15 March 2011 | EN
Farmed insects: coming soon to plates in Laos
[HANOI] What is the best way to raise and cook crickets, mealworms, palm weevils and weaver ants? A research and demonstration site in Laos aims to find out, as part of a push to provide food security in the country.
Laotian farmers will be taught how to rear and process the insects, in the hope of turning a food source that is largely foraged into one that is farmed instead.
Food insecurity is widespread in Laos, and sustainable insect farming will provide income for farmers as well as food, according to the site's sponsor, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
Insects are just as nutritious as cattle and poultry, according to FAO, and farming them could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions, say researchers at Waegineng University in Netherlands.
The demonstration site, to be launched this month (28–30 March) at the National University of Laos in Vientiane, will research the best ways of raising and cooking crickets, mealworms, palm weevils and weaver ants.
Approximately 95 per cent of Laotians already eat insects, according to the FAO, and the practice is culturally acceptable.
"Many people in developing countries already eat insects, but they usually collect them from the wild," said Yupa Hanboonsong, the FAO's chief technical officer for the edible-insect project and entomology professor at Khon Kaen University in Thailand.
"It would be better if they grew insects in their gardens."
But there are many gaps in agricultural knowledge of how best to farm them that the research will attempt to address.
Research will focus on reducing production costs, assessing nutritional content and developing food-safety standards, Hanboonsong told SciDev.Net, noting that researchers will strike a balance between cooking insects and preserving taste.
The researchers will also explore ways of grinding insects into baking powder, she said, because some consumers "don't like to see the legs" of the insects they eat.
Establishing food safety guidelines would help Laotians sell their insects both domestically and abroad, Hanboonsong said, adding that insects are already sold commercially in Thailand.
Growing insects on 20 square metres of land could net a Laotian farmer US$100 per month, said Krilert Tawekul, professor of sustainable agriculture and food security at Khon Kaen University. And insects require much less start-up investment than chickens or cows, he added.
Tawekul said that rearing insects is a "simple technology" that should be promoted in other developing countries. Khon Kaen University will host 20 African agricultural experts for a five-week study tour of Thai insect farms this spring.
See below for an FAO video on farming edible insects in Laos:
kallol ( India )
18 March 2011
It is not that we are so tired of slaying cows, pigs and hens, and we have not any tendency to become aborigianl in nature. We are proud to make an end of the food bowl to stay and since we have that capacity to persuade others that they should take locust, snail and other insects, but we are definite our civil society is not in a mood to go for those insects still long we feel we have enough in store. The tendency to persuade us needs to be stopped, as we must take any advice as unworthy, for we have come to destroy this earth where life narrates its beauty.
Fatik Baran Mandal ( India )
18 March 2011
Search for alternative food resources for human consumption is a short term solution of the problem of food security. If the human consumes insects, other predators who prey on insects will be deprived. We should keep in mind that for ameliorating the problems like food insecurity, the human population growth must be checked ,if possible, to be minimized.
GWSS ( United States of America )
3 April 2011
Getting cricket farms set up, especially for breeding, will take some time and effort. It is even more difficult to keep crickets healthy, away from diseases, increase in size.
If the researchers can develop a good guide on raising and breeding crickets. Then Laotian farmers would benefit from this research.
David ( Laos )
21 April 2011
This seems like a worthwhile activity. To really scale it up, this technology or methods for raising insects could be spread with the help of district level agricultural extension officers in Lao PDR. There is a great capacity building program for these staff right now called the Poverty Reduction and Agricultural Management (PRAM) initiative. There are over 4000 extension staff working closest to the poor. If they could disseminate this knowledge, I think it would really increase food security. Check out the capacity building program here:
Denis Tange ( University of Ghana | Ghana )
13 January 2012
I am so excited to know that this issue is coming to light. We have to embrace insect and reap the nutritive potential they have. I am a student of entomology and I am so happy for this initiative, if the is any way I can help, let me know.
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