War-torn and famine-stricken, a good portion of Africa is constantly suffering from some of the worst starvation figures around the world, and researchers are constantly coming up with new solutions that might help allay the hunger pangs. The latest proposition is related to a new (to other countries, anyway) form of termite control sweeping across the hunger-stricken Horn of Africa: people following termite swarms and infestations and raiding the colonies for hoards of the insects, in order to eat them or sell them as food in the markets.
This is an intriguing form of termite control, as well as a curious diet. While those from other cultures may balk, eating insects is not actually all that inadvisable, according to a growing body of research. For instance, a recent research paper published some scientists arguing that insect diets are perhaps even preferable over the regular poultry-filled diets of most developed countries. After all, said the researchers, insects tend to have more protein per pound, more vitamin B, and lower fat amounts compared to meats such as beef. And considering how easy they are to rear, there are fewer environmental concerns in raising them.
A good number of Africans are already making money off the insects. Whenever termite swarm season starts, the insects come out in droves and fly about the air, making them very easy to catch and pack into sacks or bags. These are then roasted, dried, or fried, and sold on the market as protein alternatives for those who cannot afford poultry. Apparently, they turn a brisk trade on the termite offerings: with people hardly able to eat anything else due to meagre funds, it only makes sense that even insects would be given a try and considered viable alternatives.
Research teams are already working on validating the advantages that insect-based diets would have, as it would be such a convenient solution to many hunger issues in the region. Other researchers are actually trying to promote the concept even in developed countries, arguing that the health and environmental benefits demand that more people move to the insect diet as soon as possible. It may take some convincing for people in places such as the US, but many developing countries would probably not spurn the option.
The Dutch government has already granted a million Euros to a team led by Professor Arnold Van Huis, which is working to extract more directly usable amounts of protein from various insects. Van Huis himself is a strong proponent of the insect diet, and has estimated that the number of insect species that can be safely eaten by humans can go as high as 1800. All of this may mean that insect diets just might become the norm in hunger-stricken areas soon, prompting a novel—not to mention environment-friendly—method of termite control.