Cricket project

UCU proves insect value in nutrition and alleviating food waste

By Irene Best Nyapendi
The Uganda Christian University (UCU) Faculty of Agricultural Sciences has teamed up with crickets – the insect and not the sport – in a successfully piloted food chain project that alleviates hunger and malnutrition.  The ‘Food Waste-2-Cricket Feed’ enterprise produces cricket feed from food waste and then turns the insects into a nutritious food supplement.

The UCU agriculture research team, led by Geoffrey Ssepuuya, a senior lecturer, established that there is a daily production of 768 metric tons of food waste in Kampala.

Crickets, Acheta domesticus
Crickets, Acheta domesticus

The project aimed at developing a processing protocol for converting food waste to a safe and shelf-stable cricket feed. It was funded by the Uganda National Council for Science and Technology (UNCST). Florence Agwang, the grants officer at UNCST, says the undertaking was especially viable because the country has long struggled with waste management. 

“If this project succeeds and is able to get support from the government, we shall be able to greatly reduce the problem of waste in Uganda,” Agwang says.

How cricket food is made

The project involves collecting food waste from the UCU university dining hall in addition to remains from restaurants, hotels and markets.

Collected food waste such as bananas, rice, etc. is heat treated, dried, ground into powder and mixed according to predetermined formulation proportions into feed for the crickets. The crickets are reared in aerated food containers and provided with hide-outs because the crickets are nocturnal (comfortable in dark places).

In a bid to ensure sustainable cricket production in the country, the project is working towards continued production and distribution of this low-cost “protein and micronutrient-rich cricket feed.” The developed cricket feed is nutritious with a performance similar to that of broiler starter mash. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, while with local feeds, crickets take about 12 weeks to mature. 

Benefits of cricket

Crickets can be used to enrich the diet with protein and other nutrients when added to daily meals. It is a common practice in Uganda to eat fried insects such as crickets and grasshoppers. In this project, crickets, which have more protein than fish and beef, are ground to be mixed with staple flours for porridge and food. 

Geoffrey Ssepuuya holding the cricket feed. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, faster than on normal food waste where they will take about 12 weeks.
Geoffrey Ssepuuya holding the cricket feed. With the formulated feeds, the crickets require 8 – 10 weeks to mature, faster than on normal food waste where they will take about 12 weeks.

“Instead of consuming cassava bread that is only about 2% protein or even less, communities can supplement it with crickets which are 50 – 65 % rich in proteins,” Ssepuuya says. “So, with the feeds now available they can rear the crickets, dry them under the sun, grind them into powder and add the protein-rich powder to their food.” 

The most common sources of proteins such as meat, milk and chicken are not affordable to many Ugandans, yet it can now be redeemed from eating crickets. 

What others say about the cricket project

Dr. John Livingstone Mutyaba, Head of Agriculture (Postgraduate), explained that rearing crickets can be a new source of income for farmers through rearing and selling them. Crickets (Acheta domesticus) lay hundreds of eggs, which makes them multiply in a very short time.

Mutyaba says unlike what some commonly believe, crickets are not demanding in terms of housing and food.

The biggest challenge is feed in addition to proper management of heat and humidity. This is because crickets are more comfortable in dark places, and during cold days, they need heat.

There also is a need for labour and sufficient space to dry the crickets when they reach maturity. This is because they are best when dried before consumption.

Crickets in their breeding tray feeding on food waste. They lay hundreds of eggs which makes them increase in a very short time.
Crickets in their breeding tray feeding on food waste. They lay hundreds of eggs which makes them increase in a very short time.

The project is also supporting research by students like Derrick Kizito Okettayot, a fourth-year student of Food Science and Technology. To Okettayot, crickets are a delicacy.

“When I was young, we used to pick a few crickets hiding under the grass, roast and eat them,” Okettayot recalls. “I used to eat them in small quantities because they were rare, but I am so glad that I have now learned how to rear crickets, and I can now have enough of them.”

He adds that one can even blend crickets with fruits to make a protein shake.

“This is a win-win solution when we use food waste to feed the crickets and later feed on the crickets, so the food waste comes back to us in a different format to benefit us and the insects,” Dr. Rose Mary Bulyaba, the dean of the Faculty of Agricultural Science says.

UCU VC in Florida

UCU Vice Chancellor elected to International board, during Conference in U.S.

By Jimmy Siyasa

The Vice Chancellor of Uganda Christian University (UCU), Prof. Aaron Mushengyezi has been elected to the Board of Directors of the Hanseatic League of Universities (HLU). The election happened during a board meeting that sat amid the 3rd Annual HLU Conference, held yesterday, at Florida Gulf Coast University, Southwest Florida, U.S.

