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Using edible insects as new generation protein sources for improved human nutrition and support for low cost animal production as feed

To create a sustainable, low-cost proteins for human nutrition and livestock feed through integration of edible insects in farming systems

Photo of Robert Musundire
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Written by

Lead Applicant Organization Name

Chinhoyi University of Technology, Zimbabwe

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Government

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Chinhoyi Municipality-Urban Council Gwanda Municipality-Urban Council Harare Municipality-Urban Council AGRITEX -Government Agricultural Extension Agency Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations-UN organization Jackson-Malete-Jose-Alliance for African Partnership- Michigan State University Linley Chiwona Kaltun Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Website of Legally Registered Entity

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?


Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

91503 km^2

What country is your selected Place located in?

Zimbabwe (Matebeleland South, Manicaland and Harare Provinces of Zimbabwe)

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Matabeleland Province: This province lies to the South West parts of Zimbabwe.  I have worked with some communities on postharvest processing of wild harvest mopane worms as food to promote food safety standards and improve quality.

Manicaland Province: This area lies to the eastern parts of Zimbabwe. I have worked with insect farmers who are into Cricket production as human food and Black Soldier Fly Insect as Livestock feed.

Harare Province: Consists of Urban and Peri urban communties. I have worked with poultrty producers to promote Black Soldier fly production for animal feed and Mealworms as human food.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

Matabeleland Province: This province lies to the South West parts of Zimbabwe. The climate is characterized by low annual rainfall and hot and dry conditions suitable for extensive livestock production. The widely consumed edible insect species mopane worms naturally occur in abundance in this province in summer (December-April of every year). This province is primed for integration of edible insects as food and as feed to support household nutritional programmes.There are opportunities to involve rural communities in the new food system. Communities in this area earn their livelihoods through harvesting and selling of wild harvested mopane worms which is complimented by other staple foods such as small grain crops (sorghum and finger millet). people in this region expect protection of wild mopane worms from over exploitation from private players coming from outside their region who normally descend to harvest without following proper procedures thereby endangering continued existence of these insects in the wild. They also expect support in terms of post harvest, handling and value addition through long term storage of mopane insects to promote consumption throughout the year.

Manicaland Province: This area lies to the eastern parts of Zimbabwe and characterized by high rainfall which promotes intensive agricultural activities such as Dairy, Piggery and Crop Production. This Province is suitable for demonstration of integrating insect farming with traditional Crop and Livestock production systems. There are opportunities to involve rural communities in the new food system. The people here hope to maximize animal production and related products through reduction in the cost on livestock feed. They generate a lot of agricultural waste from conventional agricultural practices. They expect to utilize this waste to produce protein from edible insects such the black soldier fly.

Harare Province: Consists of Urban and Peri urban communities in demand of nutritious food.  Peri urban farms are mostly into poultry, piggery, Dairy and high value horticultural production systems. Conditions are suitable for promoting integrated insect farming through production of protein from insects that are mass produced from agricultural waste (circular Economy). There are also opportunities to involve private sector players and testing market dynamics in the newly promoted food system.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Background: With approximately 15 million people, in Zimbabwe and an expectation of an additional 5 million in the next 5 years, it is evident that the recurrent drought and natural disasters such as floods will put a dent on the food security situation of this country. There is a critical need for the large scale development of alternative animal protein sources. Insects are a significant answer to this global problem. Zimbabwe as a nation needs to embrace this global perspective. Without innovative means of food security in Zimbabwe, millions of people will face chronic starvation and associated disease life outcomes such as high morbidity and mortality. Most communities in Zimbabwe face possible protein malnutrition due to scarcity of high protein food sources. Prolonged dry season in some areas make crop and livestock production very difficult while in potentially high rainfall areas the cost of production from conventional agriculture is still very high, making it hard for most communities to sustainably produce nutritious food.

Insects as Food: Approximately 90% of the population in Zimbabwe voluntarily consume certain insect species as food. However, insect consumption is still based on wild collections. This poses many challenges including possibility of extinction due to over harvesting, poor food safety and human conflict. Most wild collections are also seasonal, thus making insects only available during certain times of the year. Additionally, there are poor post harvesting processing methods and storage facilities to store insects for consumption during lean seasons. As a result sustainable insect consumption as an integral part of daily diet is limited due to scarcity and seasonality yet there are little alternatives for alternative food resources.

