Eating more insects could help a family fight hunger, earn more money and live a healthy life, a new UN report reveals.
The UN indicates that most people prefer eating insects to meat.
The report adds that at least two billion people regularly eat insects worldwide and more than 1,900 insect species have been documented in literature as edible, including bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers, locust, crickets, cicadas, termites and flies.
Back home, it is not any different. Insects such as grasshoppers and white ants are a common delicacy.
On the streets and in markets, across the country, it is easy to bump into a trader selling a tin filled with nsenene (grasshoppers) to white ants to buyers.
Mr Peter Sentamu, a trader, is always stationed at Nakasero Market in Kampala selling fried grasshoppers.
“I love frying my grasshoppers with onions, carrots, green paper, curry powder and salt because it is what most customers like,” he says.
“I also wrap them in banana leaves because clients love the aroma that sinks into the grasshoppers from the leaves,” Sentamu adds.
Many traders dealing in such insects testify to making millions of shilling. Sentamu says he makes more than Shs60,000 per day from selling grasshoppers.
Mr Richard Muhumuza, a public health nutritionist at Diet Clinic, Kamwokya, says both grasshoppers and white ants are increasingly becoming a delicacy in the country because of the high nutritious content that they have.
“They have proteins which are very helpful in body building. They are also good sources of fiber which are important in easing digestion compared to beef,” Mr Muhumuza says.
The UN report adds that insects are also extremely efficient in converting feed into edible meat. Crickets, for example, need 12 times less feed than cattle to produce the same amount of protein.
Mr Muhumuza says the insects are a good source of minerals such as iron, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and zinc which are essential for strong bones and teeth.
The nutritionist says the insects are increasingly improving food security.
The UN says in areas where food security is fragile, edible insects need to be promoted as key foods and feeds for nutritional, cultural and economic reasons.
For individuals looking out for food rich in vitamin A, B2 and C, Mr Muhumuza recommends grasshoppers.
For those with health related issues, he encourages them to eat such insects instead of meat because of the unsaturated fat they contain.
“This kind of fat does not cause any harm to the body unlike the unsaturated fat in meat which has a high risk of initiating diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure and obesity,” Mr Muhumuza says.
But can Ugandans eat dung beetles and other bugs suggested in the report? The majority find the insects disgusting, something the report notes.
“What we eat is, after all, more a matter of custom and fashion than anything else... It can be attributed only to prejudice that a civilised man of today shows such a decided aversion to including any six-legged creatures in his diet,” says the report.
However, the report recommends that the food industry include insects in new recipes and restaurant menus to raise their status.
Although the insects are still viewed as pests by many people, the report states that they are environmentally friendly.
Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases than other livestock. “The ammonia emissions associated with insect-rearing are far lower than those linked to conventional livestock such as pigs,” says the report.
Insect nutrition value
Food source Protein (g) Calcium (mg) Iron(mg)
Caterpillars 28.2 n/a 35.5
Grasshoppers 20.6 2 5
Dung bettle 17.2 39.2 7.7
Minced beef 27.4 n/a 3.5
Source: Montana State University