The European Alliance on Agricultural knowledge for Development

Development and Implementation of Insect-Based Products to Enhance Food and Nutritional Security in Sub-Saharan Africa

By: Marwa Shumo 

This year Tropentag 2018  took place on 17th to the 19th of September and this time it was hosted by the University of Ghent in Ghent. For those wondering what Tropentag is, it’s the “Annual interdisciplinary conference on Research in tropical and subtropical agriculture, Natural Resource Management and Rural Development” and thus shortly branded Tropentag.

Why I like Tropentag is because it is a development-oriented and interdisciplinary conference. Meaning It addresses issues of resource management, environment, agriculture, forestry, fisheries, food, nutrition and related sciences within the context of rural development, sustainable resource use and poverty alleviation worldwide. Agriculture has made remarkable advances over the last decades in increasing quantity and quality of food produce, but its contribution to improving the nutrition and health of poor farmers and consumers in developing countries often still lags behind. In cases where food provision is structurally guaranteed, food quality may still be a problem. Agricultural research and universities have an important role in addressing and solving both food security and food safety. They should do this in collaboration with international non-governmental donor and policy-oriented organizations, with respect for local, regional and global socio-economic and cultural situations, legal conditions, markets and market mechanisms, limitations and opportunities, gender equity and the natural resource environment, in order to provide for sustainable solutions. In line with this background, this year’s Tropentag theme was “Global food security and food safety: The role of universities”.

I presented an oral presentation titled “Development and Implementation of Insect-Based Products to Enhance Food and Nutritional Security in Sub-Saharan Africa”. I talked about EntoNutri project, a complementary partnership of icipe, University of Bonn, University of Hohenheim’s Food Security Centre (FSC), and national agricultural research systems (NARS) from Kenya and Uganda to enhance food and nutritional security through the use of insects as food and sponsored by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

Why insects? Why Kenya and Uganda?

With a growing world population, increasingly demanding consumers and a limited amount of agricultural land, there is an urgent need to find alternatives to conventional meat products. Livestock production is a leading cause of anthropogenic-induced climate change. More sustainable diets are needed, with reduced meat consumption or the use of alternative protein sources. Insects are promoted as human food and animal feed worldwide. In tropical countries, edible insects are harvested naturally, but overexploitation, habitat changes, and environmental contamination threaten this resource. Therefore, sustainable harvesting practices need to be developed and implemented. The consumption of crickets (e.g. the house cricket Acheta domesticus), the longhorn grasshopper (Ruspolia differens), and a variety of saturniid caterpillars (e.g. Imbrasia zambesina and Cirina forda) is part of the food culture of some communities in Kenya and Uganda and constitutes 5–10% of protein intake of the rural and urban populace. For many, trade in edible insects is a major source of income and considerably contribute to livelihood improvements. Therefore, the development and implementation of research and knowledge construction on sustainable rearing and harvesting techniques to ensure that insect products are safe for human consumption is necessary. Insects can be contaminated by heavy metals or insecticides, therefore their use for food should be screened for risks to humans, animals, plants, and biodiversity. Moreover, edible insects are harvested from the wild in tropical countries which might lead to overexploitation, habitat changes, and environmental contamination of this resource. In this context, EntoNutri is researching the use and potential of edible insects to promote insect-based technologies and enhance the productivity and consumption of insects as a food and nutrition security tool. This multinational and multidisciplinary project has brought important results. Findings suggest major environmental advantages of insect farming compared to livestock production: (1) limited land and water consumption; (2) lower greenhouse gas emissions; (3) higher feed conversion efficiencies; (4) transformation of low-value organic by-products into high-quality food or feed. However, edible insect species intended for production should be screened for risks to humans, animals, plants, and biodiversity. As a conclusion, edible insect´s production and commercialization could improve the wellbeing of select rural communities around the world.


By Marwa Shumo from ZEF (2018)