By Mary Hearty

In an effort to sustainably enhance food and nutrition security in East Africa, an insect-based agribusiness project also known as INSBIZ, is set to scale up production and processing of protein-rich edible insects as viable and alternatives to animal and plant proteins.

The project which is spearheaded by Dr. Dorothy Nakimbugwe, founding Director for Nutreal Limited and an Associate Professor in the Department of Food Technology and Nutrition at Makerere University, and supported by International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Kenya, BioInnovate Africa, and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) targets grasshoppers and crickets rearing in Uganda and Kenya.

It will fine tune rearing techniques of the longhorn grasshopper and house and field crickets in Uganda and Kenya, adapt these techniques to farmer field conditions, and scale up the technology to ensure year-round market supply for safe production and packaging. Resulting products can either be whole insects, or powders to enrich other foods and flours.

In East Africa, the most consumed insects include crickets, grasshoppers, locusts, and termites, all of which are highly nutritious and easily accessible.

However, consumption relies on wild harvesting, meaning that demand far outweighs supply, and handling is generally unhygienic.

The few good quality packaged insect food products available on the market are costly due to the seasonality and unpredictability of wild harvest.

With a rapidly growing human population, the demand for animal and plant protein is radically increasing, creating pressure on the food value chain in the face of depleting land and water resources.

An estimated 827 million people in developing regions, most of them in Africa, suffer undernourishment. The situation is expected to worsen, unless efforts are made to reverse food and nutrition insecurity.

Production and processing of protein-rich edible insects as viable and sustainable alternatives to animal and plant proteins could help improve food and nutritional security. At the moment, they already supplement the diets of more than 2 billion people worldwide.

The INSBIZ project is also expected to create job opportunities and generate income for the most vulnerable groups in East Africa in general, and Kenya and Uganda specifically.