This makes UCU one of only two African universities, so far, including the University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) in Tanzania,  with representation on the prestigious board with up to 10 Directors from different countries, including U.S., Germany, Russia, China, and Belgium, among others.

On HLU Annual Conference

Prof. Mushengyezi travelled to attend the 3rd annual HLU Conference held on May 15- 17, 2023, hosted by Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU), based in Southwest Florida, U.S. It is gathering of Rectors/ Vice Chancellors from various countries around the world, to reflect on emerging challenges facing institutions of higher learning, and how to mitigate or solve their effects. 

Additionally, the meeting also affords interaction opportunities for member universities to exchange best practices and update one another on innovations going on their respective campuses.

Prof. Mushengyezi with Prof. Dong-sung Cho Chairman, The Institute of Industrial Policy Studies, Switzerland. President, Hanseatic League of Universities (HLU).
Prof. Mushengyezi with Prof. Dong-sung Cho Chairman, The Institute of Industrial Policy Studies, Switzerland. President, Hanseatic League of Universities (HLU). Courtesy.

UCU- Pepperdine University relations

Before attending the conference, he was invited by President Jim Gash to Pepperdine University in Malabo, California, from May 10-13, 2023, for a both courtesy and partnership-oriented visit. Pepperdine is seeking to strengthen ties with UCU in student and staff exchange, and working closely with the Judiciary in Uganda in the practical training of Law students.

UCU and With Prof. Aysegul Timur, President of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU).
UCU Vice Chancellor Prof. Mushengyezi shares a photo moment with Prof. Aysegul Timur, President of Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU). Courtesy photo.

World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI) Ranking

The HLU has also established a new ranking system for its member universities called World’s Universities with Real Impact (WURI)

WURI evaluates the university’s real contributions to society, highlighting creative and innovative approaches to universities’ research and educational programs.

Member universities have to join the WURI ranking system to be assessed. The WURI ranking focuses on 6 criteria: Industrial application, Value-Creating, Social responsibility, ethics and integrity, Student Mobility and Openness, Crisis Management and Progress during the Forth Industrial Revolution. 

UCU, a founding member of the HLU

UCU is a founding of the Hanseatic League of Universities (HLU), an alliance of international universities, colleges, schools, & higher education institutions that seek innovation in research & education under a shared mission of working together to address the real impact of higher education on societies and industries worldwide.

The leadership of the university continues to pursue both local and international partnerships with universities all over the world for the benefit of students, staff, researchers and the broader communities of stakeholders. One notable such is the US-based Council for Christian Colleges, which facilitates UCU’s Uganda Studies Programme, which annual study-abroad opportunities for students from various U.S-based colleges. 


UCU-AIRTEA Project Empowers Small-Scale Farmers in Uganda to Access Bigger Markets and Improve Livelihoods

By Angella Napakol (PhD)

UCU-AIRTEA Project to Benefit Farmers

Uganda Christian University (UCU) has partnered with Psalms Food Industries (SUMZ) to help small-scale farmers in Uganda access bigger markets. This partnership is an offshoot of the UCU-AIRTEA project, which is titled “Enhancing inclusive market access for African Indigenous Vegetables (AIV), seed and value-added products by Smallholder farmers in Uganda”. The AIRTEA project is funded by the EU through the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and has a consortium of four partners with UCU as the lead partner. Other members are the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE), FarmGain Africa Ltd and Syova (U) Ltd.

Outcomes of the project

One of the key outcomes of the project is improved seed and value-added products, as well as expanded market access for small-scale farmers. SUMZ Uganda, being a major player in the African Indigenous Vegetable landscape, was contacted as one of the would-be buyers of the small-scale farmers’ products. Since then, SUMZ has participated in various trainings, including good agronomic practice and field visits to the various farmer groups and study sites. Most importantly, SUMZ has provided pumpkin seeds worth 240 acres. The farmer groups in Mityana have been planting 15 acres of land per month since February 2023.

More about the Project and Impact

The AIRTEA project aims to help small-scale farmers access bigger markets and negotiate fair prices with industry players. Previously, the majority of these farmers could not access such players because they own small pieces of land, about 0.5 to 1 acre. However, with the AIRTEA project farmer mobilization and collaboration strategy, these farmer groups are able to have 30 times more than their normal production and negotiate prices with bigger industry players.

