Insects have long been an important component of many diets in sub-Saharan Africa, however there is a trend of transitioning away from eating insects. New cookbooks are trying to curb the trend and show how these diets are fit for modern, healthy and climate smart households.
Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery by authors from Zimbabwe (in English)and Les Delices de Mikese by authors from the Democratic Republic of Congo (in French) showcase how traditional knowledge of cooking with insects, often held by women chefs, can be combined with innovative culinary ideas and contemporary palates to produce tasty recipes. The cookbooks are part of a bigger effort to develop the edible insect value chain. The recipes were developed by chefs, local communities and scientists.
Globally, the taste for meat and thus, its consumption, is increasing. Yet, at the same time there is more awareness around the devastating effects of industrial livestock farming on our environment, biodiversity and climate. Dietary shifts are needed. Innovative endeavours have gained traction across the world to bring alternative protein sources to our plates – and insect-based foods are one of them. Edible insects, in various forms and sizes, are plentiful across the African continent. They have a high nutritional content and require less water and fewer resource inputs than conventional livestock. It is clear that they can provide a sustainable solution for enhancing food and nutrition security in African communities.
To achieve an increase in consumption of insects in Africa, especially amongst youth and in urban, modern society, there is a definitive need to promote new and attractive ways of incorporating edible insects as a part of everyday African diets.
“There is a need to renew the narrative surrounding insect consumption”, said Dr. Robert Musundire, co-author of Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery. “With more modern African lifestyles being combined with urbanization, there seems to be a tendency to consider these excellent sources of flavour and nourishment past their ‘best before date’. Insects are not appreciated and enjoyed as they used to be. We need to do away with the association that this dietary component only belongs to a rural setting or is outdated. Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery and Les Delices de Mikese try to do just this, by bringing modern, culinary recipes containing edible insects to the everyday household.”
The book, Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery, was one of many outcomes of an AgriFoSe2030 project undertaken by the lead actor Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe. Alongside the cookbook, a new preparation and market facility for insects has been built. Additionally, the project has offered training on edible insect value chains to female- and young entrepreneurs, and an information platform has been developed to link the consumer goods from the market facility to traders and end-of-the-line consumers.
Most of the recipes included in Les Delices de Mikese have been created by women chefs – highlighting the role of African women and their knowledge in promoting the spread of edible insect consumption. Examples include “mukata fruits aux chenilles” (“fruit mukata with caterpillars“), “émulsion de criquets à la crème” (“grasshoper emulsion with cream”), and “velouté de courges aux mposes” (“squash velouté with palm moth larvae”). More so, the development of this book has been a real partnership effort, with involvement of private sector, academia and civil society, emphasising the need for cross-sectoral collaboration to enhance innovative solutions in the given area.
“Congolese women are considerably present throughout the value chain of these foods, from harvesting, cooking, packaging and marketing. Women who harvest these insects and these caterpillars know where to find them and know their natural habitat.” – Béatrice Kindembe, editor and environmental consultant, BKIND KONSULT AB.“It is our hope that these cookbooks will mark the beginning of a journey that will see an abundance of future innovations in the sector of edible insects. At the same time, we have to safeguard the conservation of wild insects, and promote widespread insect farming.” – Assoc Prof. Sofia Boqvist, Swedish University of Agricultural Science.