Science, Technology and Innovation

Economic and environmental benefits from using black soldier fly larvae to digest organic waste

Share on Facebook Share on X Share on Linkedin

A BioDAF project staff member is sieving the larvae. ©FAOCI


The organic waste problem 

Côte d’Ivoire’s economic capital, Abidjan, is home to over six million people and the population is increasing rapidly. There is a pressing need to dispose of the 4 000 tonnes of organic waste that the city currently produces each day. Côte d'Ivoire aims to achieve food sovereignty by 2030 but is faced with this and additional problems, including those of securing employment for Abidjan’s inhabitants and reducing reliance on increasingly costly imported products.  

One hope for achieving the national goals is through investing in the circular economy, as expressed by the President of the Republic, Alassane Ouattara. He addressed the nation in December 2023, saying that “a particular emphasis will be placed on the circular economy, which reinforces our commitment to the fight against climate change and offers opportunities for wider exploitation of our wealth represented by agriculture”. Since June 2023, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been supporting the Autonomous District of Abidjan through its Circular Economy Institute to develop an approach based on this concept at the Abobo incubator through the innovative BioDAF project Circular Bioeconomy in Abidjan: From Food Waste to Fork. 

The farm school in Abobo Biabou, where larvae are raised and processed as part of the BioDAF project. ©FAOCI

Using black soldier fly larvae 

Black soldier fly larvae (Hermetia illucens), have the very useful capacity of being able to rapidly degrade organic biowaste that is produced by markets, food industries and restaurants. In addition, the mature larvae are a valuable source of protein, prized by fish, poultry and pig farmers. Also, as the larvae consume organic waste, they produce digestates that can be used as effective organic fertilizers in crop production, substituting for expensive imported mineral fertilizers. An added bonus is that an oil derived from the larvae promises to be useful to the pharmaceutical and cosmetic industries. It is also predicted that this type of bioconversion of organic waste will reduce the release of greenhouse gases, particularly methane, with positive environmental consequences. Black soldier fly larvae thus represent a possible solution to many of Abidjan’s most pressing problems. 

Economic and social benefits 

Using black soldier fly larvae to tackle the issue of the otherwise problematic disposal of large volumes of organic waste reduces production costs for agricultural producers by offering them high quality, cheap fertilizers and feed derived from digestates and larvae. In the long term, this makes local products more competitive in various markets and promotes development of resilience among small-scale producers who face numerous shocks, including those related to climate change and disturbances around the globe that disrupt international commerce.   

The BioDAF project also creates job opportunities for young people and women in particular. The Minister of Sports and Living Environment, Beugré Mambé pointed out at the circular economy forum held in Abidjan that "Abidjan produces more than 6 million tonnes of waste daily, more than 60 percent of which is recoverable organic waste. And so, if well managed, more than 35 000 green jobs per year can be created for Abidjan alone". 

Organic waste recovery will also generate income directly through gradual reduction in the waste management budgets of municipalities and operation of bioconversion centres that are anticipated to become self-financing. 

image00017 (1)

Drying of larvae by a BioDAF project staff. ©FAOCI

Lessons for the future

Such use of the circular economy represents an economic model that makes the best use of natural resources, reduces waste and produces sustainable, recyclable and renewable goods and services. It is an essential component of Côte d’Ivoire’s sustainable development programme and it is a shining example that challenges the "throwaway everything" society. 

“Scaling up BioDAF into other cities and countries would revolutionize waste management and propel Africa towards a greener, more sustainable future,” said FAO project manager Brou Konan.