Could insects be a cheaper and greener way to feed fish in Benin?

Could insects be a cheaper and greener way to feed fish in Benin?

A researcher in the West African nation of Benin is working on how to make a better insect-based fish feed, with the aim of replacing more expensive and less sustainable fishmeal.

The global aquaculture market was worth $289.6 billion in 2022, but annually, 75% of the 20 million tons of raw materials used to produce fishmeal come from whole fish according to a 2019 report by the European Market Observatory for Fisheries and Aquaculture Products. .

Mahonan Ulrich Armel Gogbegi, executive director of the Benin-based NGO AQUAGENIUS, explains that his team is working to improve black soldier fly production (Intensely bright) Larvae, as an alternative source of protein in fish feed, in order to encourage fish farming in Benin and make it more viable.

“Fishmeal is obtained through costly industrial processes and intensive fishing of small fish species, which is gradually threatening fish stocks and the ecological balance of the oceans,” he says, adding that insects (which are already a natural part of the fish diet) are a viable and less expensive alternative.

“They can be produced easily, in a small space, from low-cost agricultural by-products, using little water,” says Gogbeji. “Moreover, the emission of greenhouse gases during animal husbandry is very low compared to traditional animal husbandry.” “.

His work was recently recognized as one of eight seed grant winners in the Seeds for the Future Global Food System Challenge, receiving $25,000 in grant funding from the Institute of Food Technologists and the Seeds for the Future Foundation.

“This research has the dual benefit of reducing human pressure on aquatic resources and reducing the cost of fish feed, which accounts for approximately 70% of total production costs in fish farming.” “Drawing on my extensive experience, I helped develop innovative methods for breeding insects and formulating feeds for fish farming, with the aim of improving productivity while reducing environmental impact, in order to meet the growing challenges of global food security,” says Gogbeji.

From Benin to Belgium and back

Bogbidji grew up in Cotonou, the largest city in the small West African nation of Benin.

“I didn’t have a particularly ‘eureka’ moment as a child, however, I have always been fascinated by the animal kingdom in general and aquatic species in particular, and this has greatly shaped my later academic choices and career as a scientist,” he says.

Jobdeji will pursue a PhD in Agricultural Sciences and Bioengineering at Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech University (Belgium), where he specializes in aquaculture and entomophagy (the human practice of eating insects).

“As a doctoral student, my main project studied the nutritional component of a research project on improving the tilapia production chain in Benin,” he says. “This project leads me to discover the entomologist at the Gembloux Agro-Bio Tech Career Center. Entomology Unit.”

According to Gogbeji, including scholars from the Global South in research is crucial to ensuring contextual and relevant solutions.

“This engagement strengthens scientific independence, contributes to building local capacities, and promoting more equitable international cooperation,” he says. “In short, engaging scientists from the South is essential for reaching global, equitable and sustainable solutions.”

Fish for good

On the other side of the continent, Leonard Akwani, volunteer coordinator for Ecofinder Kenya and freshwater director for Conservation International, is working to improve lives in local communities by preserving collapsed fishing stocks in Lake Victoria.

Recent decades have witnessed the emergence of the jabuya culture where women, who make up 90% of fish traders, engage in sexual relations as one of the strategies to gain access to catches from fishermen.

Akwani says restoring fisheries resources is not only critical in terms of freshwater biodiversity, food security and secure livelihoods; But it is crucial in empowering women and reducing the pressures that lead to a Jaboy culture.

“Less fish means more gender-based violence as manifested through sex-for-fish or gabuya culture,” he says, adding that this is one of the reasons why local women are a strong and supportive force for fisheries conservation work.

The new Aquani project will be implemented in the Winam Bay region covering Kisumu, Siaya – the birthplace of Barack Obama’s father – and the Busia counties of western Kenya, and will target three endangered native fish species: the ngigi, mbiro and ningo.

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(Tags for translation)Benin

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