What comes to your mind when you see an insect in your house or office? While many people will smash the “creepy crawly” creature to death, others are reaping millions of shillings from sale of insects.
That’s not all, they are bubbling with good health from embracing the opportunities that go beyond the unfortunate crop-eating, disease-carrying reputations associated with the beautiful insects.
Researchers at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT), have made headlines in the past for their discoveries on the commercial and health benefits of consuming insects such as crickets and more recently, a specific type of snail and now, a new delicacy among Kenyans, called Longhorn Grasshopper (Ruspolia differens) commonly known in Swahili as Senene.
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During the first Ruspolia International Symposium held at JKUAT on December 11, researchers acknowledged that the Longhorn grasshopper, which is highly underutilised especially among Kenyans, is of high commercial value, and Uganda and Tanzania are already reaping huge rewards from the delicacy.
“In Tanzania for instance, Senene is a popular delicacy especially during the swarming season when they are plenty. About half a cup of it would sell for approximately Sh600 when they are out of season and you would buy the same quantity for Sh300 during the swarming season,” said Mercy Mmari, a food nutritionist from Tanzania.
With current projections indicating the world population will surge to 9.2 billion by 2050 further increasing the already overburdened protein demand, the researchers indicated that Senene will ease the strain of the protein sources with a variety of nutritional composition.
They established protein content of 37.1 per cent and 35.3 per cent, fat content of (48.2) and (46.2) per cent, ash content of (2.8 )and (2.6), a fibre content of (3.9) and 4.9 per cent for the green and brown grasshoppers, respectively.
Among the macro minerals, potassium (K) was the most abundant with a value of 370.6 mg/100g and 259.7.
In addition to their rich nutritional value, the researchers stated that research is underway to ascertain the medicinal properties and aphrodisiac properties associated with the Longhorn grasshopper, following a high recommendation from the mass consumers in Uganda and Tanzania.
The Principal, College of Pure and Applied Sciences, Prof David Mulati, who opened the ceremony on behalf of the Deputy Vice Chancellor, Research, Production and Extension, Prof Mary Abukutsa, expressed his delight at hosting the symposium.
Prof Mulati said the move confirmed the confidence the international researchers had in the university’s effort in promoting such research.
“We reaffirm our commitment to continue engaging in research on edible insects while making reference to others like crickets and black soldier flies as well as the Longhorn grasshoppers so as to ease the global variety of protein sources,” he said.
Dr John Kinyuru, a Food and Nutrition specialist and a lecturer at JKUAT who convened the symposium, noted that despite the benefits accrued from the insect, handlers need to have insight into the animal behavior in order to rear them in mass production for commercial or food.
“The cannibalistic tendencies among the species is a common behavior and therefore handlers require training and guidance to maximise the quality and quantity of the insects during mass production,” he said.
He urged people with interest in rearing the Longhorn grasshopper to contact him through his email: [email protected]
The symposium was organised under the auspices of JKUAT, Vli-rous, KU Leuven and Icipe.