The queen of black soldier flies tells us about her inspirations and her little ravenous babies… they help us more than we think… 😀
My name is Marwa Abdul Hamid Shumo. Although currently dividing my time between Bonn, Germany and Nairobi, Kenya, my compass can never beat but for the place I grew up in, that has to be Muscat, Oman 🙂
What’s your work about?
My work is all about black soldier flies reared on organic waste such as kitchen left overs, cow dung and chicken manure into protein rich livestock feed. I investigate the potential of replacing the costly animal feed products currently present in markets such as fishmeal, soy cake and sunflower seeds pallets with a more cost effective and an environment friendly product derived from insects while taking into consideration the international standards for feed nutritional value and safety.
What do you like the most about your work/what’s your motivation?
I have always been obsessed with waste. The amount of wastes over occupying landfills, incinerators and recycling plants is huge and it’s such a pity to let go of products rich in nutritional elements and minerals at a time our planet is suffering from resources limitations and scarcities. Let alone the costs invested in chemical and mechanical waste treatment processes as well as their hazardous impacts to our environments. I was looking for a bio sustainable and a cost effective method to use in recycling organic waste and ever thinking of how possible is it to turn our trash into cash.
I found that in my research project that I am engaged right now: the Potential use of Black Soldier Flies in bioconversion and feed production. I like the fact that my research – if proved to be of economical as well as biological significance- can influence and improve the livelihoods of farmers in the developing world by enabling them to produce their livestock feed by recycling their waste, thus saving them the economic burden of purchasing expensive livestock feed products from the markets.
5 things we all should know about flies
- Flies are not filth, in fact their role in the web of life is to get rid of filth. You would be amazed by their potential in changing the physical and chemical structure of organic waste.
- Flies aren’t necessary pests. Yes some flies can cause diseases in crops but not the black soldier flies.
- Flies aren’t necessary pathogenic vectors. Yes some flies can carry on pathogens from A to B and cause diseases but not the black soldier flies.
- Just like bee keepers who keep bees to produce honey, some people keep flies to produce bio compost- organic soil fertilizers.
- Cost effective. They can feed on almost anything organic and as adults they need nothing but water to survive and produce a second generation.
Some anecdote you would like to share?
During a summer Water, Sanitation, Health & Hygiene (WASH) casual position in Darfur, Western Sudan for the benefit of the American Refugees Committee in 2014, I experienced how difficult it is to be living with limited resources and to be in a daily struggle just to pick up a bucket of dirty water out of a contaminated saline well. How discouraging it might be for a child to have to walk miles and miles under the burning sun just to get to a school that is basically nothing but an empty space with some wooden sticks on the top and supposed to be acting as a roof top. While talking to little Darfurian girls who lived in refugee tents made out of plastic sheets, I figured out that they had the same dreams I had as a little girl, they want to be teachers, doctors and nurses and they want to travel the world. Unlike the little girls in Darfur, I never lived in a conflict zone, I had parents who provided me with more than my basic needs since the day I was born and their contributions to my life as a child and an adolescent shaped me into the adult I am today.
The encounters I had in Darfur left a great impact on my life not only as a human but as a scientist too, the harsh environment, the lack of sanitation and the limited possibilities of the utilization of environment resources amidst political conflicts all encouraged me to engage along with the rest of ZEF, Uni Bonn scholars in development research. Development research is all about making a difference in the livelihoods of people in the developing world rather than the ultimate goal of publishing research in glamorous peer reviewed journals like Science and Nature. Every now and then I look into the photos I took while in Darfur, and promise myself to do whatever I can with my science for the sake of improving the livelihoods of disadvantaged people in the developing world.
Another message for the readers?
“Don’t go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path…and leave a trail” -Ralph Waldo
When I first started this project, many people discouraged me and thought that flies were too small to be studied or perhaps useless and that’s why not so many people work with them. After almost two years, more and more people are becoming interested in my field of research and I get to say that I was one of the pioneers 🙂
Where can we find more about your work?
You can read more about my work and research at Center for Development Research (ZEF) blog, where I frequently write about my day to day encounters as a junior researcher and a doctoral scholar.
Here is the link to my profile at ZEF’s blog