A Kenyan university said Tuesday it plans to commercialize edible insects in order to boost food security in the country.
Monica Ayieko, a professor at the Jaramogi Oginga Odinga University of Science and technology (JOOUST) told Xinhua in Nairobi that the insects that have been identified as fit for human consumption include crickets, longhorn grasshopper,and honey bees.
“We are promoting consumption of insects because of their abundance in nature as well as their high nutritional value,” Ayieko said during the 7th Technical and Appraisal meeting of the East and Southern African Higher Education Centers of Excellence project.
The World Bank has provided a 600 million Kenyan shilling (about 6 million U.S. dollars) grant to JOOUST to establish the Africa Center of Excellence in Sustainable Use of insects as Food and Feeds (INSEFOOD).
Currently, there are about 40 students from East and Central Africa undertaking postgraduates studies on different aspects of insect food at JOOUST.
Each of the students will be empowered to commercialize an insect of their choice after graduation.
Ayieko, who is also the principal investigator of INSEFOOD, said that the major breakthrough in the commercialization of insects is the domestication of the insects to ensure optimum breeding.
“We have developed modern rearing techniques that promote hygiene as well as maximum yields of insect feed,” she said.
According to the researcher, the insects also need to be kept in ideal temperature conditions so that they can reproduce.
She said that before an insect can be considered edible, it must be tested in the laboratory to check its poison levels.
Ayieko, who has been researching insects as a source of food for the past 15 years, observed that African communities have been eating insects since time in memorial until the colonization period when their consumption was discouraged.
She noted that Africans have been moving towards modern foods and are shunning the insects because they are perceived to be food for the poor.
“We have therefore rolled out an elaborate campaign to sensitize Kenyans on the benefits of insects as a form of food,” said the scientist.
She added that the nutritional value in terms of protein and vitamins in insects is higher than that of beef, fish and chicken.
“The protein content for cricket is 55 percent, male worm is 60 percent, while beef is 25 percent,” Ayeiko said.
In addition, she noted that insects such as crickets are available in all the seasons throughout the year, require less resources such as land and labor as compared to other conventional protein sources.
The researcher said that the insects are dried, preserved and eaten alone or they are ground and mixed in wheat, maize or oatmeal.
Ayieko said that the black soldier fly which has a protein content of 45 percent is ideal as a livestock feed.
“It has numerous advantages including being a non pathogenic insect that is already a natural food of choice for fish and poultry,” she added.
JOOUST has also used dung beetle, meal worm and termites as livestock feed. Enditem