A bowl of termites for breakfast, a healthy plate of slithering mealworms for lunch and a dinner table full of twitching crickets, protein has never come in a healthier form. Welcome to the world of edible insects. Many Americans would quickly swat anything that crawls but in the Democratic Republic of Congo, they are a popular delicacy that could prove to be the answer to food insecurity.
In Kinshasa, the Democratic republic of Congo’s capital, insects are sold in abundance. The crawling creatures fill labeled blue and silver trade bowls and are considered the fastest moving consumer products in the market.
Edible insects, still struggling to find acceptance in the U.S., are more popular than pizza or popcorn in Congo. “This is the main food of Congolese. I'm proud to eat that food," says Marie-Colette Bena, a trader at one of the markets.
It is through this delicacy that the UN, together with the Congolese government, plans to eradicate hunger in the giant Central African Republic.
Reports from the World Food Program (WFP) put the number of Congolese citizens suffering under the yoke of food insecurity at a whooping 6.5 million. The large figure has been as a result of drastically low agricultural productivity coupled with widespread violence in the east. The country’s government has struggled to provide sufficient food for its people. Insect farming offers a welcome relief from the vain burden of farming in harsh terrains.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has established an initiative to promote insect cultivation in the country in a bid to stem the rampant food insecurity. The project that is set to begin in October, will see 200 people trained to cultivate crickets and caterpillars. According to country oversight project manager Laurent Kikeba, such a program would be the first of its kind and would mark the first step toward a hunger-free Congo.
Already, the average home in Kinshasa consumes 10.5 ounces of caterpillar weekly, as per a UN study. However, the insects tend to be pricy because of seasonal supply variations. A kilogram of crickets for instance, retails at $50, twice the price of beef!
Even though the country is estimated to consume more than 14,000 tons of edible insects each year, a crippling lack of insect farms has suffocated market supply of the delicacy. The potential to reap handsome benefits from harvesting insects is enormous, so is the opportunity to put an end to food insecurity.
FAO expects the increased harvesting of edible insects will drive up supply, in turn bringing down demand and making food cheaply available for majority of Congolese citizens.
Curbing food insecurity is one of the biggest challenges of the UN. Through the insect harvesting program in Congo, FAO seeks to make sure no living human being should suffer the torture and indignity of going hungry, in turn eradicating hunger one household at a time.