The last great hope to save a hungry world

Can you imagine a world in which insects are what’s for dinner? Such a thought is not only remarkable but a reality! I often take an excursion into the world of edible insects of East Africa, technically taking to the front lines of the next big trend in the global food movement.

Child enjoy termites
Eating termites and ugali

Along the way, I sample termites at the Mulembe open market in Kakamega, travel to Bungoma to meet the harvesters and consumers of a local delicacy of fried white ants and even crash a bug-eating party along the Kakamega-Kisumu road. Onyoso, the black ant with a fat belly is a rare delicacy, the men fight for the few remaining…for obvious reasons.

What of the cricket farmers in Siaya and Bondo…a remarkable group of women! Those women. It’s always amusing. What of the cricket farmers in Siaya and Bondo…a remarkable group of women! Those women. It’s always pleasant to meet those women especially if am in the company of Monicah, yule mama wa crickets! They have praises for mwalimu…song and dance erupt from discreet women once word passes that she is around. It always ends with a party of some sort. Crickets are always part of the menu.

Cricket feeders

Farmed crickets

The famous grasshopper, nsenene, in Kampala, Uganda is a spectacle to behold. Millions of tiny little green and brown delicacies flying around. It’s like a public display of barbeque ready to feasted uponWho would have known that nature could conspire against such little things; can’t they just stay back…hide in their little mansions amongst the greeneries of Kampala hills?

Nsnene grasshopper

Kagera region in Tanzania adds the twist to the grasshopper dance. The greens and browns are joined by the purples…oh…what a combination of flying colors! They say the purple ones are for the royalty!


8 thoughts on “The last great hope to save a hungry world

    Insects as food
    In tropical countries most insect species are collected from nature. An inventory of the edible insect species eaten from all over the world. The reason that insects are predominantly eaten in tropical countries is that they are larger and often occur clumped, which facilitates harvesting. Also, in the absence of a winter season, insect species can be found during the whole year. Most insect species occur seasonally as they depend on the availability of their host plant; others may occur throughout the year such as most aquatic insects. Representatives from almost all insect groups are eaten such as beetles, caterpillars, wasps, bees, ants, crickets, grasshoppers, locusts true bugs, termites, dragonflies, flies and others. Other arthropod groups such as spiders and scorpions are also eaten. Some species are semi-domesticated which means that certain measures are taken to make the harvesting more predictable.
    The large majority of insects in developing countries are gathered from wild populations in nature, in farmlands or in forests. Those are self-consumed and the access sold for cash at village markets or to middlemen and wholesalers at the farm gate. Edible insects offer a cheap and efficient opportunity to improve livelihoods and the quality of traditional diets among vulnerable people.
    Recently in western countries the interest of using insects as food has gained momentum. A number of companies have started to produce processed insects products for human consumption.
    Insects as feed
    Insects as feed ingredient and appropriate palatability for poultry, pigs, fish species and ruminants was demonstrated and insects could replace 25–100 % of soy-meal or fish-meal depending on the animal species. For large scale production the most promising species are the Black soldier fly and the Domestic house fly. However, a number of other species are also considered such as meal worms, termites, grasshoppers, crickets, and caterpillars (such as the silkworm). The use of the Black soldier fly as feed stuff has been investigated for chickens, pigs, channel catfish, African catfish, blue tilapia, turbot, and rainbow trout.
    The maggots of the Domesticated housefly can also be used as a protein source to feed poultry, fish and crustaceans. The larvae can be reared on waste substrates such as pig or poultry manure, mixtures of cattle blood with wheat bran or rumen contents. The advantages of using the Domesticated housefly is that they have a very short life cycle (6–10 days).
    Use of insects in aquaculture has recently received quite some interest. This has to do with the diminishing availability of fish-meal as a major dietary protein source in compounded feed for many important farmed species. Fish-meal is made from pelagic fish harvested from international waters, and international fisheries are being over-exploited and current practices are not sustainable.
    This shortage has prompted a search to identify alternative protein sources including use of insects. In particular in aquaculture, insect meal is an interesting alternative to soy-meal as feed stuffs of vegetable origin have a number of disadvantages, such as imbalances between essential and nonessential amino acids, anti-nutritional factors, low palatability and a high proportion of fiber and non-starch polysaccharides

