News and knowhow for farmers

Eating termites is healthy and there are people who farm them for ready markets

While other farmers in Gisambai village in Vihiga County struggle to raise various crops on their farms, Samson Otengo,  is busy building ant hills, a rare kind of farming that he says he has productively practiced ford the past three decades, with an available market market in Mbale Town.  

Speaking to Farmbiz
Africa, Otengo said that he learned the trade  from his uncle as a young child, but only opted to pursue termite-farming after
being retrenched by the Kenya Railways Cooperation in the early 1980s.

Otengo is one of a few
farmers in the country who are exploring the consumption of insects- entomophagy-
as one way to address the food and nutritional security challenges the country
is currently grappling with..

Last year, agricultural
stakeholders and researchers from more than 45 countries across the world
converged in Netherlands in a conference convened by the International Centre
of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to discuss ways of making insects a
viable source of food for human beings.
The aim of the gathering was to seek ways to increase the production of edible
insects insects and influence consumer attitude into accepting the delicacy.

Dr. Sunday Ekesi, Head
of Edible Insects programme at ICIPE, insects are “an important source of
protein, which offer a sustainable, ecologically-friendly way to feed a growing
population and boost incomes by diversifying farming activities”.

Dr. Ekesi says that
while at least 2billion people around the world consume more than 1000
different insect species many are yet to realize the nutritional value in the
bugs, and dismiss those who consume as conservative and poor.
ICIPE, according to Ekesi has a comprehensive list of edible insect, some of
which can be commercially cultivated.

‘’ICIPE already produces
a variety of insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, black soldier flies and
silkworms, and has the facilities to measure the nutritional content of insects
and to analyse food safety-related issues. We have also developed a
comprehensive framework to guide our R4D activities,’’ said Dr. Ekesi.

But those who think they
can go into this kind of farming and come out as millionaires the following day
are in for disappointment.

Dr. Ekesi says that termite
farming requires a lot of patience “because an ant hill can take up to two
years to grow”. One also needs to study the termites in order to understand the
kinds of weather and the type and texture of soils they enjoy.
Otendo currently runs eight ant hills, from which he says he harvests at least
a bucket full of ants twice a week. The harvests are much lower during the
rainy season.

 The harvesting process requires him to cover
the anthill with blankets at night and then placing some candles above it in
order to draw the termites to the trap.  

Although he cannot
explain the science behind it, he says that making noise around the anthill, by
beating metal pans and singing, helps confuse the termites, further drawing
them into his ‘net’.

After making his
harvest, Otendo dry fries them and takes them to Mbale, where one cup (approx.150g),
fetches him Sh12.
Although he is aware that this is not the business from which he will get his
retirement millions from-many people in the area relate termite farming with
poverty-but he knows that he has the kind of knowledge he can share with nations
to help boost food production around the world.

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