Categories
Archive

Insects Can Help in Food Crisis

By David SouthDevelopment Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY 

For many years it was a given that the world’s problem was not a lack of food, but that it was unfairly shared. But as the switch to biofuels gathers pace, farmland is being diverted away from growing food for people, to food for fuel. On top of this, growing prosperity in many countries in the South has boosted demand for better quality food, including grain-devouring meat diets – it takes 10 kilograms of grain to get one kilogram of meat from a cow. The crisis has deeply alarmed the UN’s World Food Programme and the World Bank. In the economic battle for food, the poor are the most vulnerable.

So-called agflation (agricultural inflation) has seen spiraling food prices, which in turn are causing food shortages, hunger and malnutrition around the world. For example, rice in Thailand has jumped from US $400 per 100 kilograms in January, to US $760. World grain stocks are at their lowest level in four decades.

But where can new sources of food be found? And what would be a more efficient use of the world’s resources to feed the growing population? One answer, surprisingly, is insects.

In February this year the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization held a conference in Chiang Mai, Thailand to devour the dietary value of insects as food and discuss how to harvest more of them. The working group of three dozen scientists from 15 countries probed the role of edible forest insects in food security. They explored insect protein as a contributor to better nutrition, the economics of collecting edible forest insects, methods of harvesting, processing and marketing edible forest insects, and ways of promoting insect eating with snacks, dishes, condiments — even recipes.

The range of insects that can be tapped for food is huge: beetles, ants, bees, crickets, silk worms, moths, termites, larvae, spiders, tarantulas and scorpions. More than 1,400 insect species are eaten in 90 countries in the South. Known as entomophagy, insect eating is a growing industry. Entrepreneurs in the South are making insects both palatable and marketable – and in turn profitable. These innovations are adding another income source for farmers and the poor, and supplying another weapon to the battle for global food security.

Insects have one big advantage as a food source: they are efficient converters of food into protein. Based on the weight of the food required to feed them, crickets are twice as efficient as pigs and broiler chicks, four times more efficient than sheep and six times more efficient than cows. They breed at a far faster rate, and they contain essential amino acids. They are seen as an ecologically friendly alternative to traditional animal rearing.

There are downsides to insects, however. In areas where there is heavy pesticide spraying on crops, insects can retain the pesticides in their bodies. Another key issue is sustainability: insect harvesting in some places has driven species to extinction. Then there is revulsion for some: in Western diets, there is an aversion to entomophagy, although most Westerners are happy to eat honey.

Revulsion at eating of insects is misguided. Most grains and preserved food products contain large quantities of insects or insect fragments mixed in. For example, rice usually contains rice weevil larvae – and they can be an important source of vitamins.

In Africa, 250 edible insects are eaten, from termites to grasshoppers, and have helped people through many food emergencies on the continent.

In South Africa — where edible insects are a multimillion dollar industry — Botswana and Zimbabwe, the local taste for mopane worms is being harvested for profits and nutrition. The worms, which inhabit mopane tress, require only three kilograms of feed (mopane leaves) to produce one kilogram of worms. At a rural factory in Limpopo province, South Africa, the community of Giyani is working to launch a wide range of products made from mopane worms – sustainably harvesting this larvae of the mopane emperor moth, gonimbrasia belina.

The Greater Giyani Natural Resources Development Programme in partnership with scientists at the University of Pretoria, is developing mopane worm products, including essential oils. The worms are usually par-boiled and then sun dried by locals. But at the Dzumeri Mopane Manufacturing Centre, the worms are processed and made ready for market. The local people are being trained in how to harvest the worms hygienically, and how to sort and grade the worms. The products will include deep-fried snacks and seasoning spices. It is critical the worms are harvested in a sustainable way, because in some parts of southern Africa, they have been driven to extinction.

Johnathon Mndawe, the programme manager, is organizing women and youth into co-ops to make viable commercial enterprises. “We expect the product to hit supermarket shelves in 2009,” said Morewane Mampuru, coordinator for the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research, another partner.

One of the women, mother of four Mthavini Khosa, is excited: “For many years, we have been harvesting worms for food. We are excited because we will soon be doing it to make money.”