    REG NO: AG242-0336/2014

    Food consumption practices are influenced by cultures, which have been historically influenced by religious beliefs. The practice of eating insects is cited throughout religious literature in the Christian, Jewish and Islamic faiths and is generally known as entomophagy.
    Insects are healthy, nutritious alternatives to mainstream staples such as chicken, pork, beef and even fish. Many insects are rich in protein and good fats and high in calcium, iron and zinc. Insects such as crickets and termites already form a traditional part of many regional and national diets. Insects promoted as food emit considerably fewer greenhouse gases (GHGs) than most livestock species. Methane, for instance, is produced by only a few insect groups, such as termites and cockroaches. The ammonia emissions associated with insect rearing are also far lower than those linked to conventional livestock, such as pigs. Because they are cold-blooded, insects are very efficient at converting feed into protein; crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle, four times less feed than sheep, and half as much feed as pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Insects can be fed on organic waste streams unlike other livestock.
    Insect rearing is not necessarily a land-based activity and does not require land clearing to expand their production. Feed is the major requirement for land. Insects do not compete with humans for food. They have high reproductive rates and therefore their population increases rapidly. Insects convert feed to protein efficiently. They are relatively easy to manage. Their transportation can be done easily. They are often easy to raise and do not require in-depth training.
    Insect harvesting/rearing is a low-tech, low-capital investment option that offers entry even to the poorest sections of society, such as women and the landless. Insects as part of minilivestock offer livelihood opportunities for both urban and rural people. Insect rearing can be low-tech or very sophisticated, depending on the level of investment
    Insects deliver a host of ecological services fundamental to the survival of humankind. Plant reproduction largely depends on insect pollinators. Thousands of pollinator species of insects exist and over 90 percent of existing flowering plants depend on them. The importance of this ecological service for agricultural and nature more generally is undisputed. Waste biodegradation is also part of ecological roles played by insects. Termites, for instance, clean up dead plant matter, breaking down organic matter until it is fit to be consumed by fungi and bacteria. In this way the minerals and nutrients of dead organisms become readily available in the soil for uptake by plants. Insects naturally control harmful pest species. Virtually all agro-ecosystems benefit from insects due to this. The number of insects that parasitize or prey on other is vast. The number of beneficial insects’ species in the average agro-ecosystem typically far weighs the number of harmful insect species available.
    Based on points discussed hereon it is clear that insect can complement meat as a food security measure in the ever growing world population. It can provide good protein and other dietary components in desired volumes easily.

    Having a balanced diet every day is challenge in most homes in this world. Protein being part of the diet is in demand due to increased population in the world and only a few can afford it in their meals every day. If they do, the protein in the diet is not enough to meet the levels needed by the body. Due to that, people need to think of having other alternatives of obtaining cheaper protein which will enable them have a balanced diet daily. To me I think, if raising edible insects as sources of protein in every home can really help in saving this hungry world. Reasons being, enough protein in every home will help reduce malnutrition and protein deficiency diseases such as kwashiorkor. Furthermore, insects can be produced cheaply and for a shorter period as compared to others sources such as raising cattle for beef, sheep and goats mattock, pigs for pork or even chicken for chicken meat.
    Insects can be used to complement meat since protein levels relatively better. Moreover, insects have reasonable amounts of minerals such as potassium, sodium, calcium, copper, iron, zinc magnesium and phosphorus. Vitamins such as vitamin B group, A, D, E, K and C are also present in edible insects. This shows that insects are as good as meat and are cheap to rear them and use them as food.
    If some communities use insects as food such as eating termites, crickets and green grasshoppers by Western and Nyanza communities in Kenya and Ugandan communities respectively, why not other communities in the world integrate the same as part of the diet? The only way of helping these communities to incorporate these edible insects in their diet is by helping them change their altitude on feeding habits. This can be done by teaching other communities how to raise these insects, how to cook them or processing them either for future consumption or for sale to others.
    Training people on importance of edible insects as food especially incorporating it in the syllabus in institution of higher learning will help to appreciate eating of this insects and imparting knowledge to students which will help to adverse in use of insects e.g. a research is ongoing on supplementation of biscuits with cricket. When students learn they will help the society change its eating habit and appreciate the insects as part of their diet. Training people on how to raise insects will motivate them to establish insect farm. Knowing the conditions which favor their growth will assist in establishing the farms. Warm environments, source of food and shelter are some condition which favors the insect growth. Establishing a good markets promote the insect farming. This market will flourish if we accept insects as part of our diets. Furthermore integrating insects in other food substances such as in maize and wheat flour will help supply nutrients. Flours made from insect e.g. cricket flour are getting to market creating opportunity for farming crickets enough to satisfy the market.

