Cricket Farming May Help Ease Global Food Shortages

KISUMU, KENYA - If nothing is done to improve food production and land use, the world may face unrest and conflict, according to a landmark report. The study by a coalition of universities and environmental organizations says current farming practices contribute to food shortages and global warming. One proposed solution is to rely more on insects as a food source. Some farmers in Kenya are already doing that by raising crickets to sell as food.

At a farm in Kisumu, Kenya there's bread that was baked with flour derived from crickets.

54-year-old Charles Odira a farmer. Odira rears the insects that usually are known for their chirping. He says he got the idea to raise them for food after visiting a farming fair in Thailand.

When I went there and I saw how they were rearing crickets there. How it was helping the poor, the malnourished. How it was bringing income to the farmers. Then when I came back, I came back a cricket farmer, Odira said.

Odira started with 50 crickets he trapped in the wild. Now a few years later, he has a colony of up to 300,000 insects. They live in pens and thrive on chicken feed and plant leftovers.

According to scientists at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology in Nairobi, or ICIPE, crickets are good for human consumption. Tanga Chrystantus is one of the scientists. He shows the trays in which the crickets mature and are studied.

Crickets are very rich in proteins. Ranging from 60 to 65 per cent, which is superior to that of meat, which is usually between 25 to 30 per cent. Insect proteins are very good for lactating mothers as well as children under 5 years, Chrysantus said.

Odira has built a network of 100 cricket farmers, but there is a threat. A bacterial infection nearly obliterated the colonies in the whole region, and farmers had to start again from scratch. They are recovering with support of ICIPE.

The benefits of crickets farming prompted the Food and Land Usage Coalition to propose raising insects as a way to tackle food shortages. Scientists at ICIPE agree, with some conditions, says researcher Subramanian Sevan.

The traditional food systems which were built on wild harvesting has to be enhanced and improved with the new mass rearing techniques with a better understanding of the safety of these insects. So that it can be taken by large communities, Sevan said.

And because of less intensive farming methods, crickets help reduce global warming, according to the Food and Land Usage Coalition.

The crickets in Odira's farm are eaten or end up in bread and cookies. Fred Odhiambo is a regular customer, and has various reasons for buying it.

He says he loves this bread because it gives him more energy than normal bread. Also he believes it increases his potency for lovemaking, Odhiambo said.

Source: Voice of America