In Thailand, insect harvesting is a well-established business. Thais eat more than 150 insects, including crickets, silk worms and dung beetles. Canned crickets are regularly sold in supermarkets. Bugs are easily bought in the markets of Bangkok.

Online vendor Thailand Unique, based in Udon Thani, sells and markets a wide range of edible insects. They include edible scorpions, preserved giant water bugs, roasted grasshoppers, edible big crickets, bamboo worms, crushed giant bug paste, and introducing this year, Bug Snackz and Scorpion Thai Green Curry. There is even a ‘Bug Sample Pack’, containing a mix of seven edible insects and arachnids, all slow roasted for easy snacking.

Another important centre for insect harvesting is Latin America. In Venezuala, the Pemon Indians eat fire ants during the rainy season.

In Colombia, so-called “fatass ant” or “hormiga culona” is eaten like popcorn in movie theatres. Some believe it is a defence against cancer, or a natural aphrodisiac. Eating the ants or culona, has been happening right back to the ancient Guane Indians.

In Santander province, farmers are exporting the ants for sale, some being dipped in Belgian chocolate and sold as a luxury food in London’s Harrods and Fortnum and Mason department stores. The abundant ant population brings in US $11 a pound (kilogram conversion) for the farmers, a doubling in price since 2000.

Farmers in the artist colony of Barichara harvest the ants – though concerns have been raised that they have been over-harvesting the population. Restaurants in the area offer ant-based spreads for bread and an ant-flavored lamb sauce.

“It’s an age-old dilemma for the farmer — should I kill it or eat it?” said Andres Santamaria to CBS News, who was given a $40,000 grant from Santander’s government to develop an environmentally sustainable, export-oriented programme for breeding the ants.

In Tijuana, Mexico, ancient Aztec, pre-Colombian insect meals are on offer at this restaurant, joining a global trend. Cien Anios (“100 Years”), specialises in pre-Colombian, Aztec insect recipes. It is proof there is money in preparing insects for food. Typical dishes include garlicky ant eggs and cactus worms in butter.

Resources

  • A network for insect collectors: Website: www.insect.net
  • Sunrise Land Shrimp: A do-it-yourself guide to raising and harvesting insects for food, with important information on health and hygiene: Website: www.slshrimp.com
  • Edible Unique: An online supermarket of gourmet insect food products. Website: www.edibleunique.com

Published: April 2008

Tijuana‘s Cien Años was the original inspiration for this story. As one of the first stories to draw attention to the insects-for-food market, it contributed to a growing awareness of this exciting food source. I had a delicious all-insect meal there in 2002.
Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2022

Categories
Archive

Milk Co-operatives Help Hungry Haiti

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global food crisis has hit the impoverished Caribbean country of Haiti especially hard. Already suffering from decades of food crises brought on by the collapse of domestic farming, the country has become notorious for its people being reduced to eating cakes made of mud to stave off hunger pains. It is the poorest country of Latin America and the Caribbean and one of the poorest in the world.

Haiti imports some 52 percent of its food, including over 80 percent of its rice. Local food production only covers 43 percent of the country’s demand and food aid supplies only 5 percent of its needs. Of the estimated 9.8 million Haitians, 5.1 million live on less than US $1 a day and 7.6 million on less than US $2 a day. At current prices, one dollar buys only half a meal per day (Source: United Nations Country Team in Haiti).

Haiti’s problems are made worse by a global food crisis. So-called agflation (agricultural inflation) has seen spiralling food prices around the world, which in turn are causing food shortages, hunger and malnutrition. On international commodity markets, food prices have gone up 54 percent over the last year, with cereal prices soaring 92 percent (FAO – World Food Situation). U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people worldwide who are undernourished (FAO).

In Haiti, most agriculture is done on a small scale by about 700,000 family farmers. Few belong to any production association or mechanism to market and distribute their products, and local produce has been pushed out of the market by imports.

Subsidized U.S. rice began flooding in 30 years ago, becoming so cheap that Haitians began eating it instead of the corn, sweet potatoes, cassava and domestic rice they grew. The U.S. imports drove rice farmers out of business and incited a rural exodus that swelled the slums of the capital, Port-au-Prince. That dependence on imports has caused dangerous food insecurity. Today, the U.S. rice that is the staple of many Haitians’ diet has doubled in price in little more than a year.