  4. AG 242-0343/2014

    I agree that insects are the hope of saving Kenyans. Insects can indeed replace meat and bring about food security in third world countries. For one insects are easy to manage. Livestock need care throughout the day, including feeding and watering, not to mention treating diseases. Insect rearing requires at least half an hour daily and feeding them is not as physically demanding as feeding livestock. According to Professor Van Huis, insects are also by far more nutritious than livestock as they contain between 30-70 percent protein, are rich in vitamins and minerals and contain unsaturated fatty acids.
    Insects are a delicacy all over the world and especially in the Western region of Kenya, locals enjoy a serving of insects. Entomophagy is the consumption of insects as food and is a growing trend in Africa. Sadly breeding of insects in these regions is limited if not non-existent. If these communities would get their choice delicacy all year round, it would be a win-win for both locals and the insect farmer. Insects have also proven to be more environmentally friendly as they emit less greenhouse gases as compared to cows or goats. This means that in the long run, insect farming contributes more positively to the environment than their livestock counterparts.
    Kenya, being part of the African continent, is a temperate region therefore a hot bed for many various insect species. There are over 2000 species of insects meaning unlimited access to insect meat. Beef and fish are expensive and only consumed by a small number of people from a certain class. These insects provide a cheaper alternative source of animal protein thus helping in the fight against protein deficiency conditions like Kwashiorkor. In addition to its high nutritional protein value, most insects provide a rich source of vitamins and minerals leading to a healthier nation.
    There is an alarmingly growing incidence of chronic lifestyle diseases like diabetes, hypertension and heart conditions in Kenya prompting people to look for animal protein alternatives to red and fatty meats. Grasshoppers, crickets and locusts are the most widely consumed group of insects because they are abundantly available and easy to catch. Small grasshoppers contain just as much protein as lean ground beef with less fat per gram. Termites are also widely consumed, they contain protein and omega 3 fatty acids. Moreover they are rich in iron and vitamin A. Most of these insects contain lysine, an amino acid deficient in the diets of many people who heavily depend on grain.
    Livestock feed is also an area of interest for insect farmers. AgriProtein, a South African based company is a good example of this as it deals with converting maggots into animal feed. The international trade of animal feed has an estimated turnover of nearly 400 billion dollars annually. The process of harvesting, farming, packaging and selling edible insects could create thousands of jobs to locals. Job and food security all under one belt, not so bad for team insects.
    Consumer preferences is the biggest issue as people view insects as disgusting. Creation of products to remove hypothetical bias among people is key i.e. producing cricket flour to make buns or chapatti’s.

