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Entomophagy Reducing PovertyEntomophagy is the practice of eating insects. Throughout history and across geographical areas, adopting this diet has been a common and beneficial practice. Approximately 2 billion people across at least 99 countries regularly eat insects for protein, vitamins, minerals and fat content compared to meat or fish. There are about 1,900 edible insect species, from which humans eat eggs, larvae, pupae and adults. Insects of choice include bees, wasps, beetles, moths, caterpillars, crickets and grasshoppers. In recent years, researchers have explored this avenue and begun to consider the means by which entomophagy can reduce poverty.

Health Benefit

For years, insects have been viewed as a delicacy around the world. People eat boiled larvae with a nutty flavor and snack on crunchy beetles like popcorn. But bugs are also beneficial for their nutritional content: cooked grasshoppers, for example, can have up to three times the amount of protein and one-third the amount of fat compared to a hamburger. In low-income areas, insects are easily accessible from nature. People living in poverty could benefit significantly from this availability by either consuming them to prevent undernutrition or selling them at local markets to generate income.

Environmental Benefit

According to the UC Riverside Center for Invasive Species Research, insects are up to 20 times more efficient in converting food into edible tissue than cattle. Additionally, insects require far fewer resources and development to cultivate than other animals, which enables faster production (though this varies depending on the type of insect). Consuming insects offers a way to reduce crop-disrupting bugs without toxic or expensive insecticides. There is also little waste compared to cattle or other western proteins, which have to be processed and are only 40-50% edible. In contrast, people usually eat the entire insect.

Carbon emissions are lower in comparison to livestock. According to the Nutrition Bulletin from the Journal of the British Nutrition Foundation, the CO2 equivalent for beef is 2,058g/kg of mass gain, while insects have a CO2 equivalent of 68g/kg of mass gain. Many individual insect species leave an even smaller footprint.

Economic Benefit

The insect industry is diverse and can contribute to many markets. Silkworms are often used for fabrics and food, for instance, and weaver ants deter pests. The Chinese company HaoCheng Mealworm Inc. sells mealworms as flour, candy, condiments and instant noodles for human consumption. Also, this venture processes the worms into pet food for dogs, cats, birds and goldfish. Entomophagy provides economic contributions anywhere from street food businesses to commercialized companies.

Insect farming provides many employment opportunities for those living in rural areas of developing countries. Sericulturethe production and processing of silkwormsdemands 11 workdays per kilogram of raw silk, a higher employment rate than any other industry. The majority of insect farming and gathering is performed on a relatively small scale through family-owned businesses, often in rural areas where employment and income are desperately needed.

Trading these insect-produced goods is essential for developing countries as well. Zimbabwe deals with countries including South Africa, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Zambia. Many countries in Africa, Asia and South America export insects for food. Even Europe and the United States have begun importing these products despite the relative lack of consumption in Western countries.

Thailand has a particularly prominent market for insect consumption, with imports estimated at $10/kilogram. For comparison, beef is $3.03/kilogram, and glutinous rice is $0.82/kilogram. Additionally, Thailand’s imports of these products total $1.14 million per year.

Regulations and Compliance of the Emerging Insect Market

National and international organizations play a crucial role in regulating the insect market. The Dutch Insect Farmers Association has been vital in lobbying to promote legislation and policies designed to improve quality standards, compliance and legal trading of these products.

While most of the Western paradigm does not consider insects to be a tasty snack or gourmet meal, continuing to research and develop this emerging market could prove essential in fully utilizing entomophagy to reduce poverty in rural areas.

– Sydney Bazilian
Photo: Wikipedia

Hunger in the BahamasThe Bahamas is a group of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean known for its tourism and beautiful beaches. However, despite being a relatively wealthy country due to tourism, hunger in the Bahamas remains a prominent concern.

The Bahamas also face frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes which further aggravate the issue. The recent outbreak of COVID-19 has also left many Bahamians without access to food. Furthermore, these disasters also increase the price and decrease the availability of food in the country. Here are five facts about hunger in the Bahamas.

5 Facts About Hunger in the Bahamas

  1. Prevalence: According to Hands for Hunger, one in every 10 people in the Bahamas experience extreme food insecurity and have less than $4 to spend on food a day. This prevalence is significant because only 10% of the food consumed is produced in the Bahamas. A study by The Caribbean Agro-Economic Society concluded 41% of the households were food insecure and factors such as age, education and gender all played a factor. Around 20% of households required assistance from the government to provide adequate food to their families. It also concluded that people take an active role in producing at least one aspect of their food, revealing a reported 45 % caught their own fish. To combat this issue and encourage more active participation in acquiring food, the government is pushing for more local farming by encouraging farmer’s markets and community gardens.
  2. Agriculture: The soil in the Bahamans is unsuitable for commercial farming due to its high pH levels. This leads to a greater need for the importation of many crops. This increases the selling price and contributes to greater food insecurity. Additionally, farmers struggle to produce enough food to reach wholesalers, forcing them to discard most of their crops. The Ministry of and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations are working to teach farmers more sustainable farming. The Ministry is also working to create a Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Action Plan to help the Bahamas become more independent in producing food by using new farming techniques.
  3. Impact on Education:  School-aged children in the Bahamas are largely affected by hunger. Food insecurity impacts a child’s ability to comprehend and learn information effectively because they are constantly concerned about where their next meal will come from. Research shows a correlation between food insecurity and poor academic performance, which can lead to dropping out. The Bahamas has a National Lunch Program in effect and is researching ways to expand the program and provide food to children over weekends and school breaks. Researchers found that while most students on the island of Eleuthera consume breakfast, around 65 % of their schools do not have an option for breakfast. School administrators also reported children coming to school hungry and only consuming unhealthy junk food such as chips and soda. Researchers suggest more education about healthy eating habits with both parents and children as well as a National Breakfast plan should be implemented. These changes would improve children’s school performance and overall wellbeing.
  4. COVID-19’s effect: COVID-19 has revealed the extent of hunger in the Bahamas. Importing food has become more difficult with less overall production and travel restrictions causing citizens to panic. However, it has brought the issue to the forefront of the government’s mind and forced them to act. The government is considering how to gain greater accessible land and more ways to help small farmers get started. The pandemic served as a true wake up call for the government to address the problem head-on.
  5. Progress: A non-profit organization, Hands for Hunger, is dedicated to solving the hunger crisis in the Bahamas. Since its founding in 2008, they have provided Bahamians more than one million pounds of redistributed food. Hands for Hunger works to ensure a larger number of food-secure Bahamians; the group redistributes food from restaurants, hotels, etc., and provides it to families in need. Furthermore, Hands for Hunger is helping reduce CO2 emissions because less food is going to landfills. Hands for Hunger continues to expand its network and is leading the Bahamas to a brighter future.

Change is needed and coming into the food production system in the Bahamas. With improved access for citizens to independently produce more food, the Bahamas will have less obesity, greater academic accomplishments, improved economy, and better quality of life for its citizens. Organizations such as Hands for Hunger are at the forefront of this change. These changes will allow the Bahamas to be known to the world as more than just a beautiful vacation spot.

– Allison Caso
Photo: Flickr