Give edible insects a try as an alternative source of high-quality protein, say scientists — Global Issues

A variety of insect-based delicacies. It is estimated that 2.5 billion people around the world eat insects as part of their regular diet. Encouraging insect consumption could have health and climate change benefits. Credit: ipe
  • by Joyce ChimbiNairobi)
  • Inter Press Service

“The termites also entered the house, attracted by the light in the late afternoon. My mother dried the termites in the sun and fried them. Then we ate crispy termites with ugali (Elegant) and a portion of traditional vegetables”, he says.

“I grew up believing that everyone ate termites. At age 11, I visited my uncle in Nairobi and was surprised to discover that termites were more of a nuisance than food. One morning, after a heavy downpour, I watched in amazement as women and girls swept the termites off their doors and threw them in the trash.

Beatrice Karare, from the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, tells IPS that termites and other insects such as grasshoppers, locusts, black and white ants and crickets are part of the traditional diet in western Kenya, but not in other parts of the world. country.

But with rising inflation, scientists at the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ice) say that edible insects are a low-cost alternative to more expensive foods. Kenya’s ‘food basket’ indicates that food inflation increased by 20 percent in January 2022 compared to the same period in 2021.

Dr. Saliou Niassy, ​​a scientist at icetells IPS that edible insects contain high-quality protein, vitamins, fiber, calcium, iron, B vitamins, selenium, zinc and amino acids, and are also an excellent source of healthy fats.

Insect oil produced through a ice The research project found two edible insects, the desert locust and the African cricket, were richer in omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and vitamin E than vegetable oil.

Niassy says that as this East African nation faces increasing threats to food security, such as “climate change, landscape degradation and pest invasion, edible insects are a viable and affordable alternative.” He projects that Africa’s annual food import bill of $35 billion could rise to $110 billion by 2025.

A survey conducted by ice shows that there are about 500 species of edible insects in African communities. The Central African region is home to approximately 256 species of edible insects. East Africa is home to about 100 species, and about eight species are available in North Africa. An estimated 17 primary species are used for feed and food in Kenya.

“We have had two main challenges when it comes to the increased consumption of insects, the lack of legislation on the production, packaging and marketing of insects as food, and strong perceptions that dictate what is culturally acceptable as food. There are also strong beliefs that you have to be very poor to eat insects,” explains Karare.

Karare says some of these issues were resolved in December 2020 when Kenya became the first African country to develop national standards regulating the production, handling and processing of insects for food and feed.

Included in the regulation are stipulations of the minimum environmental and infrastructure requirements necessary for the ideal production of edible insects, including how they are packaged and presented.

Wanjala, now a Nairobi-based teacher, says non-insect-eating communities and children could be slowly introduced to insect products like crackers “so that the idea of ​​eating insects can slowly sink in. When it comes to eating insects whole, I find that people are also more likely to try crispy, fried insects.

Despite the challenges of creating a viable and attractive market for insects, Karare is convinced that insects can be part of the diet in many households, drawing parallels to the journey of Kenyans adopting traditional vegetables.

“A few years ago, some communities consumed highly nutritious traditional vegetables. In central Kenya, for example, amaranth was considered food for the poor. Today, amaranth is a popular delicacy and part of the menu in five-star hotels. Same thing with pumpkin leaves,” observes Karare.

“We need to educate people that edible insects can add nutrients to a plant-based meal. More importantly, insects can even nutritionally replace meat.”

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), approximately 2.5 billion people eat insects as part of their regular meals, whole or in processed food products such as snack foods and pasta. Karare says the global market for edible insects, estimated at $112 million in 2019, could reach $1.5 billion by 2026.

There are approximately 1,900 edible species worldwide, including butterflies, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, ants, bees, dragonflies, beetles, house silk moths, centipedes, and locusts.

According to the FAO, turning to insects is not only good for the body, but also very environmentally friendly and could help reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gases. The livestock sector contributes significantly to climate change, with total emissions from global livestock farming accounting for 14.5% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

Livestock raised for meat and milk and non-food products such as manure and draft power account for 65 percent of emissions from the livestock sector. The production of insects for food is another alternative to reduce the emission of harmful greenhouse gases, says the FAO.

Crickets need six times less feed than cattle, four times less than sheep, and half as much as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Additionally, insect-based products have been found to have a much lower carbon footprint compared to conventional livestock.

With these revelations, Niassy says there is so much more to learn and benefit from, “we have just scratched the surface in terms of sustainable access to biodiversity for resilience, livelihoods, food and nutrition security in Africa.”

Report of the UN Office of IPS

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