Insects as Livestock Feed: Globally, the land availability for soya cultivation is limited and marine over exploitation has reduced the abundance of small open sea forage fish from which fish meal and fish oil are derived. Animal feeds manufacturing face a decline due to protracted scarcity of soya beans which is a major component of stock feeds providing proteins. Currently, important protein ingredients for animal feed are fish meal and soya bean meal. In Zimbabwe, the frequent droughts, floods and high cost of inputs in soyabean production is translating into high cost of livestock feed as imports have to fill the local market shortages. Alternative sources of protein for feed manufacturers are required including the use of insects as the main source of proteins, fats and other trace elements. As increasingly low-and middle income communities emerge in urban and peri urban areas preference, demand and consumption of animal source foods will increase, thus alternative ways to produce protein become imperative. Reconciling these needs requires innovative solutions and the implementation of promising technologies. More importantly, market-led innovative solutions are needed for enhancing entrepreneurship and job creation within the most disadvantaged community groups such as women, the aged, and youth.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Insects as food: Insects are typically eaten due to their high nutritional (in particular protein) content and ease of collection. Many traditional societies in Zimbabwe have used and still continue to use insects as a protein source. The major challenge with commercializing edible insects as a food source is establishing sustainable production systems that include food safety and security as well as environmental protection. In order to diversify food production systems and thus improve the climate resilience status of Zimbabwean inhabitants, insect farming for food need to be up scaled in integrated crop-livestock production systems. The combination of traditional knowledge with evidence based science in insect farming practices has the potential to expand the possibilities for using insects at a large scale and regular diets. This fusion of traditional knowledge, evidence-based knowledge and the community practice of activities along the whole insect food chain provide an opportune moment to address the problems of food insecurity in Zimbabwe. Production technologies for Crickets and meal worms are exemplary for insects that can be targeted as food. At small holder level, economies of scale need to be expanded by improving the output of farmed insects through training, strengthening collective knowledge transfer and resources mobilization for insect production. Additionally, value addition to insects using innovative processing technologies, identifying the physico-chemical and functional properties of the proteins, transfer the post-harvest processing technologies to agribusinesses in Zimbabwe and strengthening institutional capacity including in science and technology. 

Insects as livestock feed: Producing insect based proteins for livestock feed from organic waste streams is a sustainable approach to feed production. Insect based feed will not compete with the human food as is the case for production of fish, pig and poultry. This initiative will integrate established industry knowledge and technology for sustainable insect production in Zimbabwe by focusing on two valuable and economically important insects: the black soldier fly (BSF) and the house cricket. BSF larvae (40% protein, 30% fat) can be produced at large scales with an ability to digest 50 tonnes of organic wastes (e.g. food waste, agricultural waste, confined animal waste) daily, resulting in 5-10 tonnes of larvae in two weeks. The elegance of this system is it can be as simple or as industrialized as desired. Thus, local Zimbabwean municipalities have flexibility to grow at a pace convenient for their infrastructure and resources. Methods for mass production of crickets have also been developed in Zimbabwe. In both cases, cricket and BSF can be mass produced successfully at a backyard or industrial scales.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

Stewardship and wild harvested edible insects used as food

With application of indigenous knowledge and other local stewardship approaches to conserve wild harvested insect species, natural habitats of wild harvested insects will be preserved as well as sustained occurrences of edible insects guaranteed. Communities will continue to sustainably supplement nutritious food from other agricultural activities with protein rich insects. Healthy, food secure and happy societies will emerge.

Integration of farmed insects in farming and food systems

Insect farming for food and feed will bring about a new farming and food system that integrates use of insects in regular diets. Communities will have diversified food production systems. Insect farming utilizes smaller land area and less water. Exploitation of Natural forests, land and water resources will be drastically reduced as complimentary food production from insects is less damaging to the environment. Insects will become part of the livestock production systems and will help to reduce overgrazing from alternative large animals that are also used as food but kept on large land areas.

Over a  three year period actions to address this challenge are expected to harness technology and experience from the large commercial industry and transfer to small and medium scale enterprises in rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe in a manner that will develop local economies among villages, peri-urban agricultural areas, and urban centers.  After evaluated success of establishment and sustainability in selected areas, more focus will be placed on strengthening sustained production and supporting area wide nutrition programmes.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Integration of insects as food and feed in new farming systems to support nutrition in rural, urban and peri-urban areas in Zimbabwe is expected to greatly address a number of issues related to the environment, diets, economics, culture and technology and policy.

i) Environment

Climate model simulations project that parts of southern Africa, including Zimbabwe will fare the worst globally with changing climate, erratic weather, droughts, flooding that will significantly reduce the production of crops and livestock. The frequency of crop destruction by invasive pests also is significantly rising in this country in addition to diseases associated with high mortality and morbidity: all of which negatively affects the local economy. The livestock sector uses 70 % of all agricultural land and approximately 18% greenhouse gases (GHG) are produced during livestock production with ruminants contributing in a significant way. Land use, water, energy and chemical inputs (e.g., fertilizers for cereal production) all reflect negatively on the environmental footprint from meat production.

