Figures from February this year reflect that there are a total of 282 million people in Africa who are hungry. One of the prime reasons for a lack of food security in many parts of the continent is conflict. According to the World Bank, “hunger follows conflict” and has thrown its weight behind insect farming in a bid to alleviate the dire situation.
The World Bank’s latest report, titled “Insect and Hydroponic Farming in Africa: The New Circular Food Economy”, underlines just how beneficial this alternative can be.
“Conditions are deteriorating across East Africa, where 7.2 million people are at risk of starvation and another 26.5 million face acute food insecurity. The situation in African countries experiencing fragility, conflict and violence (FCV) is much worse; 29% of the population experiences food insecurity, compared to 18% in non-FCV countries in Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021. There are also huge variabilities in the numbers,” stated the report.
“Our new report, looks at the benefits of expanding frontier agricultural technologies within a circular food economy in FCV countries in Africa. It looks at how insect and hydroponic farming can create jobs, diversify livelihoods, and improve nutrition.
“These technologies work in locations with limited resources – such as water and arable land – which is a major challenge in FCV countries. Insect and hydroponic farming also save farmers money and government’s hard currency reserves by reducing purchases of food, animal feed, and fertilisers. This is particularly important today given supply problems and price increases of food, feed, and fertiliser.”
How much of Africa really consumes insects?
Insects are consumed by around 1 to 2 billion people worldwide, including those in Africa. According to the bank, insect protein is both more environmentally-friendly and more nutritious than other animal proteins. However, insects are now primarily caught in the wild, creating possible hazards. Insects foraged in the wild could be consuming pesticide-sprayed crops. Overharvesting insects can put ecosystems at risk, as the Mopane worms in southern Africa have demonstrated.
According to survey data collected for the paper in 13 African countries, there are currently 850 insect farms producing insects.
Insects collected in the wild are seasonal, and during the lean season, they are largely unavailable.
Source of healthy, all-year protein
“Farming insects can provide a healthy and all-year protein supply of nutritious food for humans, livestock, and fish – right now, we often use fish to feed livestock and fish. Operations can be established at a low cost, opening up opportunities for climate-resilient jobs. This includes women, youth, and refugees who often live in locations with limited resources.
“They can be established in arid areas and cities, while at the same time conserving biodiversity and other essential natural resources. We can feed insects with organic waste, such as household, agriculture, or brewery waste, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and creating climate-resilient livelihoods. Waste from insects can then be fed back into the system as organic fertilisers to help improve soil health.”
The number of new entrants and markets for insects expands all around the world, annually. The global market for insects as food and animal feed is expected to reach $8 billion by 2030, representing a 24% annual growth rate over the following decade. South Korea’s insect market was worth $220 million in 2018, and it’s expected to grow to $290 million by 2022. This makes it the current top consumer of insect protein in the world, and the rank is expected to hold.
To read the full report, click here.