“Eating insects will be crucial in the fight against hunger”

Food security will be one of the biggest challenges sub-Saharan Africa will have to contend with. According to expert Esther Ngumbi, insects, among other things, will play a decisive role in this matter.

Insects could become a sustainable source of food for communities affected by the effects of climate change, says expert It’s different. Zi is professor Entomology, the branch of zoology concerned with the study of insects. She was born in an arid region of Kenya and is currently affiliated with the University of Illinois in the United States.

Your focus is ending hunger in Africa. You mentioned that insects can provide a boost in food security. How exactly will that work?

Esther Ngombe: Insects can be a sustainable food source. Unlike growing crops that require large areas of land, insects need very little space to grow. Moreover, science has shown that insects are a rich source of protein and iron.

“Science has shown that insects are a rich source of protein and iron.”

Climate change is confronting us with a severe drought. This complicates the growth of conventional crops. If we moved to insect farming, we would be less dependent on rain. It will make a huge difference, and this sustainable food source makes us less dependent on the oceans, where overfishing is causing major problems. In the face of all these challenges, insect consumption is emerging as a sustainable food source.

Do you have a favorite insect-based recipe?

Esther Ngombe: I’ve eaten insects many times before, but my favorite way to prepare them is to bake or grill them. Then it becomes very crunchy and delicious. But I also ate fried crickets, along with peppers and onions, very tasty. In South Africa, I enjoyed a dish with MobinThe worm, but also fried or fried meal worms becomes crunchy and very tasty. So I have several favorite insect recipes that I’ve already tried. I am open to finding new ways to prepare insects.

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You are also in favor of urban agriculture. However, few urban dwellers in sub-Saharan Africa have enough space to work in agriculture. Do you have a strategy for dealing with this?

Esther Ngombe: This is actually the essence of urban farming: using small spaces and trying to make the most of them. It could be a window sill, balcony, or a small space right outside your door. I think our homes have a lot of opportunities that we can use to grow food.

“I think our homes have a lot of opportunities that we can use to grow food.”

You yourself grew up in Kwale, a coastal region of Kenya, which suffers from severe drought. Why do parts of Africa constantly suffer from drought and how can its effects be mitigated?

Different parts of the African continent have to deal with drought year after year, in part due to climate change. Most agriculture depends on rainfall, so we need to support farmers and teach them how to collect and store what little water they have.

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African governments and NGOs really need to invest more in alternative water sources, like wells, but also provide training that teaches people how to use water sustainably. It is also imperative that the African continent invest more in plant sciences to develop drought-tolerant crops, among other things. It will be much needed in the future.

Do you think the opportunities for female scientists in your home country Kenya and other parts of the continent will also improve?

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Esther Ngombe: partially. The chances haven’t really improved, because the pandemic has made us take several steps back again. We must continue to do our best to ensure that every young student who wishes to pursue a career in, say, entomology, has the opportunity to do so. I am the product of mentors who showed interest in me and wanted to share their wisdom with me. It’s up to role models in science, like me, to use our networks to ensure young students have opportunities to grow.

Megan Vasquez

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