“The problem is that Haiti doesn’t have the land to give every peasant family enough to allow them to make a living,” said Bernard Etheart, head of the National Institute for Agrarian Reform. Etheart estimates that if all arable land was planted, each farmer would have no more than half a hectare, or 1.25 acres.

A cooperative of dairy farmers is doing its bit to revive domestic production of milk products and reduce the crippling costs of importing milk for Haiti. Importing 85,000 tonnes of milk from Europe and the United States costs Haiti US $40 million a year. A walk through the capital, Port-au-Prince, will reveal how much milk is imported in one form or another: tiny cans of evaporated milk are sold in the street markets, while the wealthy can buy powdered and long-life milk in the air conditioned supermarkets of the upscale neighbourhood of Petionville.

Dairy production in Haiti was in decline for 20 years until, in 2002, the country ceased to produce any milk at all. The urgent need for milk in Haiti is shown in the average consumption: per child, only 110 ml is consumed per day. In Uruguay, for example, it is 520 ml a day (190 litres per head of population per year).

Lèt Agogo (Creole for Unlimited Milk) is a cooperative using small-scale farmers to bring milk to the hungry. Founded by the NGO Veterimed six years ago, it now has a network of 13 dairies across the island.

Lèt Agogo is hoping to get Haiti’s milk production up to 145,000 tons a year from the current 45,000 tons. So far, the product’s single biggest client is the Haitian government. It buys bottles of sterilized milk below cost and distributes them to 130,000 school children in 44 government-funded schools. Dr. Michel Chancy told the Miami Herald that the government would like to expand the distribution to 800 schools.

“Haiti is a country where we consume a lot of milk,” said Chancy, a veterinarian and one of the visionaries behind Lèt Agogo. “After rice, milk is the second-largest import.”

At present, Haiti has 500,000 dairy cows out of more than a million head of cattle. The problem came down to marketing and distributing the dairy products. With no structure in place, few farmers bothered milking their animals. But by the end of 2007, 600 farmers had joined the network and 400 producers in dairy product making and grass pasture management. In 2007, they turned 540,000 litres into yoghurt and sterilised milk that can stay on the shelf for six to nine months without refrigeration. Made from sterilized milk, the yogurt comes in 280 ml bottles and sells in stores throughout the country and has a shelf life of nine months.

The farmers have seen their income almost double, from 4 (US 10 cents) to 8 (US 20 cents) gourdes per litre, from 10 (US 25 cents) to 12 (US 30 cents) gourdes per litre.

Farmers walk to processing centres with their litres of milk and receive US $2.20 for each US gallon (4.55 litres).

“The milk is here,” Chancy said, but the lack of roads and electricity in the country pose huge challenges. “The problem is transporting it.”

Haiti’s president, Rene Preval, has cited Lèt Agogo as an excellent example of how Haiti can recover its domestic food production capability. The scheme won a US $10,000 first prize in the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean Experiences in Social Innovation Award.

Lèt Agogo believes it will take 100 dairies throughout Haiti’s rugged terrain to truly take over the import market, and would cost US $10 million to set up. ”Normally in five to ten years, a dairy would pay for itself. But you need the investments,” Chancy said.

“It’s not the production of milk that is important here… It’s accomplishing it together,” said Philippe Mathieu, from Oxfam International in Quebec, Canada, who is working on helping the brand produce cheese, noting that Haiti is at a difficult crossroads with today’s global price hikes. “The goal is to show Haitians there is a way to do things — a way to construct something collectively.

“Haitian peasants have always taken care of their cattle; tying them, feeding them and giving them water to drink,” Mathieu said. ”The cow has always been their bank book, something they could sell for money during hard times. Now it has become a revenue source for them.”

Resources

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

Published: August 2008

Development Challenges, South-South Solutions was launched as an e-newsletter in 2006 by UNDP’s South-South Cooperation Unit (now the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation) based in New York, USA. It led on profiling the rise of the global South as an economic powerhouse and was one of the first regular publications to champion the global South’s innovators, entrepreneurs, and pioneers. It tracked the key trends that are now so profoundly reshaping how development is seen and done. This includes the rapid take-up of mobile phones and information technology in the global South (as profiled in the first issue of magazine Southern Innovator), the move to becoming a majority urban world, a growing global innovator culture, and the plethora of solutions being developed in the global South to tackle its problems and improve living conditions and boost human development. The success of the e-newsletter led to the launch of the magazine Southern Innovator.  

