There are more global conversations taking place to explore the benefits of both insect farming and consumption. Farmers across the continent have been using black soldier flies to enrich their animal feed, while research is being conducted into the benefits of cockroach oil in Tanzania.
According to the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), insects such as grasshoppers, locusts, crickets and ants are a low-cost alternative to other forms of protein, especially in light of the impact of inflation on the average Kenyan’s wallet. Since January 2022, the average food basket has risen in price by 20%.
Edible insects, according to Dr Saliou Niassy, an icipe scientist, provide high-quality protein, vitamins, fibre, calcium, iron, B vitamins, selenium, zinc, and amino acids, as well as being a good source of healthy fats.
Insect oil derived from two edible insects – the desert locust and the African bush-cricket – was shown to be higher in omega-3 fatty acids, flavonoids, and vitamin E than plant oil in an icipe research effort.
Enhancing food security
icipe has also embarked on its Insects for Food, Feed and Other Uses (INSEFF) Programme, which is finding ways to enhance food security by supporting smallholder farmers and producers in insect-based endeavours.
“This aim is being achieved through developing, disseminating and promoting insect-based technologies for food, feed and other uses to enhance productivity, value addition and overall competitiveness of the agricultural system for improved livelihood. The programme focuses on understanding environmental factors favoring sustainable availability of edible insects; technological innovations for efficient mass rearing, wild collection and processing of edible insects; analyzing nutritional value and biosafety of insects as food and feed; using insects to safely recycle bio-waste into nutrient-rich organic fertilizer for improved crop productivity; value addition on edible insect products; and developing policies on efficient and equitable production and utilisation of edible insects,” icipe said.
Huge growth potential
According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 2.5 billion people consume insects as part of their daily diet, either whole or in processed foods like snacks and pasta. It estimates the $112 million worldwide edible insect market in 2019 might grow to $1.5 billion by 2026.
Butterflies, cockroaches, crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bees, dragonflies, beetles, domestic silk moths, centipedes, and locusts are among the 1 900 edible species found worldwide.
“The replacement of conventional protein (fishmeal and soymeal) and energy feed sources (maize) in the commercial poultry sector by 5 – 50% insect-based feed, will allow fish and maize to feed between 0.47-4.8 million people per year, which otherwise would have ended in the feed sector. It’s expected to create employment opportunities for between 3 300 – 33 000 people per year, and increase the Kenyan economy by $16 million to $159 million with the potential to lift 0.07 – 0.74 million people out of poverty per year,” icipe concluded.