Working with FARMGAIN, small-scale farmers and buyers have been able to sign contracts as a way to keep the commitment. One of the small-scale farmer group leaders, Ben, was impressed by the education they received, especially in regard to the signing of contracts. He said, “I like the idea of signing contracts, it makes the buyer not pull out or change the price last minute but it also compels the farmers to deliver…you see many farmers tend to relax and sometimes not work well together but with this…we just have to be organized”.

One of the registered successes of the project is a farmer group that honoured their contract and had a plentiful harvest. However, the contracted buyer at the time did not meet their end of the contract. Agitation set in among the farmers, but because they had worked in a large group and had a significant harvest, a different buyer was contracted who bought their produce at the same rate as in the contract that had been signed. This was exciting for the farmers who have vowed to increase their produce and do better in good agronomic and post-harvest practices.

The different farmer groups have also been educated about the value of the products they grow. One of the farmer group leads, for instance, noted that “traders often bring their trucks to villages to take tons of pumpkins at incredibly low prices and sell them expensively on the market. They buy pumpkins from the farmers at 500shs to 1,000shs and sell them at about 5,000shs upwards. We knew this but did not know how to address the problem, but we now know what to do…” With this knowledge, the farmers have been equipped through the AIRTEA project and the direct connection to the markets, the farmers are envisioning a much fairer market.

Prof Nyende publishes book

UCU’s Professor Nyende Publishes Comprehensive 300-Page Book: A Must-Read for all Bible scholars

By Jimmy Siyasa

A Q&A about the book

Tell us about the book in summary

The book, entitled 299-page book titled The Restoration of God’s Dwelling and Kingdom is published by Langhams Publishing. It is a reading of the Bible as an integrated whole from Genesis to Revelation. Starting from Genesis, the books of the Bible are read together as a unified whole, i.e. as one book.

From Genesis, I establish that God created the world to be a part of his kingdom and his dwelling with human beings. However, God’s creative intentions were disrupted when humans rebelled against God (in the event that is commonly known as the fall).

I, therefore, trace through the Old Testament the story of the way God acted to restore the world to his kingdom and to be his dwelling with humans. This story comes to a conclusion in the New Testament with the promise of the new Jerusalem coming down. At that time, the world will once again become a part of God’s kingdom and his dwelling with human beings.

Prof Nyende publishes book
Prof Nyende inside his study room. Photo: Jimmy Siyasa

What would you say is the relevance of this book to theological training and pastoral ministry in the 21st Century?

The giving of God’s word through proclaiming and teaching is integral to pastoral ministry. But pastors can only do so when they link and relate the individual sections of the Bible to the whole content of the Bible. This book helps them to a good extent to do so by familiarising themselves in depth with the whole content of the Bible from the standpoint of salvation which is the chief concern of the Bible. Indeed pastors and theological students are the core audience of the book.

What should any reader expect to learn or pick from the book?

An in-depth study of the whole Bible thereby attaining an overview of the message of the Bible. This is why I say that this book is for those who love the Word of God and desire to study it in depth. I can assure you that once they start reading it, they will not put it down until they finish it.

A video discussion of the book

Green energy

UCU Researchers Secure €53,000 for Green Energy Project

By Jimmy Siyasa

Uganda Christian University (UCU) has received a grant of €53,000 from the Innovation Fund for Development (IFD) to support a major green energy project. The project, which will be led by Professor William Kisaalita, a visiting professor at UCU, aims to tackle climate change by replacing natural charcoal with long-lasting, eco-friendly briquettes made from bamboo.

Purpose of project

The project will involve conducting a technical feasibility study in educational institutions’ kitchens and addressing knowledge gaps on the use of “green” bamboo charcoal and firewood. The researchers hope to build the value chain of bamboo-based energy sources in Uganda, a country where bamboo grows naturally in different regions.

Why Bamboo?

Bamboo has not been fully explored for high-value chains such as energy and fabrics, despite its potential to contribute significantly to soil and water conservation, biodiversity conservation, climate change mitigation, and the green economy. The researchers believe that bamboo’s environmental sustainability, coupled with its potential to store more carbon than many other tree species, make it an ideal raw material for eco-friendly briquettes.

The UCU Sustainable Development Center

The project will be conducted under the auspices of the UCU Sustainable Development Center (SDC), which was launched in 2022 to leverage current strengths at the intersection of water, energy, and food/feed. By replacing natural charcoal with bamboo-based briquettes, the researchers hope to reduce Uganda’s carbon footprint and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Expected outcomes

In conclusion, this green energy project is a significant step towards addressing the challenge of climate change in Uganda and globally. With the support of the IFD and the expertise of UCU researchers, it is hoped that the project will contribute to the development of a more sustainable energy industry in Uganda and beyond.