Dr Fathiya Mbarak Khamis

Senior Scientist, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe)

Fathiya is a Molecular biologist and a Scientist in the Plant Health Theme of icipe working on native and invasive insect pests of fruits and vegetables that are of economic importance for food security in Africa and beyond. Fathiya applies molecular biology techniques for insect pest identification and understanding variabilities in pest populations – essential for the development of sustainable, integrated pest management systems. Fathiya also applies molecular techniques to assess the safety of insects as a sustainable source of nutritious food for humans and feed for livestock. Furthermore, she is advancing her research skills in microbiome analyses to enhance control of crop pests, improve biocontrol and reduce pesticide resistance in pest population. Fathiya is also active in building research capacity in Africa and has contributed significantly to the body of scientific knowledge through authoring and co-authoring more than 100 articles in international peer-reviewed journals and four book chapters.


Insect Farming: A circular economy solution to create value for food loss and waste

The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) projects the global population to reach 9.7 billion by 2050. As such, food demand is expected to increase by 70% to meet food and nutritional security of the expanding population. Globally hunger is widely prevalent in the Africa, South Asia and in some Oceania islands.. Therefore, population expansion and rapid urbanization, coupled with the effects of the three Cs; COVID-19, climate change, and conflicts, are impacting food security in most of these regions.

By 2050, 68% of the global population is anticipated to live in cities resulting in rising food prices, unemployment, and environmental degradation through massive accumulation of organic wastes, with only a very small proportion of it appropriately recycled in developing countries. Increasing income of urban dwellers has significantly increased the demand for crop and animal products, while lack of cost-efficient inputs such as fertilizers and feeds is constraining crop and livestock productivity. Ironically 33% of the food produced globally never manages to feed the people due to various post-harvest losses. These diverse and interlinked developmental challenges call for innovative solutions to address them.

Use of insects such as black soldier fly, Hermetia illucens for recycling organic wastes into nutrient-rich organic fertilizers for crop productivity, while also supplying high-quality insect biomass which is rich in crude proteins, fats, gross energy, well-balanced amino acids and vitamins for the feed sector to enhance livestock productivity is one of these approaches. This is an innovative, eco-friendly and circular solution that contributes to environmental sustainability (mitigation of waste), food security (enhanced crop and livestock production) and has the potential to contribute to the critically needed employment for youth and women in Africa, South Asia and the Pacific Islands. Furthermore, the high quality and locally produced insect protein and insect-based organic fertilizers can be excellent substitutes for often imported feed protein additives and synthetic fertilizers with potential to reduce the import bills of several developing and underdeveloped nations.