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Locusts can be turned into delicious food

Friday January 10 2020

Locust invasion

Desert locusts invade Gurar in Wajir North. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

WAWERU WAIRIMU
By WAWERU WAIRIMU
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DAVID MUCHUI
By DAVID MUCHUI
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The marauding swarms of locusts that have inundated the northern part of the country have now reached Isiolo County.

The invasion has already had a devastating effect on farmlands in Wajir, Mandera and Marsabit counties.

But, unbeknown to some farmers, locusts can make a healthy meal. “We used to pluck their wings and fry them; they are very sweet. Farmers in northern Kenya should be taught how to prepare them,” Dr Frank Kirera, a businessman in Isiolo town, said on Thursday.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been at the forefront in pushing for increased consumption of locusts.

A 2015 study shows that eating the insects could help reduce the risk of heart diseases.

The study — published on May 13, 2015, in PLOS ONE journal, was conducted as part of International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology’s new Insects for Food and Feed initiative — revealed that eating locusts is good for the heart.

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CONTROL MEASURE

The study was conducted jointly by Icipe, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology and the United States Department of Agriculture/Agricultural Research Service.

It showed that meat from the desert locust, scientifically known as Schistocerca gregaria, contains a rich composition of compounds known as sterols, which have cholesterol-lowering properties that can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

“As kids, we used to eat grasshoppers but later came to realise that locusts were also safe,” said Mr George Kobia.
In some parts of the country, particularly western Kenya, locusts are considered a delicacy and are eaten in abundance.

Dr Muo Kasina, the chairman of the Entomological Society of Kenya, urged farmers in the north to eat the insects.

“One of the ways to control the swarms is to avoid chasing them away. We can allow them to settle and control them by eating them and spraying insecticides,” said Dr Kasina.

GRASSHOPPERS
“We need to find ways of harvesting them. I encourage our farmers to prepare them. They can make a delicious evening meal,” said Dr Kasina, who is also the Insect Bioresources Centre director at the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation.

However, he cautioned Kenyans against eating sprayed insects, saying they would end up consuming the chemicals.

Dr George Ongamo, who coordinates a desert locust management team, said the insects entered the country on December 22.

In Meru County, what looked like desert locusts has been identified as swarms of green grasshoppers, Agriculture executive Carol Mutiga said.

“After we got the alert, we sent a team of experts who have identified the insects as variegated green grasshoppers at a young stage. They appear in groups and feed on euphobia plants,” she said, adding that the insects had been eliminated by spraying.