The UK urges hungry African nations to raise insects

The UK urges hungry African nations to raise insects

The UK urges hungry African nations to raise insects

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UK aid spending is encouraging hungry Africans to eat insects, with projects aimed at developing the practice in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zimbabwe.

Edible insects have long been touted as a resource-efficient source of protein, requiring less land and water than conventional livestock. However, taste and cultural resistance have proved to be obstacles in extending the practice to many parts of the world.

In an effort to realize the substantial on-paper benefits of insect consumption, a £ 50,000 UK aid project in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is putting African caterpillars, migratory locusts and blackflies on the menu.

Workers collect mopane caterpillars, preparing them for sale in Kopa, Zambia.

Workers collect mopane caterpillars, preparing them for sale in Kopa, Zambia. Photograph: Sue Cunningham / Alamy

The initiative was launched in the North and South Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where livestock farming is one of the few ways for rural residents to earn a living. But with the increasing population in these regions, space for animal husbandry is decreasing and beef farming is putting a strain on water resources.

Twenty-three species of insects are already consumed in the South Kivu region, although the Congolese do not usually breed them, but harvest them opportunistically depending on the season. Edible insects commonly eaten in the region include the African palm weevil, litter beetle, termites, and crickets.

The Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (Cafod), a charity in England and Wales, is hoping the Congolese will start growing insects industrially. Cafod did not respond to a Guardian investigation into how it intended to use the money.

A street vendor sells mopane worms.

A street vendor sells mopane worms. Photograph: poco_bw / Alamy

Meanwhile, another development project is underway in Zimbabwe to use mopane worms in school porridge. Slimy green caterpillars, which morph into imperatorial moths, are already commonly harvested for consumption from vegetation during the rainy seasons in rural Zimbabwe.

With £ 300,000 from the aid budget, officials are planning to feed poor children between the ages of seven and 11 in the southern city of Gwanda and in the capital, Harare, a porridge full of insects, which they say has the benefits of being rich in crucial vitamins and minerals, including phosphorus, potassium, iron, copper, zinc, manganese, sodium, vitamins B1 and B2, and niacin.

Project leader Dr Alberto Fiore, professor of food chemistry and technology at the University of Abertay in Dundee, said Zimbabweans rely heavily on corn, which is low in protein, essential minerals, amino acids and acids. fat.

Fiore said he and his team have come up with a formula that combines locally grown mopane worms with grains and fruits that don’t need to be imported – a significant plus as the war in Ukraine and the strong US dollar make grown foods Abroad increasingly inaccessible.

Although he did not want to reveal his recipe before the study data was released, Fiore said his insect-based porridge contained grains including sorghum and millet. He said he was sure the dish was palatable, with his research team conducting consumer taste tests in Scotland, a country long associated with porridge.

Preparing the insect meal is only the first phase of the project. A randomized control study will be conducted to see if children who eat breakfast perform better in school and if their weight becomes healthier.

Dr Sarah Beynon, founder of Bug Farm in Pembrokeshire and academic entomologist, said aid projects promoting edible insects are “a surefire way to save lives and improve nutrition for the poorest people on planet Earth.” .

He said: “We are also actively encouraging people in the developed world to include insects in their diets.

“With a population that has an appetite destined to far exceed the planet’s limits and with current agriculture decimating biodiversity and changing the climate, we have no choice but to change the way we produce and consume food. . and also our views on the subject “.

Both aid projects were funded through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a remote organization of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

A UKRI spokesperson said: “We support specific research projects with funding, but we expect the lessons and knowledge gathered to benefit citizens around the world, regardless of their economic status. The environmental and protein benefits of insect consumption have been widely reported globally. “

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