In recent years, climate change has created ideal breeding conditions for locusts, swarms of which have been devouring crops and other vegetation in East Africa and the Horn. Kenya, in particular, has been battling some of its worst locust plagues in decades, with farmers losing huge amounts of crops to the insects every year.
To help alleviate this growing challenge that’s threatening the livelihoods of local communities, a startup called The Bug Picture has been helping Kenyan farmers make a profit from the pests — by paying them to harvest the insects and mill them, turning them into protein-rich animal feed and organic fertilizer.
“We are trying to create hope in a hopeless situation, and help these communities alter their perspective to see these insects as a seasonal crop that can be harvested and sold for money,” said founder Laura Stanford.
Partnering farmers are paid about 50 Kenyan shillings (about $0.5) per kilogram of the insects. Last month, the project harvested 1.3 tons of locusts in less than three weeks.
According to Albert Lemasulani, a field coordinator with The Bug Picture, communities collect locusts that are then weighed by the nonprofit. Once farmers are paid for their contribution, The Bug Picture crushes, dries, and mills the insects into a powder that’s later used in animal feed or organic fertilizer.