Follow @SouthSouth1

Google Books: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=oEP1Obs4gxYC&dq=development+challenges+august+2008&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Slideshare: http://www.slideshare.net/DavidSouth1/development-challengessouthsouthsolutionsaugust2008issue

Southern Innovator Issue 1: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Q1O54YSE2BgC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 2: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=Ty0N969dcssC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 3: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=AQNt4YmhZagC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 4: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=9T_n2tA7l4EC&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Southern Innovator Issue 5: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=6ILdAgAAQBAJ&dq=southern+innovator&source=gbs_navlinks_s

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

Categories
Archive

An Innovator’s ‘Big Chicken Agenda’ for Africa

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

Increasing the quantity and quality of food in Africa will be critical to improving the continent’s human development. And a key element in giving Africa a more secure food supply will be boosting science and knowledge on the continent and making sure it is focused on Africa’s needs and situation.

One pioneering scientist is looking to the humble chicken to tackle two big problems in Africa: food security and household incomes. By pumping up the weight and productivity of African chickens, she hopes to eradicate hunger and boost household incomes.

Kenyan scientist Sheila Ommeh (http://www.awardfellowships.org/participants/success-stories/108-sheilaommeh.html ) is showing how local knowledge can give farmers the edge when it comes to improving Africa’s animal stock. An animal geneticist, she is trying to create a disease-resistant African chicken that can also produce plenty of eggs.

Her pioneering work is about trailblazing “a big chicken agenda in Africa,” she explained to TrustLaw, a global hub for free legal assistance and information on good governance and women’s rights.  She grew up in an area – Mount Elgon in western Kenya – where raising chickens was the primary source of both income and food. Her family raised chickens and the income from this helped to pay for her schooling.

Raising chickens is common in rural Kenya, and many of the people doing it are women.

Based on her experience, she saw how virulent diseases kill chicken flocks and destroy family incomes and disrupt lives – diseases like Newcastle (http://www.avianbiotech.com/diseases/newcastle.htm) and Gumboro (gumboro.com).

She works at the International Livestock Research Institute (ilri.org) based in Nairobi, Kenya. The ILRI “works at the crossroads of livestock and poverty, bringing high-quality science and capacity-building to bear on poverty reduction and sustainable development” and conducts research in Africa, South and Southeast Asia and China.

“I’m really passionate about giving back to the community an improved chicken that will really help their lives,” she explains.

Another project she is working on is the development of a drought-tolerant chicken. This chicken could prove very helpful in parts of Africa suffering from drought and hunger, like in the Horn of Africa.

Women are considered to be the majority producers of food in Africa yet just one in four people working in agricultural research in Africa is a woman, according to TrustLaw.

Ommeh has a PhD in chicken genetics and is a staunch believer in seeking out solutions to Africa’s problems within Africa: “In my view = it’s about time Africa looked for solutions in Africa for Africa,” she told a group of British Members of Parliament.

She will continue her research by looking at native African chickens. She is worried indigenous African chickens are being wiped out by cross-breeding and the introduction into the continent of exotic breeds, which are making African chickens more susceptible to viruses.

Her goal is to produce a disease-resistant breed of chicken weighing four kilograms and laying 250 eggs a year. This would be a big increase on current average weights, and a trebling of the yield.

“Definitely the incomes of these households will increase and that will (create) a rippling effect that will trickle up … And we hope that in 10 to 15 years the poverty issue in Africa will not be so serious,” Ommeh said.

“Chicken is a small livestock but I believe it has the capacity to have a big impact.”

For female scientists working in agriculture, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) (http://awardfellowships.org/) is seeking researchers looking to boost their technical and leadership skills. It is hoped that supporting more women researchers will have the effect of turning research priorities towards the needs of smallholder farmers, who make up the majority of  farmers in Africa.

