Edible insects can solve African food security challenge, experts advise

By Dareen Keana |
With the frequently rising prices of food items like maize flour, bread, fish, beef, milk and cooking
fat, it is increasingly becoming harder for Kenyans to afford three meals a day. High-protein foods
like chicken and fish are becoming an expensive delicacy for many people. In a bid to find
alternatives, enterprising and innovative individuals are now turning to insects as food.

According to Dr Saliou Niassy, head of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology
(icipe) Technology Transfer Unit in the Environmental Health Theme Team, insect consumption in
Africa is not a new trend. Some of the insects commonly eaten as food include white ants, or
kumbikumbi, popular in the Western Kenya region. icipe, which collaborates with more than 300
partners worldwide, plays a vital role in entomological or insect research in the East and Central
Africa region as well as the globe. Icipe estimates indicate that more than 1,900 edible insect species
are consumed by over two billion people. At least 500 of these species are found and eaten across
Africa. “For instance, one kilogram of termites costs Ksh1,275 ($11) in Kenya. The number of insect
eaters is expected to grow to nine billion by 2050,” says Dr Niassy. Insect foods are higher in protein
content compared to conventional protein foods such as fish, beans and soya. Chicken and pigs
prefer insect-based feed compared to fish or soya meal.
The insect foods are quite affordable, and a stable source of income in sustainable settings. “A kilo of
r.differens or long horned grasshoppers costs around Ksh300 ($2.6),” Dr Niassy says. Dr Niassy says
the time is ripe for the continent to exploit its rich treasure of biodiversity to provide much needed
resources to its people, including food, with a special focus on conservation to maintain sustainable
use. Icipe estimates that Africa’s food import bill is expected to rise to $110 billion by 2050, with its
forest cover shrinking to less than 600 million hectares over the same period due to growing
demand for firewood and conversion of forests to farmland. During the same period, the continent’s
population, which was estimated at 1.3 billion in 2020, is expected to grow to 2.5 billion.
According to the estimates, the populations of more than half of Africa’s 54 nations will double or
grow even more by 2050 as a result of high fertility and improving mortality rates. At least one in
every four people, or 25 per cent of the world’s population will be living in Africa, compared to just
one in 10, or less than 10 per cent who were living here in 1950. This growth rate represents more
than double the current population on the continent, and will present an additional food security
challenge to the region.
Our solution to the expanded population’s demand for food, Dr Niassy says, is a change in the way
we eat by using sustainable and cost effective ecosystem services. The scientist believes food
security challenges can be alleviated by greater investment in the cultivation of insects for use in
African diets. “More than ever, it is vital for us to implement the adoption of a sustainable and
circular approach to ecosystem services for better livelihoods, food and nutritional security. One of
the ways to achieve this goal is switching to cheaper and more nutritious insect foods,” says the
Dr Julius Ecuru, the Manager of BioInnovate Africa, which is an icipe subsidy, describes the firm’s
approach to societal challenges as driven by the need to wisely use the resources provided by
nature. “BioInnovate uses science biodiversity to provide practical, affordable solutions to pressing
societal challenges,” says Dr Ecuru. As part of its work, BioInnovate is currently pursuing the black
soldier fly project that uses bio waste to feed the adult insects. Black fly larvae are used as nutritious
food rich in Omega 3 proteins. BioInnovate is working on the project with partners in Kenya, Ethiopia
and Tanzania. Another ongoing project aims to produce jet fuel using the ‘somaize’ or sorghum and
maize hybrid extracts.
The crop is used as food, while its syrup can be used to produce bioethanol that can be used as
aviation fuel and livestock feed. BioInnovate is collaborating with partners in Uganda, Kenya and
Ethiopia to implement the project. Dr Ecuru says biodiversity conservation and biomass stewardship
are required at the genetic, species and ecosystem levels, including soil and watershed
management. Pursuing the objective with the involvement of local communities in the target areas
will not only conserve the environment, but also create employment.

“Let us provide alternative livelihoods for communities that are biomass custodians, especially fuel
sources, farm inputs and markets, value chains and jobs,” he says. “Using science and technology,
we can optimise production and reclaim degraded environments,” adds the scientist. Dr Ecuru sees
an enduring potential for even more significant and game changing biodiversitybased innovations in
our economy. He also emphasises that further research and multisectoral collaborations are
required to actualise this vision.



MESHA trains members on mobile journalism as a holistic form of story telling

A media association, they say, is as good as its members.

For an association to prosper and keep on soaring, it must listen to the changing needs of her
members. And so, when members of our association, the Media for Environment, Science,
Health and Agriculture (MESHA), requested, through our very active members only WhatsApp
group for a training on mobile journalism (MOJO) last December, the leadership led by our
Secretary, Aghan Daniel, listened.

