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Insects As Food In Sub-Saharan Africa

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Data on insects as food in sub-Saharan Africa were collected by reviewing the literature and conducting interviews in a number of African countries. A list of about 250 edible insect species from Africa was compiled. Of these, 78 percent are Lepidoptera (30%), Orthoptera (29%) and Coleoptera (19%), and 22 percent Isoptera, Homoptera, Hymenoptera, Heteroptera, Diptera and Odonota. Insects are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, and a good source of iron and B-vitamins. Examples of insects being toxic are given, but often traditional methods are used to remove the poison. Whether or not insects are eaten depends not only on taste and nutritional value, but also on customs, ethnic preferences or prohibitions. The harvesting of insects is often done by women. The way of collecting depends on insects' behaviour.For example, inactivity at low temperatures enables easy catching of locusts and grasshoppers in the morning. Night flyers (termites, some grasshoppers) can be lured into traps by light and some insects like palm weevils can be attracted to artificially created breeding sites. Some species (crickets, cicadas) can be located by the sound they make. A number of tools are used to facilitate capturing such as glue, sticks, nets and baskets. Because most insects are only seasonally available, preservation by drying is often practised. Some examples of how to prepare them as food are given from important insect groups. To manage insects in the interest of food security more attention should be given to environmentally sustainable harvesting methods. They should be made better available throughout the year by developing improved conservation methods or by farming this minilivestock. Considering the economic, nutritional and ecological advantages of this traditional food source, its promotion deserves more attention both from national governments and assistance programmes.


Document Type: Review Article

Publication date: September 1, 2003

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