Neglected Insects as a remedy for food insecurity: the case of crickets


By Carolyne Kipkoech, PhD student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology

Carolyne Kipkoech, PhD student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology

Carolyne Kipkoech, PhD student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology

I am a Kenyan national, with a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) where I graduated in 2005. I always had a passion for disease prevention, which is why I later studied a Master of Science in Immunology at Moi University where I graduated in 2009.  After my master’s degree, I worked with the Academic Model Providing Access to Healthcare (AMPATH) Programme. This exposed me to the broader field of Public Health, although still with a focus on disease prevention though improved nutrition.

In 2015, I merited a scholarship under the Danish Agency for International Development through GREEiNSECT to undertake a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition at JKUAT. For my thesis research, I am working on “Use of edible cricket to improve child nutrition in Kenya”. My inspiration for this topic was derived from the fact that house crickets (Acheta domesticus), common across Africa, are a highly valuable yet neglected source of proteins.

Insects are a delicacy in many parts of the world, including Africa, but for many communities in Africa they do not constitute a main diet. Crickets in particular have higher quality animal protein than some conventional sources, such as fish, and are more affordable among poor communities.  Additionally, they thrive in various environmental conditions -including dry areas, they multiply in a short span of two months, use very little space, and feed on organic waste that they then turn into high quality protein. They can thus be a viable solution to food security challenges. Given the nutritional importance of crickets and other edible insects, I am keen, as a young researcher, to build a research agenda on the use of insects as food.

When I started my research on crickets, many friends and colleagues at the university wondered what I was up to. To them it was a laughing matter. Nonetheless, I soldiered on and the first time I harvested crickets, everyone I run in to on campus stopped to look. I smiled as I proudly showed off the crickets and some even followed me to the lab to see what I would do next.

Once at the lab, I dipped one part of the crickets into hot water for one minute and then sun-dried them to be later ground for use in making porridge, cookies and other sweet delicacies. The other part I deep-fried to get crispy crickets that would be eaten whole by those brave enough. To my surprise, the deep fried crickets were everyone’s favourite because of their delicious aroma and taste.

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The biggest endorsement of our cricket products happened during the Sixth Tokyo International Conference of Africa’s Development (TICAD) held in Nairobi in 2016. At a conference pre-event hosted at JKUAT, the Vice Chancellor invited the conference participants to sample our crickets. You would not believe what happened after the invitation; everyone was keen to sample the crickets! They tasted not once, not twice, but took several helpings until there was no more! The enthusiastic reception of the cricket meal could have also been due to the presence of participants from different countries, continents and cultures, some of whom had tasted cricket before and helped to demystify their consumption as food.

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After this exposition, the crickets were on high demand in JKUAT and its environs and the story made news in the Kenyan media.

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With the increasing global population, one of the strategies to improve food and nutrition security is to diversify diets using available food sources. We actually have plenty of food around us, but we do not exploit it. I look forward to the day when crickets will be widely accepted across cultures in Africa and world over as part of the daily diet so that more people will get access to quality cheap protein.

Kenya is already taking maiden steps towards exploiting the high protein value of crickets by using it to address child malnutrition. A pilot initiative in Uasin Gishu County, is currently providing cricket porridge to school going children between the ages of three and five years. It is my wish that other countries and communities will follow suit and make use of this wonder food.

Both Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology (JKUAT) and Moi University that the writer attended, are members of the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM). RUFORUM is a Network of 66 universities in 26 countries in Africa. Carolyn Kipkoech can be contacted on: kipkoechcarolyne@gmail.com or carokoech@yahoo.com

 

RUFORUM meets staff from Okayama University, Japan


Strengthening Japan-Africa collaboration on higher education: Officials from RUFORUM, Makerere University and Okayama University meeting in Kampala

Strengthening Japan-Africa collaboration on higher education: Officials from RUFORUM, Makerere University and Okayama University meeting in Kampala

RUFORUM’s Executive Secretary, Prof. Adipala Ekwamu, and his deputy, Dr. Moses Osiru, met with staff from Okayama University’s Faculty of Agriculture and the Institute of Plant Science and Resources (IPSR) on 10th November 2016 to discuss possible collaboration. The half-day meeting organized by Dr. Arthur Tugume of Makerere University, was held at the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) offices in Kampala, Uganda. Also in attendance were other staff from Makerere University’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and the College of Natural Sciences.

During the meeting, Prof. Wataru Sakamoto, Deputy Director of IPSR highlighted key programs at the institute and various opportunities for collaboration. He noted the long history of Okayama University working with Africa through collaboration with Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) in Kenya including through the African Union-African Innovation-JKUAT and PAUSTI Network Project that brings together JKUAT and the Pan African University of Science, Technology and Innovation (PAUSTI). He also noted the need to expand this collaboration to Makerere University and other partners such as RUFORUM. He highlighted IPSR’s research experience on plant stress science, barley, wild plants, and future crops.

Prof. Yasutaka Kubo, Vice Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture at Okayama University, noted that his faculty has experience in international collaboration and looks forward to receiving more graduate students from Africa.

On his part, Prof. Adipala Ekwamu shared RUFORUM’s focus on strengthening North-South partnerships to improve centers of excellence in Africa and the importance of staff and student mobility to improve the quality of higher education on the continent. He called for stronger collaboration between higher education institutions in Africa and Japan.

DAAD-RUFORUM In-Country / In-Region Doctoral Scholarships Available


DAADThe RUFORUM Secretariat is pleased to announce a call for PhD scholarships available through the German Academic Exchange Services (DAAD) funding support. These scholarships are targeting both in-country/in-region (sub-Saharan Africa) applicants to support selected RUFORUM regional PhD Programmes in the Eastern and Central Africa (ECA). The scholarships are tenable for 2015/16 academic period. DAAD promotes international academic exchange as well as educational cooperation with developing countries through various funding and scholarship programmes. The PhD training programmes will commence in September 2015; therefore, only candidates available to start the PhD training this September 2015 need to apply.

List of Eligible Programmes/ Study fields

The call is open to students who are interested/ registered in the following programmes:

  1. PhD in Life Sciences at Nelson Mandela African Institution of Sciences and Technology – Tanzania (2 in-region)
  2. PhD in Food Science and Nutrition at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology – Kenya 2 (1 in-region & 1 in-country)
  3. PhD in Plant Breeding & Biotechnology – Makerere University, Uganda(1 in-region & 1 in-country);
  4. PhD Agricultural and Rural Innovations at Makerere University, Uganda (1 in-region &1 in- country)

Details about the above four programmes are attached as Annex 1 to this call

Applications are invited from qualified candidates (must be MSc holders in the relevant disciplines) from Sub Saharan Africa.  Female applicants, candidates from less privileged regions or groups as well as candidates with disabilities are especially encouraged to apply. Read more DAAD-RUFORUM Scholarship announcement – Final 27th April 2015.

Please download the following documents for this application process;

  1. Annex 1- Details of the Programmes
  2. Annex 2- DAAD Application Form for Scholars_InCountry_InRegion Scholarships
  3. Annex 3 -_DAAD_Information Sheet for Scholars_InCountry InRegion

University Application forms

  1. JKUAT Application forms
  2. Makerere Referee Form
  3. Makerere Univ Post graduate application form
  4. Nelson Mandela – Application form