Insects for peace

On 24 Augustus 2016, the peace treaty with the FARC was signed. In the treaty, the areas that have been most severely impacted by the armed conflict are earmarked as priority areas. The goal is to build a stable and durable peace through a territorial and participative approach to development. One project that could contribute is a study on the use of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens) as an alternative feed. This could reduce expenses and improve the quality of life for ex-fighters returning to the Icononzo-Tolima region.

Comprehensive rural development is fundamental and includes protecting nature reserves, stimulating agricultural production, support in the generation of income and new financial mechanisms, support in the commercialisation of farm products and fostering value-chains.

At the same time, policies for the reintegration of FARC-EP members were put in place. The FARC argued in favour of a collective reintegration of its constituents in Colombian society. The geographical centres where fighters gather to lay down their arms, now known as Espacios Territoriales de Capacitación y Reincorporación (ETCR), and new areas where FARC members settled in recent years, known as Nuevas Áreas de Incorporación (NAR), were to be used as a basis.

There are currently 24 ETCR, 70 NAR and over 20 small communities of former FARC-EP members with small animal production systems (fish and pigs). Most of these are united in a large association called ECOMÚN. Ecomún conducts an extensive fish cultivation project, funded by the European Union. The project aims to set up a business model for fish farming in several ETCR and NAR.

Black soldier fly as animal feed

The national university of Colombia (Universidad Nacional de Colombia (UNC)) has carried out several projects within these groups. For example: using the black soldier fly as a cost-efficient way to improve the quality of life of former fighters returning to the Icononzo-Tolima region. There is currently a small testing facility in Iconzo (Tolima) to produce black soldier flies. A small-scale or medium-scale insect production plant could lead to an increase in productivity, improved standard of living and nutrition for the ex-FARC-EP communities and small farmers in these regions.

Insects as an alternative resource to mitigate scarcity

Resources to produce ingredients for fish and animal feed are increasingly scarce. Over the last five years, prices have doubled. Feed costs constitute between 60 and 70 per cent of the production costs and are already exorbitant. Small-scale farmers with limited access to resources cannot afford the cost of feed. Thus, it is essential to ensure they have access to cheaper fish feed to safeguard their fish production and to support an agricultural business model for the commercial production of insect-based, protein-rich fish feed.

The production of fish is part of the agro-ecological system as a means of existence. Integrating this subsistence model in insect production will strengthen sustainability and well-being and foster more robust institutes. The project is primarily aimed at former FARC-EP members, small-scale farmers with an impairment and women. In total, some 5000 households (15,000 persons) will benefit from the project.