Published: May 2012

Resources

1) Artificial chicken: The contest to create artificial chicken meat offers a US $1 million prize. Website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2012/jan/21/artificial-chicken-food-prize

2) Poultry Hub: “Poultry Hub can help you learn more about the amazing world of poultry and your place in it. Poultry is one of the world’s most technically advanced agricultural industries, offering rewarding career paths to talented young people in hundreds of countries.” The Hub includes the excellent “anatomy of the chicken” learning resource. Website: http://www.poultryhub.org/organisations/rural-industries-research-anddevelopment-corporation-rirdc-chicken-meat-program/

3) Poultry Research Centre: From the University of Alberta, the website offers resources and contacts on poultry sciences. Website: http://www.poultryresearchcentre.com/

4) Chickens: Basic information on chickens and their origins. Website: http://www.encyclopedia.com/topic/Chicken.aspx

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021

Categories
Archive

Camel Ice Cream Delivering Desert Dessert

By David South, Development Challenges, South-South Solutions

SOUTH-SOUTH CASE STUDY

The global food crisis is forcing people around the world to think differently about how food is produced and what new products can boost the incomes of farmers. U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for food production to increase 50 percent by 2030 just to meet rising demand – and right now there are 862 million people worldwide who are undernourished (FAO).

The world’s over 19.4 million camels (FAO, 2003) are now being tapped for their highly nutritious, healing and tasty milk. Camel milk is three times as rich in Vitamin C as cow’s milk. And it has several unique properties that differ from other milks, like cow and buffalo. It contains enzymes with anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties to fight diseases. The milk also contains insulin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insulin), a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, something that is critical to the survival of diabetics.

With more and more areas of the world suffering from severe drought or desertification, camels’ renowned ability to go without a drink of water for up to three weeks makes them ideal animals. Camels continue to lactate milk even in a dehydrated state.

The current 5.4 million tonnes of camel milk produced every year isn’t enough to meet demand. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is confident, that with the right investment and innovation, camel milk has a potential market of a minimum 200 million people in the Arab world, and many millions more in Africa, Europe and the Americas.

Fresh camel milk fetches roughly US $1 dollar a litre on African markets. A world market worth US $10 billion is entirely within the realm of possibility, the FAO says.

“The potential is massive,” said FAO dairy and meat expert Anthony Bennett. “Milk is money.”

“No one is suggesting intensive camel dairy farming,” said Bennett. “But just with improved feed, husbandry and veterinary care, daily yields could rise to 20 litres (per camel).”

An Indian NGO – the Lokhit Pashu-Pala Sansthan (LPPS), which supports landless livestock owners and means “welfare organization for livestock keepers” in Hindi – is re-inventing the business model for camel herding in India (http://www.lpps.org/). The LPPS is a canny user of publicity and has created products that are eye-catching and instant conversation starters: camel ice cream and camel-dung paper.

Produced in the Indian state of Rajasthan (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rajasthan), the camel milk ice cream is being sold in shops and hotels. It comes in two flavours: kesar (saffron) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saffron) and strawberry vanilla.

The camel is integral to the traditional way of life in Rajasthan and is the state’s signature animal. India once boasted the third-largest population of camels in the world: over 1 million.

But that number has fallen to just 400,000. Grazing areas once just for camels are now being used by agriculture and wildlife sanctuaries. The camel breeders, the Raika people, have experienced a serious decline in income from camel herding, and many have sold their camels for slaughter.

If there was to be a future for camel herding in Rajasthan, new products had to be developed and the whole business of camel herding re-branded.

The ice cream is part of a two-year project to help camel breeders develop new products using camel milk. Camels are seen as ideal animals to raise in the drought-afflicted climate of Rajasthan, and can produce four to six litres of milk a day.

‘With groundwater levels dropping rapidly, it spells the end of water-intensive agriculture. In this scenario, camel husbandry represents a perfect solution to the chronic water woes of the state,’ said Bagdi Ram Raika, president of the Rajasthan Pastoralist Development Association.

‘We would like to see the camel breeders of Rajasthan make use of their traditional assets and avail themselves of the new marketing opportunities. Our role is to support them in this,’ said Hanwant Singh, director of LPPS.

The highly inventive people at LPPS have also come up with paper made from camel dung. Handmade, the notebooks, diaries and greeting cards are all made from the dung paper. The camel’s dung contains undigested fibre, which makes an excellent material for making paper.

Published: April 2009

Resources

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5311-1052.

© David South Consulting 2021