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Edible insects farming for food, feed and waste management in Lilongwe City, Malawi

Edible insects for food, feed, employment and environmental health

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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agriculture Research Services – Livestock section. This is a government that promote sustainable livestock development and protect the general public from zoonotic diseases through the delivery of animal production and veterinary services. Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network FANRPAN (FANRPAN). FANRPAN is a pan African organization with mandate to carry out research and policy dialogue across African countries, to support Governments implement food nutrition and natural resources policies and to evaluate uptake of policy commitments by governments. FANRPAN will be responsible to disseminate and hold policy dialogue on use of insects in the diets and ensure the design of a framework for classification of insects in the food guidelines as well as feed. FANRPAN will also ensure that the insects as a business value chain is able to create jobs for many players like women and youth through engaging private sector.

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Mitundu, Lilongwe.

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Lilongwe City covers an area of 727.8 km².

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

  • Lilongwe City continues to be the biggest city in Malawi with a population of 989,318. As an urban area, the city has to deal with an influx of migrants from rural areas, refugees from African countries and foreigners seeking economic opportunities in the city. Most of the native rural migrants and some refugees end up living in high-density but low-income residential areas of the city. Compared to the place of origin, food is expensive in the city. To meet the nutritional needs for themselves and their households, low quality or about-to-go off food and vegetables is the option available for them. Relatives from places of origin also rest their hopes on city dwellers.  Consequently, they have little or no money to save. When unexpected events occurrence, such as floods, droughts and the corresponding pest and disease  outbreaks and food price increases; this segment of city population have little or no resources and/or capacity to adapt and mitigate.
  • I was born, raised up and did my primary and secondary education in Lilongwe city. My father and mother had migrated to Lilongwe city from Northern Malawi 15 years before I was born. My dad did not complete high school and my mother had attended primary school. As a result, my dad could not get a permanent good job. He changed jobs often and could be far away from home for days. My mum engaged in very small-scale businesses e.g. selling firewood, fruits, vegetables depending on the season (USD10 as starting capital). As firstborn daughter, I had to help my parents meet household expenses by selling small items like doughnuts and raw sugarcane. Hence, it is in Lilongwe I had my first business experience.
  • The rainy season were times of rejoicing. We could eat edible insects that we caught ourselves on the light trap or on termite mounds. We also ate the edible insects as snacks when we went to school or play with our neighbours. When we caught so much that we sold some. But edible insects were only there temporary.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Lilongwe is the capital city of Malawi. Summers (October to February) are hot and wet. The cold season runs from May to August. July is usually the coldest month. The District is the native area of Malawi's largest tribe, the Chewa. Chewa people are matrimonial. A form of spirit-ancestral-based religion is practiced by the Chewa. Chichewa with its various dialects is the language spoken by the Chewa.

The moving of Malawi's capital city from Zomba in Sothern Malawi to Lilongwe in 1964 led to immigration of both Malawians and foreigners into Lilongwe.  The transition from one-party system of government to democracy in 1994 led to rapid expansion of the city to areas that were previously Chewa customary land.  The city’s central area is occupied by foreigners of Asian origin. In high-density areas, households are constructed using low quality materials, in areas with poor drainage and sewage systems. Malaria is endemic. There is no land for people to produce their own food. Many are engaged in small agro-based businesses. Those who have no capital seek employment. Children below the age of 18 may be drawn into a form of economic activity to help their parents or relatives. Hence, it is not surprising to see children selling things in the streets of Lilongwe city. Some children found themselves on the streets of the city because their mothers have no baby sitter at home.

Lilongwe city dwellers have access to a diverse variety of foods. Traders from all over the country brings all types of foods to the city. Malawians love foods that are simple but tasty and aromatic. Maize is the main staple food for many city dwellers. Porridge made with maize flour is food for babies. Mothers may fortify the porridge with vegetable soup or groundnut powder.  Msima made from maize flour is the main meal for toddlers and adults. For breakfast, tea, boiled sweet potato, cassava or maize porridge is served. Most families will eat msima during lunch and dinner. Msima is eaten with soups made using vegetables, fresh or dried fish, or meat. Groundnut powder is added to vegetable and dried fish soups.

The rainy season is a time of plenty. Wild edible mushrooms, edible weeds and edible insects accompany msima as relish. Both old and young, men and women snack on roasted maize, sugarcane, nuts and wild fruits. Pan-fried potato chips cooked along the roadside is a delicacy. Traditional maize-based-fermented drink called ‘Thobwa’ may be available to all family members. All this food is cooked using firewood in an open kitchen outside the house.


Agriculture is the backbone of Malawi. Farming is practiced by everyone with access to land. Major crops grown are tobacco, maize, beans, groundnuts, vegetables. There is little aquaculture being practiced in Lilongwe. Raising livestock e.g. pigs, chickens, and goats is very common.


