In many parts of Uganda, insects are already popular as food, however, they are generally harvested manually in the wild which makes them expensive, seasonal and vulnerable to extinction.
In a bid to ensure sustainable cricket production in the country, food researchers from the Netherlands have embarked on a project under which farmers in Masaka, Rakai and Lyantonde districts would be equipped with knowledge on edible insect rearing and breeding.
According to the project’s coordinator, Mr Henk van Deventer, the project is being undertaken by Inter-church Organisation for Development (ICCO), a Dutch NGO and Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research and would create a value chain for rearing, marketing and distributing edible, nutritious crickets for households.
Deventer who is also a food researcher says the project will start in 2013 and will end in 2017.
He adds that under the project, crickets which are also referred to as “flying food” would be reared by small-scale framers who will sell the insects to a business entity consisting of local entrepreneurs that will, in turn, distribute and market the insects at urban and national markets.
Among the edible insects to be reared under the project, include grasshoppers, house and bush crickets (obunyenyenkule and amayenje).
“Crickets are relatively easy to rear and can be eaten directly after cooking/frying, or can be processed to healthy, protein rich ingredients for food products,” he says, adding,
“The long-term goal is to include up to 4,000 small-scale farmer units in 100 villages in Uganda and to replicate this further after the project has finished after four and a half years, later.”
The chairperson, of the cricket farmers Siraje Kiyimba says so far, two breeding centres for house crickets are being established in Kitenga village, Mukungwe Sub-county, and the insects to be used for breeding purposes are being bought at Shs1,000 each.
Kiyimba says unlike as previously believed, crickets are not demanding in terms of housing and food.
They are suitable for consumption within eight weeks and are high in protein and micro-nutrients.
Deventer explains that because of the increasing demand for less expensive, protein-rich food alternatives which has resulted in a growing interest for crickets as food, currently, smallholders collect insects during specific seasons which he says limits access to edible insects on the market.
“The TNO and ICCO project will organise the production of crickets, teach farmers, set up the whole value chain thus ensuring additional, healthy food products to the people,” Deventer explains.
He says one of the anticipated benefits of the project, is that cricket consumption will help combat chronic malnutrition and food insecurity among poor households.
In addition, it will create new income opportunities for smallholder farmers who will be able to increase their incomes by 20-30 per cent.
By 2017, Mr Deventer says a well established value chain from many small scale cricket rearing farms will be set up including transport, marketing and processing of the crickets to high quality healthy foods, affordable also for low income people.
“This achievement will set such a positive example, that spreading the cricket value chain for food markets in other regions and countries, for both food and feed, is expected” he says.