  5. Name: Emikote Francis Aswa
    Reg. No. Ag242-0340/2014
    Course: Bsc Animal Heath and Production

    Assignment: The last great hope to save a hungry world
    I think insects can actually serve as a source of food to the world population. This is because towards 2050 human population are predicted to increase to 9 billion people, forcing an increased food output from available resources agro-ecosystems resulting in an even greater pressure on the environment the scarcity of agricultural land, water , forest’ fishery and biodiversity resources, as well as nutrients and nonrenewable energy are foreseen.
    Yes a agree, insect has a source of food can be used as a substituted with the normal protein sources i.e conventional livestock. Insect has vital nutrients that can or are mostly deficiencies on the other normal livestock. So I fully support the use of insects as food security.
    Yes insects can complement meat as a food security measure as most edible insects contains high quality protein, vitamins and amino acids for human. Insects have high food conversion rate, example crickets needs six times less feeds than cattle, four times less than sheep, and twice less than pigs and broiler chickens to produce the same amount of protein. Besides they produce less greenhouse gases and ammonia than the convectional livestock. Insects can be grown on organic waste. Therefore, insects are a potential sources for conventional production (mini-livestock) of protein, either for direct human consumption, or indirectly in recomposed foods (with extracted protein from insects); and as protein source into feedstock mixtures.
    Replacing half of the meat eaten worldwide with crickets and mealworms would cut farmland use by a third, substantially reducing emission of greenhouse gases, while consumers’ reluctance to eat insects may limit their consumption, even a small increase would bring benefits. This could potentially be achieved by using insects as ingredients in some pre-packaged foods.
    Insect farming can be improve by conducting a thorough education on people on how to rear and domesticate edible insect’s i.e crickets. Also people should be encourage on eating the insects. Institutional and the government should invest more on insect research and established better ways and methods on rising and growing insects in the country. Breeding centers for edible insects should be established in the country as they do for conventional livestock example cow and rabbits.
    Ethnical and traditional belief and be discouraged towards insect eating in the country and people should change their eating patterns and habits and focus on insect eating as alternative source of protein and nutrients in general.
    To facilitate the insect farming, government should provide the required farming facilities and pass policies that enabled and encourage small scale farming of the edible insects.
    Industries should be established those will be based on edible insects processing as this will facilities farmers’ production as there will be ready market offered to them by industries. This can be facilitated by Kenyan government advertising to external markets on the country edible insects production and different variety the country produced.

  6. Name: Njagi Gloria mwende
    Reg No: Ag242-0360/2014
    Bsc Animal Health Production and Processing
    Indeed, insects are the future food for a hungry planet. A growing global population will place increased pressure on the world’s resources to provide more and different types of food. Increased demand for animal-based protein in particular is expected to have a negative environmental impact, generating greenhouse gas emissions, requiring more water and land. One billion, out of seven billion people in the world are food insecure (have no access to nutritious food). It’s important to find a solution to food security that is resource efficient because land used to grow crops and keep livestock is decreasing, the population is increasing, food prices are raising and urbanization is increasing. Protein food is a macronutrient and therefore the body needs relatively large amounts of it. It’s important to consume foods high in protein every day since protein is used by every part of the body to develop, grow and function properly, it is also used to make enzymes, hormones and other body chemicals and an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin and blood. Feeding future populations will require development of alternative sources of protein such as insects. So far, the most commonly consumed insects are crickets, beetles, caterpillars, termites, wax worms and mealworms. Insect’s protein is a source of food that is nutritious, traditional and accessible. Insects are similar to other animal derived protein in that, they are rich in nutrients and moisture. Eggs, larvae, pupae and adults of certain insects are consumed by humans in different forms; either smoked or in flour form. Insects have lower environmental impact compared to meat production, they do not compete for land in that they require minimal space and with far fewer inputs than cattle, poultry and swine; cattle requires 12 times the amount of feed that cricket do to produce an equal amount of protein, requires less water, they become ready for consumption in roughly 3 weeks to two months and emit lower levels of ammonia gases and greenhouse gases. Up to 80% of insects bodyweight is edible and digestible compared to 55% for chicken and 40% for cattle. Being cold blooded, insects perform better in terms of feed conversion efficiency and they reproduce more rapidly. Many insects have a favorable nutritional profile for humans with most being highly digestible (77-98%), high protein and a good source of essential amino acids, high vitamin B1, B2, B3 and minerals; iron and zinc. most insects are still collected from their natural environments, usually forests, which restricts supply according to season and location. A better solution in this case is to take seasonal and harvesting of insects to yearlong sustainable farming of insects. This can be achieved in three ways. By empowering farmers to grow their own insects and transport them to local hub that brings a lot of supply together. At the hub, one can breed their own insects and distribute them to the urban slums. The hub should process insects for quality and ensure that they are safe for human consumption before selling the insects to a distributor.

