplus insect yields at local markets.
FFO provides farming start-up materials to orphanages and holds a one-day training with orphanage representatives at FFO's training farm in Kimpoko, on land owned by our partners, Global Orphan Foundation. Following the farm training, an FFO farm trainer visits each orphanage to help establish the farm and ensure it has all the materials needed to successfully farm insects. Orphanage staff manage all day-to-day farming operations from that point forward (1-2 hours/day). FFO hosts weekly farm call-ins and visits each farm on a monthly basis. Once an orphanage is successfully farming insects, FFO then works with the orphanages to help them maximize the economic potential of their insect farms – as a main source of the malnutrition and stunting in these children is the general poverty of the orphanages providing their care.
FFO's program is designed to engage youth (and girls in particular) in the farming process in order to help them build their own marketable skills. By addressing malnutrition and poverty as well as providing vocational training with one endeavor, we know that we can change lives.
We are interested in learning more about your initiative's broad impact on sustainable development. Please reply ONLY to the question(s) related to your above focus area.
Nutrition research demonstrates the adverse impact that malnutrition has on life expectancy and the positive impact that improvements in nutrition can have on life expectancy and life quality. The 2017 Global Nutrition Report notes that investment in nutrition can return $16 for every $1 spent – a tremendous return on investment and one with the potential to touch all aspects of the affected’s life. Indeed, malnutrition is often described as one of the biggest missed opportunities in global health. Problems that stem from malnutrition (stunted growth, impaired cognitive and emotional development, compromised immune function, and lost labor and productivity), exacerbate just about every challenge life can present. Addressing malnutrition in children can bring about critical improvements in health, educational attainment, economic productivity and life quality. Our program provides orphanages with tools and training to grow edible insects, a nutritious food source previously unavailable to them due to their high market cost.
Our program is quite innovative. Over two billion people globally routinely eat insects, but they are typically wild-harvested, which means supply is seasonally limited and collection can negatively impact local ecosystems. Further, compared to traditional livestock cultivation, insect farming requires less land, water and feed to produce similar levels of protein, and generates negligible greenhouse gasses and less farm-to-fork waste in the process.
Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?
Our goal is to train orphanages to ultimately be self-sufficient in their production of insect protein, their sale of insect protein at markets, and in training older orphans to be able to farm and sell insects themselves. Orphanges, particularly in the Democratic Republic of Congo, receive little-to-no government support or outside sponsorship and are oftern viewed as an economic drain on the surrounding community. We believe our model of sharing skills and economically empowering our orphanage partners will create value both on-site and within the communities that house them as a whole.
Beyond direct insect farming, FFO’s novel approach to sustainable agriculture opens up numerous opportunities for research and development that we believe will be of great interest to those working in fields of nutrition, child health, food security, agricultural economics, and more. By implementing insect farming practices, we can create value across professional disciplines and around the world.
How is your initiative funded, now and over the next 5 years?
FFO presently relies on grant funding, private donations, and, at levels of management, volunteer labor. Because we have no sales, we currently generate no profitable revenue. We anticipate that we will continue with this model for the next five years, however we plan to eventually be able to offer for-profit training workshops to communities, other NGO’s and/or governmental aid organizations. We are also considering potential long-term corporate charitable partnerships that would allow us to operate off of returns from invested endowments.
Aside from labor, our operating model requires little overhead and modest costs to bring new orphanages “online,” so we are capable of weathering fluctuations in income availability.
How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the CSV Prize?
Given the many merits of entomophagy, we expect it to become widely recognized as a safe and climate-smart approach to nourishing a burgeoning world population. As early promoter of insect farming, we are in a position to be leaders in the field, and we aim to be a vocal part of this dialogue. Winning the CSV prize, would allow us to put more energy into sharing our work and the promise of edible insects around the globe. Further, given the research we are conducting (and wish to expand), winning the prize would allow us to continue to participate in scientific conferences and events, which allow us to share our work and discuss entomophagy with individuals who have the power to enact change in their own communities and internationally.
How will you leverage an investment from Nestle to expand the impact of your work?
An investment from Nestle would allow us to expand our program, providing the materials, labor, and travel necessary to initiate farming activities across the DRC, sub-Saharan Africa and beyond. In order to provide the most nutritious, cost-effective and sustainably produced food to our beneficiaries, we are continuously evaluating and fine-tuning our program; a portion of winnings would thus go toward the expansion of our research program, benefitting FFO, industry, and university students alike. For example, students from the University of Kinshasa conducted analyses on the market potential of various edible insects in Kinshasa which helped us direct our insect farming program while enhancing the students' research experience.
Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact? What’s the projected impact for the coming years? Are you planning to expand your programme into new locations? On what assumptions do you build your scale-up plans?
FFO plans to expand insect farming operations to central and eastern DR Congo as soon as we can safely travel to the regions, which are currently enmeshed in significant social conflict. Having already received requests for information and support from orphanages around the world, however, we believe that our program can and will expand to both Asia and Central and South America in the coming five years – truly, anywhere there’s interest. With start-up costs that are largely limited to materials (approximately $200USD per facility), our ability to provide training (an endeavor requiring travel, accommodations and meals for one-to-two people for approximately a week) and follow-up support (if not travel, then internet connection), we can easily expand our global reach and very much wish to do so.
Furthermore, our edible insect farming technology can be used to great advantage by other food insecure people, such as small share farmers, schools, hospitals and entire communities.
Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, number of full-time vs. part-time staff, board members, etc.)? How will this team evolve as your initiative grows?
Founder/CEO: Doctor Veterinary Medicine. Leads program implementation, fundraising. Develops farm biosecurity protocols, oversees insect health;
BOD/Program Development: MA Medical Anthropology. Manages financial portfolios, supports operations, monitors quality improvement and regulatory compliance;
BOD/Research Oversight: PhD Ecology, Statistics. Research support, statistical analyses;
Staff: Insect farm trainer and orphanage farm support;
Advisory Board: Representatives from Colorado Children’s Hospital, Wageningen University and Rocky Mountain Micro Ranch;
Collaborators: Global Orphan Foundation, FAO in Kinshasa, University of Kinshasa, Loyola University of Congo.
All team members work part-time. As FFO's initiative grows, key team members will become paid, full-time employees.
Awards: What awards or honors has the initiative received?
While not an official award, FFO was honored to be recognized by and receive a generous gift from The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in early 2017.
Organizational leadership: How are you influencing your field of work in the present?
FFO’s insect farming program is innovative and can be utilized in rural and urban settings. In regions where entomophagy is common, insects are usually wild-caught, which is impossible in urban centers and can have detrimental impacts on rural ecosystems. Our orphanages are fortunate to have year-round access to healthy protein and a source of revenue while preserving local natural resources.
We promote entomophagy as a viable option for helping to feed the world’s population. We have shared our work at conferences where scientists, policy makers, and changemakers meet to find smart ways to address hunger, and we have received overwhelmingly positive feedback. As awareness of entomophagy grows, programs that support it will grow too.
Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend the Ashoka Impact Boot camp and Creating Shared Value Prize Live Pitch Event at the World Water Forum 13-16 March 2018
Yes, I am available to attend the events on 13-16 March 2018