Insects as food, feed: CUT discusses the potential

Jeffrey Gogo Climate Story
Insects are a dietary staple in many cultures, not least in Zimbabwe, where a plethora of insects from flying termites (ishwa) to mopane worms (madora) are consumed. They are almost pure protein, good for food and feed.

Now the Chinhoyi University of Technology together with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences are bringing this message home in a conference slated for Harare between August 14 – 16.

The African Conference on Edible Insects will be the first such meeting bringing together scientists, academics, students, investors, policy-makers, communities and everyone else to discuss insects that can be used for food or feed – an age old practice within Africa but now increasingly frowned upon by younger generations.

Dr Robert Musundire of Chinhoyi University’s Department of Crop Science and Post-Harvest Technology says the conference is aimed “at consolidating innovations, research and industrial development on edible insects for transformation of livelihoods in Africa.”

In a note published on the conference’s website, Dr Musundire states: “With the exciting developments and increasing enthusiasm in utilising edible insects as alternative sources of proteins, several research and development initiatives have been undertaken in Africa.”

He added: “Despite the expectation that the industrial use of insects as food and animal feed would be ignited in Africa and spread to other parts of the world, and considering the long history of insect consumption and the wealth of indigenous knowledge, development of this sector has been very slow.”

The meeting hopes to come up with ways to reverse this slow down primarily by laying the groundwork for the actual farming of insects as food and animal feed as well as encouraging enterprise development, stewardship and legislation in the sector.

“Many edible insect species are still collected from the wild, making it less sustainable as well as posing challenges regarding food safety standards,” explained Dr Musundire.

“Additionally, very few African governments have embraced the use of insects as food and feed, leading to a lack of and poor legislative frameworks to effectively support this emerging industry. Poor infrastructure, lack of investment and awareness about edible insects means that most African countries will lag behind as the rest of the world advances in utilisation of insects as a source of human food and animal proteins,” he opined.

The list of keynote speakers includes luminaries in entymology and other fields from major universities in Australia, Kenya, Netherlands, US, Sweden, Zimbabwe and elsewhere. On this list also features Blessing Mutedzi, a Zimbabwean farmer and owner of Mopane Worm Enterprises.

Mutedzi is expected to speak on his experiences of mopane worm and cricket production at his homestead in Marange. After receiving three-day training in cricket farming at Chinhoyi University of Technology, Mutedzi is thought to have emerged as a leading cricket farmer targeting to produce an average of one tonne of dried crickets per month by end of year 2019.

His experience will be invaluable, as Africa seeks to move away from the practice of simply collecting consumable insects from the wild.

Maggots as poultry feed, reducing emissions

In Harare, Lovemore Kuwana is successfully breeding maggots in his backyard, which feeds to the poultry he keeps once the worms are dried.

Kuwana is producing maggots – small, white crawling worms that feed on waste – to provide protein for his breeding flock of free-range chickens and quail.

This business is not for the faint-hearted. For Kuwana, it involves stuffing pungent bird faeces into an old, open 20-litre plastic container, allowing flies to lay their eggs there.

Ideally, the maggot-breeding equipment consists of two containers stacked on top of each other, with holes drilled in their lids and the base of the top one.

As the eggs start to hatch, the emerging larvae — the maggots — feed on the waste before crawling out to pupate in the bottom container where they are harvested and dried for feed. The entire process takes less than a week.

Maggots consist of 65 percent protein and 25 percent fat, compared with 35 percent protein in soy-based feed, according to Victor Marufu of the Zimbabwe Organic and Natural Food Association. The independent organisation trains small farmers in maggot production.

“The value produced from nothing competes with supply chains that are under heavy sustainability stress,” Marufu said in a past interview.

One kilo of fly eggs turns into around 190 kg of dried larvae in just three days, he added.

For some, maggot production may be the stuff of nightmares, but others are hailing it as a dream come true for controlling waste and climate-changing emissions.

The industrial process of producing maggot-based stock feed – using a series of tanks in a purpose-built structure – generates five times less greenhouse gas emissions than soy or maize stock feed, according to research.

For every tonne of stock feed made from maggots, around 2 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is emitted, compared with around 10 tonnes for soy-based feed.

Experts say maggot production could help cut Zimbabwe’s annual emissions of 417 gigatonnes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. In 2000, the waste sector accounted for 16 percent of national methane emissions.

Source : The Herald

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