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Insects are crawling closer to our plates

By Vision Reporter

Added 6th July 2013 04:32 PM

When the people of Ssese Islands complained about monkeys destroying their crops in 2003, the minister of state for agriculture, Dr. Kibirige-Ssebunya, advised them to eat the monkeys instead. There were frowns because of the region’s food preferences, but the minister defended his statement as gen

Insects are crawling closer to our plates

When the people of Ssese Islands complained about monkeys destroying their crops in 2003, the minister of state for agriculture, Dr. Kibirige-Ssebunya, advised them to eat the monkeys instead. There were frowns because of the region’s food preferences, but the minister defended his statement as gen

By STEPHEN SSENKAABA


When the people of Ssese Islands complained about monkeys destroying their crops in 2003, the minister of state for agriculture, Dr. Kibirige-Ssebunya, advised them to eat the monkeys instead. There were frowns because of the region’s food preferences, but the minister defended his statement as genuine counsel. Monkeys are not poisonous, he said.

Recently, the United Nations advised the world along the same line. Eat insects, it said. Not just grasshoppers, but crickets, moths, butterflies, termites, ants and their young in form of maggots.

According to the May Food and Agricultural Organisation report, the world will have to turn to insects in the wake of food shortages, deteriorating soil fertility and the rising population. The report, Edible insects; future prospects for food and feed security, shows why insects and other non-traditional foods will have to be a crucial part of our menu as the years go by.

“With the world population increasing, there will hardly be enough land to cultivate food,” the report reads. “And with oceans and other water bodies already depleted, food production will, over the next couple of years decrease significantly.”


Which insects?


The UN identified more than 1,900 species of insects, which are already part of the diets of about two billion people.

According to History of Insect Consumption in Uganda by Geoffrey Ssepuuya, some tribes eat termites (Isoptera), locusts, grasshoppers, crickets (Orthoptera), beetles (Coleoptera), honey bees (Hymenopter), moths (Lepidoptera) and lakeflies (Diptera). The most common are grasshoppers, caterpillars, beetle grubs and sometimes winged termites, bees, wasps and ant brood (larvae and pupae), as well as winged ants, cicadas and a variety of aquatic insects.


Eating insects

If we eat grasshoppers, why would we shun other insects? Eating insects, the report reveals, has numerous advantages.

“They provide food at low environmental cost, contribute positively to livelihoods, and play a fundamental role in nature.

They also provide high-quality protein and nutrients when compared with meat and fish and are particularly important as a food supplement for undernourished children.”

The world has to re-evaluate its eating habits and food choices. “To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated…,” reads the report. There are nearly one billion chronically hungry people worldwide.

 

Good for you

Tress Bucanayandi, the Minister of Agriculture, says Uganda has not reached the level of planning a desperate shift in traditional food sources. “We have not seen that report and as such, we cannot develop strategies for something that we do not know about,” he added.

However, the minister of state for relief and disaster preparedness, Musa Ecweru, recently sounded a warning of looming food shortages in six districts.

“As the studies to establish the magnitude of the problem continue, locals must be advised “to be frugal with their food as the next six months project serious shortages.”

Dr. Swidiq Mugerwa, an animal nutritionist at the National Agricultural Research Organisation, says insects are great sources of protein.

“Insects contain between 30% and 70% protein on a dry matter basis. For example, the crude protein content of the black soldier fly (Hermetia illucens), ranges between 35-57%, while a common housefly (Musca domestica), has 43-68%. And in a yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor), there is 44-69%. These values are within the soybean meal range, which may be at 49-56%.

However, Mugerwa acknowledges, it is difficult to change people’s trational beliefs about insects as food, even with impressive nutrition arguments.

So, he suggests another way through which humans can access these vital food values - by feeding the animals and poultry on them, so that later people get the food values through the meat.Some edible insects
Ants

Most ant species are edible and their flavour is pleasantly sour. This is because ants secrete an acid when threatened, giving them a vinegar-like flavour. In Colombia, ants are roasted with salt and eaten at feasts. The queen ants are preferred because they have big juicy butts. In Colombian folk culture, queen ants are said to boost libido. To harvest ants, one can put a stick in an anthill, wait for it to get covered with ants, then shake them off into a container.


Crickets


Inhabitants of open grassland, fields and some forests, crickets also have a continuous tradition as human food. They are sold in Mexican markets and fried or roasted before eating. Crickets are excellent pan-fried or oven-toasted, with a bit of oil and salt if you like. The legs can be removed before eating as they are sometimes irritating. They can also be dried and stored for future use.


Maggots

Maggots are not only edible, but also a traditional super-food. Traditionally, some cultures have relished maggots, leaving fish or meat out to become saturated with them and then eating the maggots raw. There is logic to this: a diet of exclusively lean meat can cause kidney failure. Maggots are capable of transforming lean meat into fat. Maggots are extremely fatty and are a rich source of essential amino acids, making them nutritionally more valuable than lean meat.

They do not have internal digestive systems, so they secrete gastric juices directly onto meat, causing it to degrade or spoil, though not unsafe to eat.

Nsenene business booms

The appetite for the crispy critters has created a booming informal trade that has turned those in the business chain into wealthy people.  

“They were just something you found in the grass during the rainy season,” explains Lawrence Mawanda, a lorry driver. “I didn’t know they could be profitable.”

But 10 years ago, while on a trip through Masaka, the 53-year-old driver glimpsed a row of rusty oil drums lining the roadside and fitted with long corrugated aluminum sheets shimmering under powerful fluorescent bulbs.

Swarms of insects were flying around the lights and every few seconds one would smack against one of the metal sheets and slide into a drum, from which it did not emerge.

The next rainy season, he says, he introduced the trap to Kampala with lights, sheets and drums.

Now, during the rainy season, portions of the city and nearby districts that attract high concentrations of grasshoppers bask at night in a stadium-like glow, punctuated by the ping and scrape of grasshoppers in their losing battle with the aluminum sheets.

During high season, the sidewalks of Nateete, a city suburb, are lined with mostly women vendors selling grasshoppers whole or with legs, wings and antennae plucked off and stir-fried with onions and chili. They fetch sh1,000 per four teaspoonfuls.

Once a subsistence delicacy trapped in polythene bags or between the folds of flapping blankets, mostly by women and children, the grasshopper or nsenene business, has evolved into a booming aspect of the informal sector.

Mawanda says he earns about sh2m per season from grasshoppers.

He has ventured into poultry and is putting his five children through school. Grasshoppers have relieved him of driving his truck, he explains.

But the trade is also wrecking havoc on Kampala’s power grid and hindering economic development.

Many, if not most, of the trappers access the grid illegally, frying overloaded transformers (and sometimes themselves), and costing the city $500,000 per month in earnings, according to officials with Umeme.

In 2010, Umeme started engaging residents in the suburb of Kamwokya, where large-scale trapping abounds, to raise awareness of how the trade is affecting the quality of life there.

Few residents, they found, were aware of the connection between grasshopper trapping and the diminishing delivery of power during grasshopper season - November-December and May-June - when lights dim.

The general manager of regulatory affairs with Umeme, Sam Zimbe, says an aggressive crackdown on the grasshopper trade would disrupt a supply chain that includes trappers, wholesalers, lorry drivers and retailers.

Lorries deliver them in 50-kilogram sacks that sell for up to 100,000 shillings and are exported across the country -- which is how Mawanda makes a good portion of his annual income.


Adopted from CNN

Insects are crawling closer to our plates

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