“We have to keep on with the demands of a dynamic and ever evolving media landscape, print,
online and radio lest our association becomes a dinosaur,” said Aghan during the opening of the
training held from March 31- April 1, 2022.

The training targeted journalists with a revolutionary approach to telling science stories in
keeping with a fast paced world.

Members, 15 of them, were introduced to the MOJO concept and its elements. Trainees heard
that MOJO is an all around multimedia solo reporting act in which the smartphone serves as a
complete production unit for collecting, editing and disseminating news.

Emmanuel Yegon, a multi-media journalist unpacked MOJO as the most critical tool for
journalists as it helps transcend many challenges facing journalists.

Yegon trained through a highly interactive classroom setting that included lectures, question and
answer sessions as well as practical assignments. He first unpacked MOJO as a form of digital
storytelling where a smartphone is used to collect or create data in audio, images and videos.
The smartphone is further used to edit collected or created content and to disseminate content. As
a full production unit, there is no limit on how far one can go to collect news, features and
relevant information.

He trained journalists on what he termed as a “new workflow for media storytelling where
reporters are trained and equipped for being fully autonomous.”

The first day of training was anchored on two key factors. First, that MOJO enables reporters to
undertake multiple production and content distribution activities using one single device.
Second, the audience have access to the same means of producing content allowing for them to
similarly consume content through mobile devices. As such, MOJO is a cross-platform and
digital innovation approach within the reach of reporters in far flung areas.

Participants discussed storyboarding, or story planning using mobile devices. They were also
taken through elements of a practical MOJO toolkit which includes a quality smartphone, a
microphone, a simple LED light, a power bank and tripod.

The trainees were also taken through the dos and don’ts of MOJO including not zooming while
recording images or collecting videos. Reporters were further taken through tips in image
orientation and direction. They were advised not to mix both landscape and portrait images while
creating content.

The viability of taking photos, videos, audio and graphics, editing and uploading to their
respective newsroom servers were also discussed. The trainer encouraged reporters to own or
have access to a smartphone and to develop skills on MOJO as this is the new frontier of content
creation, production and dissemination.

MOJO, in essence, participants heard, is a solo media production unit. Practical sessions
included how a lone journalist can use a single mobile devise to tell their story, from breaking
news, news features to more timeless human interest stories.

Reporters saw firsthand how they can achieve the greatest value from their smart phones as a
production studio in their pockets. This form of reporting is a cost effective platform, portable
and convenient.

For investigative reporters, it is a safe platform to discreetly collect information without
detection. By the same token, MOJO can help a journalist to stay safe when recording sensitive

MOJO is also flexible and a journalist can produce content at a faster pace. Reporters were also
taken through video recording apps or camera apps that can help them capture quality images.
By further connecting their smartphone to an external microphone, they can record quality
sound. This, Yegon says, is akin to putting an entire production unit in the pocket. More
importantly, an entire newsroom can put these simple device production units in the hands of
more journalists.

“Those lessons were the most interesting thing I had been through in the recent past,” said Rachel
Kibui from Nakuru. Her counterpart from Kitui, in Eastern Kenya, Nzengu Musembi added that
“the sessions were pretty educative. From this training, I can see myself being a competent
mobile journalist.”

By Joyce Chimbi


Biodiversity: Experts urge the public to embrace and protect insects/over 500 edible insects’ species in Africa

Biodiversity champions in Kenya and Africa have called on Kenyans to embrace and protect insects saying that they are very key in maintaining the ecosystem.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) Dr.Niassy Saliu said many insects which are playing key roles like pollination, decomposition of nutrient in the soil and also used as food might soon be extinct because they are not protected.

Dr.Niassy said many people have ignored the roles played by insects in the society adding that besides helping in issues of pollination, nutrient decomposition, some insects are used as food for humans. He said insects are very rich in nutrients like protein, zinc among others.

The head of Technology Transfer Unit at the International Centre of Insect, Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) said countries like Europe have embraced insects by even creating laws to protect insects, adding that the majority of the people are eating insects.

Dr.Niassy said such laws protecting insects which have been developed in some countries are also very necessary in Kenya adding that the people in Kenya should value the insects.

In Africa, there are over 500 edible insects while globally over 1900 insects’ species are eaten.

Among the edible insects in Africa include legend termite, spiders, beetles, mantids, flies,plant bugs,wasps;moth/butterflies ,dragonflies  and grasshoppers

By George Juma.

Migori County.

1st MARCH 2022.



Time to save Mother Earth from imminent perish

For fish lovers, the writing on the wall is that you may need to start looking for a substitute because soon, perhaps in your lifetime, there may not be any more fish.

