This impact story is from our 2019 annual report.
Edible insects have a small carbon and water footprint and use feed more efficiently than other sources of animal protein. They are often highly nutritious as well, and a thriving and sustainable market for edible insects can contribute to food security as well as jobs and income for small-scale farmers. Edible insects can also build resilience by being a food resource in disaster recovery programmes.
While there is a wealth of indigenous knowledge about edible insects in sub-Saharan Africa, there are few success stories of large-scale farming and use of insects for food and feed in the region, despite the potential benefits.
There is a need to better understand and promote these benefits, but the right information is not reaching the policy and business sectors in most African countries. SEI set out to tackle this problem, as a partner in the Sida-funded Agriculture for Food Security 2030 programme (AgriFoSe2030).
First Africa Conference on Edible Insects
Last year, as part of AgriFoSe2030, researchers in Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo carried out a project to promote the integrated use of edible insects as food and feed in urban and peri-urban areas.
The project worked with scientists in the region to co-create communication strategies and translate scientific findings into messages that were tailored to local and regional policy- and decision-makers, private sector actors and others. The team also trained scientists in Zimbabwe and DRC on how to pitch to stakeholders, write compelling stories for the media, and formulate effective key messages.
SEI also helped plan the First African Conference on Edible Insects, which focused on the potential to develop the sector in Africa and was attended by policymakers and private sector actors from across the continent and beyond. SEI developed a social media and communications plan, produced multimedia content for the event, and contributed to strategic planning of the programme.
“It took us a long time to attract interest in the First African Conference on Edible Insects. The captivating messages that we developed with the help of the SEI communications team turned the fortunes of this conference around and brought the attention of the whole world towards this conference.”
—Dr. Robert Musundire, researcher at Chinhoyi University of Technology and project manager
Targeted messaging brings change
Throughout the project, knowing how to reach and influence the right stakeholders at the right time was crucial for enabling change. For example, messages that centred on the health benefits of edible insects were more readily received by urban councils.
As a result, Chinhoyi Municipality in Zimbabwe donated land for construction of a model insect market. The market helps traders to sell larger quantities of insects, with improved handling facilities and much better hygiene standards.
“We never imagined that such small steps would bring the change to the world of smallholder traders in Chinhoyi urban market. Indeed, the new insect market built through AgriFoSe2030 touched the hearts of many traders that earn their livelihoods from selling insects in Chinhoyi,” said Timothy Maregere, Director of Housing and Community Services in Chinhoyi.
Other urban municipalities in Zimbabwe are following suit. And in DRC, the Mayor of Kintambo municipality donated a piece of land for the construction of a restaurant dedicated to insect-based products.
The participation of urban councils, traders and consumers in DRC and Zimbabwe in the project and the conference was critical. For instance, local traders have created associations to set up collectives around insect farming and trading. And a resolution was reached during the conference to create stakeholder platforms for edible insects at the national level: there are now points of contact for these platforms in multiple countries in East and Southern Africa.
The conference also generated growing interest among funding agencies and business to support edible insect farming and trading. These include the World Bank Group, FAO, the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), the Rockefeller Foundation (East Africa Regional Office) representatives of the Government of Zimbabwe, and the Zimbabwean companies National Foods Pvt Ltd and Profeeds.
How can we meet the nutritional needs and expectations of a growing world population? And how do we do it without compromising long-term sustainability? SEI research explores the transition to sustainable food and agricultural systems.
Connecting to the SDGs
A greater role for edible insect farming can generate alternative incomes and contribute to food security for smallholders, so contributing to SDG 1: No poverty and SDG 3: Good health and well-being. The value of edible insects as an additional resource in disaster recovery programmes means the work of AgriFoSe2030 also contributes to SDG 13: Climate action.