Experts hope that the love of edible insects in the Democratic Republic of Congo may hold the key to tackling widespread hunger among its approximately 65 million people by scaling up a millennia-old consumption habit.
Six and a half million people live in food insecurity in the country. Edible insects have always been popular in the Congo. Often served as bar food or on special occasions, they are grilled and commonly served with hot pepper, lemon and onions.
“This is the main food of the Congolese,” said Marie-Colette Bena, who sells clothing at the market. “I’m proud to eat that food.”
The average household in the capital, Kinshasa, consumes about 300g of caterpillars a week, but the supplies are seasonal and expensive. In Kinshasa, a kilogramme of crickets costs more than twice the price of beef.
Congo’s environment ministry and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) are introducing a new programme to promote insect cultivation; in the hope that prices will come down.
The project, due to begin in October, will train two hundred people – most of them women – in western Congo to cultivate caterpillars and crickets. Laurent Kikeba, who oversees the project for the FAO, said it would be the first of its kind in the world. Insects are easily raised in confined spaces and need little capital investment.
“For the fight against malnutrition, this is an ideal food,” said Paul Monzambe, a professor of agronomy at the National Pedagogic University (UPN) in Kinshasa, who is collaborating on the project. “The crisis is such that we must think now of all possible approaches.”
In a 2013 report, the FAO hailed insect cultivation as a practical and environmentally-friendly tool to boost food production as supply struggles to keep pace with global population growth.
The report notes insects are bountiful, widely consumed and contain high levels of protein, fat, vitamins, fibre and minerals. They tend to require less feed and yield more meat per kilogram than traditional protein sources.
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