Poor diets have negative effects on the performance and health of the people. Poor diets lowers people’s productivity, malnutrition costs government millions. Malawian hope for food security, better health and security. Malawians believe that food security is central to achieving better health and can drive the country to economic prosperity.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

The population of Malawi is increasing rapidly. It is estimated that the population will hit 45 million by 2050 at the current growth rate of 3%. Considering that about 47% of the population is below the age of 15, the population will continue to grow come 2050. The current farming holding size per household is <1ha is shrinking. Farm sizes will also continue to shrink as human settlements and industrial plants are established on arable land. Innovative ways to meet national food requirements. Moreover, the prime working age group (25-54 years) shoulders a huge burden to support the young population and the elderly both financially and socially. However, few jobs are available and many lack essential skills to meet such demands. Hence, this segment of the population is vulnerable as is often exploited in the labour market. Malawi is also grappling with an increasing trend in the co-existence of hunger, micronutrient deficiency, stunting and obesity in some segments of the population (MNS, 2015). For example, only 7% of children aged 6-23 months ate foods that met minimum acceptable diet; while 9% under five children and 21% of adults (15-49 years) were overweight; and the number of adolescent girls who are undernourished is 16.5% (DHS, 2015-2016; Malawi National Nutritional Policy 2018-2022). The effects of weather variability is felt across the country. Frequent floods and droughts may wash away or completely destroy potential bumper harvest. Water shortage and drying of rivers and wetlands limit the extent to which irrigation can be applied for food production. Within cities, there is an increased demand for animal protein as eating meat is considered an indicator of economic status. City dwellers also have limited access to land for food cultivation. As a result, it is not unusual to see backyard gardens and animals such as pigs being reared at household level especially within Lilongwe City (Nkuonera, 2018). Malawi has also experienced an increase in the frequency of pest outbreaks, and incidence and rapid establishment of exotic insect pests in the past five years. The tomato leaf miner (Tuta absoluta) which first appeared in 2015/2016 and the fall armyworm in 2016/17 cropping season continue to threaten to threaten food security. Little value addition of food done at household level. Farmers exploited by unscrupulous vendors.

 According to Hanboonsong, Jamjanya and Durst (2013), edible insects offer significant potential to contribute to meeting future Africa’s food demands. More so because they are extremely rich in protein, vitamins and minerals (Klunder et al. 2012). As in other African countries, Malawians have a long history and tradition of consuming insects as food. Actually in June 2016, the president of Malawi at a political rally urged Malawians to eat insects such as grasshoppers as way of dealing with hunger. However, edible insects are not available all year round. The main problem is that, Malawi has not yet developed a viable and thriving insect farming sector in the form of small-scale household operations.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

The proposed applied research will involve breeding and rearing of and development food products for human consumption and feeds for animals from edible insects which will be domesticated. Our proposed project include Research and Development; Capacity Strengthening; and Policy Advocacy.

The following are the focus areas of the research and development work package:

  • Test the adaptability of wild edible insects on at household level. Central to piloting for domestication will be establishing of health edible insect colonies at LUANAR’s Bunda Campus for distribution to farmers. Research at household level will help in optimizing edible insect breeding systems and diets, and also test the acceptability of insect farming as a viable industry by Malawians. Edible insects-based food products such as cookies, flour, corn puffs and energy drinks will be developed. This research will be done in collaboration with the Food Science Departments within LUANAR.

Test the usability of edible insects (mixed with other ingredients) as ingredients to infant-nutrient foods and health bar snacks.  The developed edible insects-based food products will be tested for nutritional value, health benefits, sensory properties and socio-cultural acceptability. Promising food products prototype will be submitted for quality and standards approval by Malawi bureau of standards. The research will invest in the promotion of their consumption through social and behavior change communication at household level. This research will be done in collaboration with the Food Science Departments within LUANAR and Department of Nutrition in the Ministry of Health. This is also a business opportunity that will involve youth and women. Will entail testing the shelf life, nutrient content of the infant snacks. 


Develop and test edible insects-based ingredients for feed for chicken. The research to be done in conjunction with Animal Science Department of LUANAR to come up with chicken feed ingredients and rations for chickens. This will in turn improve the quality and volume of chicken meat and eggs. The targeted value chains are anticipated to create jobs for youth and women.  

There will be a capacity development component for individuals comprising the following: (i) Engage two post graduate students; and (ii) Youth and women will be attached to a learnership programme to advance their artisan skills on the cultivation and processing of edible insects.

The project will utilise the FANRPAN policy engagement model, featuring all-inclusive national platforms that enable state and non-state actors to engage with the policy processes to ensure that their concerns are accommodated. We will focus on policy advocacy, packaging and presenting evidence to support the development of appropriate policies at national level. Various media elements, including policy briefs, fact sheets, website and others will complement the face-to-face approaches will be used.