    REG NO: AG242-0366/2014
    By 2050 the global population is expected to reach 9 billion people by the current rate of population increase. As the global appetite for protein in the diet increases combined with population increase, pressure is going to be placed on the conventional and non-conventional livestock to produce the protein required. Dependence on beef, pork, mutton, chevron, and other widely acceptable sources of protein is set to be a disaster. This is because the general mindset is that these sources of protein are available whenever we want. But is this the truth? My answer is a big NO. The health implications of sustaining global beef farming are scary to the elite minds. A cow on average produces between 70 to 120 kg of methane a year and the effect of methane is 23 times higher than the effect of CO2. Therefore the release of 100 kg of methane is equivalent to about 2300 kg of CO2 which is equal to burning 1000 litres of petrol. Worldwide there are about 1.5 billion cows and bulls which emit about 2 billion metric tons of CO2. Livestock use 30% of the earth’s entire land surface for pasture and for producing feed for livestock. These figures show that relying on beef as source of protein contributes to greenhouse gas emission.
    Edible insects are indeed the last great hope to save a hungry world even as one billion people in the world are food insecure. Food insecurity does not necessarily mean lack of food but also lack of balanced diet in the food that we eat. A deficiency of protein results in diseases like marasmus and oedema of the feet. Crickets have two times the protein of beef, more calcium than milk, all the nine essential amino acids and more iron than spinach. All these nutrients are found in one insect that has high prolificacy in their reproduction rate and takes less time than cows or even chickens to reach maturity with an estimate of around 25 days. Edible insects have the upper hand when it comes to rearing especially since they consume far much less feed, they can be kept within a box enclosure that can purchased from a local shop and more importantly they take a short time to reach maturity. They also have a very low carbon footprint on the environment and take a small space to be reared. Edible insects like crickets can ground up to make flour that can be used to enrich other foods like floor or fortify baby meals like porridge flour. In addition, the ground up cricket flour can be sold as additives in the retail shops. It’s incredible how people are exploring cricket farming especially in California where a farmer earns 2 million dollars year from the sale of crickets. This is mainly because edible insects are seen as the remedy to the nutritional imbalance expected in the coming years. Farming of edible insect to be used as protein supplement can be done to eliminate the seasonality of the insect harvesting and also make harvesting easier. This will in turn help in lowering the cost of the insects and also help in their acceptability as a food supplement for protein.


    REG. NO: AG 242-0339/2014




    The article surely gives hope for food security in the world. Not long early this year Kenya was faced by great hunger due to lack of rain in the country. This was a great challenge as it led to death of animals, and of most concern human lives were lost. Due to over reliance on the rain and only growth of crops people do not exploit the other resources which could be better alternatives for the failing crops in their farms. Climatic change has been a big problem to the agriculture sector, over exploitation of the land has led to decrease in soil fertility. You can bear me witness that the way farms used to be productive at the past it’s not the same, production has really gone down thus we cannot rely on the farming alone. Insect farming is providing a better alternative to the failing agricultural sector. Insects are a great source of protein. Actually protein levels in insects are much higher than for the beef. With the hunger crises facing the world, insect farming is a great alternative source of proteins to the area where protein sources are insufficient. In our hospitals today there are many children facing malnourishment. Kwashiorkor and marasmus has been a great challenge whereas these diseases can be eradicated by nutritious animals that surround us in our everyday lives. These animals carry high levels of nutrients better than even what we take. Kakamega County leading by example has embraced insect farming in the need to fight hunger. As once said everything edible is food the only limitation is the mind. Cultural behaviors and what we were brought up eating is what we have carried on and even passed to the other generation. We do not embrace change. Change is inevitable and thus we all have to change how we think about some foods since we are leaving honey going for something that cannot help our bodies. We are what we eat.
    Insect farming is offering an alternative to food insecurity. The insects have fast growth not like a beef animal where you will have to wait for about two years for it to mature and be ready for slaughter and it cannot offer what insects can offer as in terms of protein levels. With their ability to grow fast they can offer ready food throughout the year and food insecurity will not be a challenge as it is now. Kenya for example is using billions of money to fight food insecurity. This money can be invested in something else to grow the country’s gross development product (GDP). We are slaves to our own minds, if we put down the mentality that eating insects is disgusting then we shall obtain the richness in these animals. Awareness is also limiting the use of insects as feeds as some people do not know that the insects they see around can be farmed and made to a great nutritious dish. The awareness should run wide and broad.

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