Researchers recommend insect eating for Kenyans

NAIROBI, KENYA: Kenyan’s dietary choices have been expanded if a fresh discovery by a research agency of a new edible insect is to be embraced.

Researchers at the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi have just announced the discovery of an edible cricket with great promise for human consumption and inclusion as an alternative protein ingredient in animal feeds.

The species, which was collected and reared for experimental purposes at the Centre’s campus, has been named Scapsipedus icipe.

Its discovery has been reported in a paper published recently in Zootaxa journal.

Insect-eating is not a new phenomenon among Kenyans with ICIPE reporting in the same journal that a variety of beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, ants, grasshoppers and locusts form a formidable part of Kenyans' dinner plates in most parts of the country.

“Scapsipedus icipe is widely farmed across Kenya. However, until now its true scientific information was unavailable, and it was erroneously mistaken for a different cricket species known as Acheta domesticus,” notes icipe scientist, Tanga Mbi, who found the insect as part of his postdoctoral research.

Dr Mbi explains that over the past three years, ICIPE has conducted research on the potential of farming of edible insects as an important contribution to nutritious food in the country.

Scapsipedus icipe, which is commonly found around buildings and fields, is characterised by a distinctive yellow band between the eyes and differs from other species within the genus Scapsipedus by a characteristic call and territorial nature of its males.

The researchers at ICIPE aim to conduct further studies on Scapsipedus icipe towards its incorporation into insects for food and feed initiatives in Kenya.

So far, the researchers want to establish the best rearing conditions under different temperatures for Scapsipedus icipe.

The Centre is also advancing research on the nutritional quality and safety of Scapsipedus icipe.

According to Dr Mbi, insect farming will lead to less pollution and less space and time utilization compared to animal farming.

Insects too, are easy to farm since they occupy a small space compared to other protein rich feed stocks.