Even though this sounds harsh and perhaps unimaginable, but a look at the Living Planet Report 2020, released  recently states that overexploitation, bycatch of non-target species, seafloor habitat destruction from seafloor trawling, illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing, gathering of organisms for the aquarium trade are to blame for the declining fish on our table.

If you love nature, be informed that nature is declining globally at rates unprecedented in millions of years. To understand how much we are at a risk, one needs to spare time to read the recently released report The Living Planet Report 2020 to read for yourself that we are in the red and you can do something to reverse the trend.

The reports warns that humanity must rethink the way we produce and consume food and energy, and the blatant disregard for the environment entrenched in our current economic model which have  pushed the natural world to its limits.

COVID-19 is a clear manifestation of our broken relationship with nature, and highlights the deep interconnection between the health of both people and the planet.

The 2020 global Living Planet Index shows an average 68% (range: -73% to -62%) fall in monitored populations of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish between 1970 and 2016.

Why should we be concerned about the biodiversity? According to exerts, biodiversity plays a critical role in providing food, fibre, water, energy, medicines and other genetic materials; and is key to the regulation of our climate, water quality, pollution, pollination services, flood control and storm surges.

Its loss is hence not only an environmental issue but a development, economic, global security, ethical and moral one. It is also a self-preservation issue.

In addition, nature underpins all dimensions of human health and contributes on non-material levels – inspiration and learning, physical and psychological experiences and shaping our identities – that are central in quality of life and cultural integrity, says the report.

Our worry is further confounded by the report’s proclamation that freshwater biodiversity is declining far faster than that in our oceans or forests. Based on available data, almost 90% of global wetlands have been lost since 1700; and global mapping has recently revealed the extent to which humans have altered millions of kilometers of rivers.

These changes have had a profound impact on freshwater biodiversity with population trends for monitored freshwater species falling steeply.

The 3,741 monitored populations – representing 944 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fishes – in the Freshwater Living Planet Index have declined by an average of 84% (range: -89% to -77%), equivalent to 4% per year since 1970. Most of the declines are seen in freshwater amphibians, reptiles and fishes; and they’re recorded across all regions, particularly Latin America and the Caribbean.

The findings of this report calls on everyone to indulge in saving the planet for the good of posterity. That is the only wat we can justify that we appreciate what Mother Earth gives to us freely.


Let governments facilitate free movement of seed under the COVID-19 crisis

As the world reels under the debilitating effects of a serious health crisis with “SARS-CoV-2” and the disease it causes “coronavirus disease 2019” (COVID-19), now declared by the World Health Organization as a pandemic, it is important that authorities world over think outside the box to secure a food secure world post coronavirus time.

Even as we, science journalists from MESHA, join the rest of the world in supporting measures to prevent further spread of the virus, do believe that the world’s long-term stability rests on several pillars, one of which is food security.

We wholly recognize that unrestricted international movement of seed is critical to ensure food security. Today there is no country that could fully supply farmers with seed of their choice solely from their own production. Seed companies produce and trial seed in different countries all over the world as a way to mitigate the risk of crop failures due to adverse weather conditions.

It is therefore imperative that all African countries allow free movements of seed at this time of the year.

By finding optimal locations for seed production, timing of harvest, and localized expertise, the seed sector ensures the steady supply of seed for farmers everywhere.

Therefore, closing borders or even slowing down the transboundary movement of seeds could create a significant problem in the seed supply chain.

Given the current situation of the COVID-19 pandemic, a few countries have stopped movement of seeds across borders. This is sad. If this trend is allowed to continue, it will be catastrophic for African countries of unimaginable proportions in the next few months as there will be inadequate harvests a situation that will lead to food insecurity, malnutrition and hunger.

Since seed has not been found to be a causal agent of the coronavirus, we appeal to all Member States to refrain from interrupting seed movement.

If the seed does not move anymore because people are scared of this pandemic, it will be difficult for the continent/the region to recover from the likely repercussions for a long time to come.

Already the situation of food security in Africa is precarious and any further interference with the seed value chain will bode ill for all of us.

We join others, especially voices from the seed sector in asking governments to facilitate the international movement of seed and not to impose restrictive measures. Given their past records in practicing due diligence, we are confident that seed companies will take all necessary measures to guarantee the health and safety of workers who are involved in the shipment of seed.

Let all the concerned authorities all over Africa, and the world ensure the most favourable conditions possible for the supply of farmers with all plant productive material they need for a successful harvest in 2020, while respecting all necessary restrictions for the health of all people.

That way, we would have secured a food secure world post the coronavirus pandemic.