High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

In the year 2019, the Rockefeller Foundation launched The FOOD SYSTEMS VISION FUND and invited public, private and non-governmental institutions around the globe to develop visions of food systems that they wanted to see in the year 2050. At that time, Malawi was the poorest country in the world. Malnutrition and unemployment were widespread. A team of scientists at Malawi’s main agricultural university envisioned the solution lay in a yet-to be-tested type of farming that the country has never heard of– edible insect farming! Now, 30 years later, Malawi is the leading producer, consumer and exporter of edible insects and edible insect products in Africa! National malnutrition levels are now at the lowest ever! The edible insect farming industry is a major source of income to over 90% of youth and married women who work part-time in the industry. The African Union has since commissioned its member states to learn from Malawi to sustainably transform the lives of their citizenry. The 2050 Edition of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Sustainable Food Systems documents covers the details of this amazing journey.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

The theme of interest is “Diets”. The proposed project’s focus is to contribute to reduction of urban poverty and malnutrition and thereby directly or indirectly contribute to the Call other focus areas: (i) economic (better income especially for youth and women as well as increased production and reduced malnutrition (ii) environment through reduced greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions in livestock production; (iii) culture (domestication of native edible insects) (iv) technology for rapid processing and packaging of domesticated edible insects (v) policy responding to the Malabo Declaration call for Agriculture growth in Africa, directly addressing theme 3 and 4, Ending Hunger and Eradicating Poverty through agriculture respectively. Therefore, our main research question is “how can wild and/or indigenous ‘edible’ insects contribute to  economic growth in the agricultural sector?”

Insects could serve as a more environmentally friendly alternative for the production of animal protein with respect to GHG and NH3 emissions. While the production of animal protein is linked to high resource consumption, requiring a lot of agricultural land, water and energy (Hartmann and Siegrist, 2016), insect and soya-based alternatives have been demonstrated to have the lowest environmental impact. A study by Oonincx, et al. (2010) found that measured NH3 emission levels of the insects were lower than reported NH3 emission levels for conventional livestock. Additionally, the average daily gain of the insects was higher than for conventional livestock, while CO2 production expressed as g/kg mass gain was comparable or lower, indicating higher feed conversion efficiencies for insects. Edible insects therefore, have high potential to contribute to nutrition and more sustainable food security (Belluco et al. 2013; Ghaly 2009). Considering the economic, nutritional and ecological advantages of this traditional food source, its promotion deserves more attention both from national governments and assistance programmes (Van Huis, A. 2003). The farming and promotion of consumption of insects as an alternative protein source can provide a nutritious relief to many malnourished people in Malawi. It would enable this protein source to be made available throughout the year. One of the insect we will be farming under the project is the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) larvae is used to convert organic waste to animal protein.  Hence, contributing to sustainable management of organic  wastes. The waste products from rearing insects can be used as organic fertilizer for crops.

Unlike crop and convectional animal protein production, edible insects farming requires little land, water and energy. Our proposed project seeks to promote edible insect farming at household level using locally available resources. Farmers are already used to rearing and housing chickens within their homesteads. So, our project will work to optimize and/or adapt existing animal housing materials for insect farming. For animal feeds, insect-based feed products could have a similar market to fishmeal and soy, which are presently the major components used in feed formulae for livestock. For example, insect meal can replace scarce fishmeal as a feed ingredient. We plan to encourage chefs in Malawi’s hotels to feature edible insects on Fridays which is a day for everything Malawians.

The edible insect value chain has great job creation potential and could be a pathway for the economic empowerment of youth and women who are the most vulnerable group to poverty and unemployment. There will be jobs during production, processing and packaging, distribution and marketing of edible insects and their products. Currently, collecting and processing of edible insects during the day in the proposed project area is done by men, women and the youth. However, distribution and marketing is mostly done by men. Our project desires to promote the marketing of edible insects as a trade for women. For married women, they will need their husband’s consent to engage business. We envision that at least 100% of the edible insect production will be consumed locally during the project years. In 2050, we envision that 75% of production will be consumed locally with the rest exported to regional markets. We know that overproduction results in low prices for unprocessed products. To ensure competitiveness of edible insects as a market, we plan to invest in processing machinery and value addition through development of insect-based products such as cookies and corn puff. In the future, medium- and large-scale enterprises will be connected to international markets through the Ministry of Trade and Industry, regional agricultural commodity exchanges and NGOs linking smallholder farmers to markets.

Technology for rapid detection of insect pathogens during production of edible insects. Solar-powered oven driers; solar-powered chitin, protein, fat and bioactive compounds extractors are beneficial processing technologies for the edible insects industry. This will require a lot of capacity building at all levels.

The project is responding to the Malabo Declaration call for Agriculture growth in Africa, directly addressing theme 3 and 4, Ending Hunger and Eradicating Poverty through agriculture. The Departments of Nutrition, HIV and Aids; Fisheries and local government; and Agricultural Research Services. Rising population and food prices, shortage of arable land for agriculture and increasing nutritional awareness and consumer demands for high quality and nutritious foods will motivate the Government of Malawi to embrace our food system in 2050. This will require a change in focus because the current subsidy is focused on eliminating hunger through distribution of maize and not nutrition focused. The farming of beneficial insects will need to be recognised in government policies as a viable source of livelihood. There will be need for standards to be developed by the Malawi Bureau of Standards (MBS) for edible insects and insect-based products. The need for exporting the insect-based products will require certification. The more people demanding the certification will be the driver for government to develop these.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Trust Donga

Dear @Amy Franklin,For sure we can link up. which edible insects are you rearing! I am rearing edible wild crickets and black soldier flies

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