Scientists propose eating of insects to curb food insecurity

Thursday March 3 2016

Researcher Jackline Oloo with fried crickets in

Researcher Jackline Oloo with fried crickets in Bondo. TOM OTIENO | NATION 

By MOSES ODHIAMBO
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Scientists have suggested eating of insects as a way to address food shortage and improve nutrition.

Some edible species of crickets, grasshoppers, caterpillars and termites are highly nutritious, according to scientists from the Lake Victoria region.

Dr Sunday Ekesi, a principal scientist at the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) told the Nation.co.ke on Wednesday that there are over 2,000 insect species being consumed by more than two billion people globally today.

“We have discovered that locally available insects can play a significant role in food security, storage, hygiene and safety issues,” Dr Ekesi said during at a conference in Kisumu city.

He said that research has revealed that only 5,000 insects of a possible population of one million are harmful to animals and plants.

Consumption of insects will be the centre of a multi-million dollar study funded by the Canadian, Dutch, Germany, Danish and Australia governments as well as the World Bank.

The monies will be used for the establishment of an African centre of excellence in sustainable use of insects as food and feed.

The financiers are working with, among others, Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and Technology in Siaya County on the project.

Dr Ekesi said the study will explore control of allergies that might discourage consumption of insects.

“Cultural perceptions are still a hindrance but we are convincing local communities that the insects can be processed well. The consumers will enjoy the nutritional benefits without them eating the insects as a whole,” he said.

He said the insects can be processed, packaged and sold in supermarkets.

“There is a huge market potential for the insects. We encourage communities to take up the venture for improved livelihoods. Other value addition chains are being explored in feeds for fish and poultry,” the researcher said.

Prof Stephen Agong’, Jaramogi University vice-chancellor, said a significant number of people cannot fend for themselves due to poverty and the harvesting of crickets could create jobs.

The researchers said that about 10 grammes of insect food can be a wholesome meal with the technology being perfected for mass rearing to support the surging demand.

Prof Monica Ayieko, a Jaramogi Oginga Odinga don, celebrated for the first study that saw the introduction of crickets as food, said black soldier flies were also being investigated for production of fish meal.

“We want to collect different insects from all over Africa which we will develop to make them easily available for farmers,” Prof Ayieko.