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Insects as Food in sub-Saharan Africa

  • A. van Huis (a1)

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.

Des données sur le rôle des insectes dans l'alimentation humaine ont été collectées dans la littérature et lors d'enquêtes effectuées dans un certain nombre de pays africains. Une liste d'environ 250 insectes comestibles a été établie. Soixante dix-huit pour cent sont des Lépidoptères (30%), Orthoptères (29%) et Coléoptères (19%) et 22% sont des Isoptères, Homoptères, Hyménoptères, Hétéroptères, Diptères et Odonotes. Les insectes sont riches en protéines, vitamines et minéraux et sont des sources importantes de fer et de vitamine B. Des examples d'insectes toxiques sont cités mais dans de nombreux cas des méthodes traditionnelles sont utilisées pour éliminer les toxines. Les insectes sont consommés ou non en fonction des traditions, des préférences ethniques ou des interdictions. La récolte des insectes est souvent effectuée par les femmes. La façon de récolter dépend du comportement des insectes, par exemple, l'inactivité de certains insectes à basse température (criquets et sauterelles) les rend vulnérables à la récolte le matin; les insectes nocturnes volants (termites, certaines sauterelles) peuvent être piégés avec la lumière; certains insectes tels que les vers du palmier peuvent être attirés par des sites de pontes artificiels; les insectes chanteurs (criquet, cigales) peuvent être localisés par les sons qu'ils produisent. Un certain nombre d'outils, tels que la glue, des bâtons, des filets et des paniers peuvent être utilisés pour faciliter la capture. Certains insectes étant disponibles seulement à certaines saisons, la conservation par séchage et souvent pratiquée. Des exemples de recettes d'insectes sont donnés pour les groupes d'insectes les plus importants.

L'exploitation des insectes dans une optique de sécurité alimentaire demande qu'une attention particulière soit portée aux méthodes de récolte respectueuses de l'environnement. Les insectes comestibles devraient être disponibles tout au long de l'année par l'amélioration des méthodes de conservation ou par création de mini élevages de ces arthropodes. Au vu des avantages tant économiques, nutritionnels qu'écologiques, la promotion de cette source alimentaire traditionnelle mérite une attention plus grande de la part des gouvernements nationaux et des programmes de coopération pour le développement.

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