Under controlled insect farming practices there is the ability to minimize negative effects of traditional agricultural and animal husbandry practices. In addition, less space is required, less chemical inputs, and decreased energy fuel from insect production results in a more sustainable system. Indeed, using renewable energy sources of energy for insect production, such as solar, has been demonstrated to impact the environment less than conventional farming.

ii) Diets

Insects as Food: Insects are rich in many nutrients but more importantly in: protein, essential fatty acids and amino acids, vitamins, minerals as well as antioxidants. Because of their size and structure, foods and feed made from insects are more readily bioavailable and easy to process and consume. Several studies have shown that traditionally it is mostly women and children that harvest, process, market and consume these products. Insect farming as small- and medium-scale enterprises provides new opportunities for improved livelihoods for these marginalized groups throughout Africa. The life cycles of insects are short, on average less than a month is required from the egg to the stage of consumption. The fact that insects can be consumed at various stages with various forms of nutrient profiles enables insects to be used as numerous value-added products. Insects are very diverse in terms of their diets and nutrient requirements making it possible to use a range of breeding options and thus more resilient against collapse.

Recipes based on whole insects and insects as ingredients in food products have already been developed in some parts of Zimbabwe and many more will come in the near future. The most encouraging development with literature so far on development of recipes is that researchers are anchoring these new innovations in the context local indigenous food production systems and consumption practices. Innovations based on local knowledge systems are more likely to be accepted by consumers.

Insects as Feed: The strategic intervention for using insects as feed is to promote increased production of small livestock such as chicken and fish that most resource constrained households in Zimbabwe are finding difficult to achieve. With provision of low cost protein and other nutrient sources for livestock, it is expected that the cost of livestock production will consequently go down. Several spin offs can be envisaged: egg production from indigenous chickens can be improved and this can be used to support community nutrition programmes such as an egg a day; fish production can be improved and small scale fisheries can be viable to establish and run; increased volumes of eggs, meat and fish products at a low cost of production will result in low prices of these products on the market, hence improving access to nutritious foods by mostly poor communities.

iii) Culture and Technology

 Traditional insect consumption will be promoted including harvesting, processing for consumption and cooking methods. Insect consumption will also be supported in the context of other locally available indigenous food resources. Cooking, blending and new recipes will be improved to include insects as nutritious ingredients in local dishes and value added products. Improved harvesting methods from the wild will be augmented with advances in technology to improve quantities of harvested insects as well as reduce monotony and labour required to gather insects.  Improved processing methods such as milling and solar drying will improve currently used methods that are less efficient and in some instances harmful to the environment if wood is used for drying purposes.  Insect farming will support and augment wild harvested edible insect species.

iv) Economics

There is current production of Black Soldier Fly (BSF) insect in Zimbabwe, and there exists a market for BSF as it is approved for use as feed for select aquaculture species and poultry. Besides feed, by-products of BSF production include: nutrient rich compost, and oils that can be used for bio-energy production. Existing production and associated investment by global companies (e.g., Darling, Cargill, and Wilbur Elis) provides evidence that this industry is appealing to private sector industry and can be geographically scaled for adoption by other regions and cultures.

Similarly, this alternative approach to improving food security can be significantly expanded to Zimbabwe through private sector participation, motivation for financial investment; and provision of infrastructure such as road, energy, communication and increased dissemination of evidence-based decision making, and improving training opportunities. The scalability of BSF from small local units to large industrial units offers novel business opportunities for Zimbabwean communities.  Promotion of partnerships with global players in BSF production will leverage industry-wide experience to expand BSF production to Zimbabwe through multi-scale systems implementation in rural and urban markets.

iv) Policy

Policies for supporting integration of insects as food and feed are not well spelt out in Zimbabwe. However, the policy support framework is available and the policy environment is suitable for easy integration. By 2050, it is expected that policies that strengthen community and national stewardship of wild harvested edible insects are strengthened to ensure continued existence of this heritage. In addition, with increased efforts for supporting wild collection wit farmed insects, policies need to be developed to manage and govern this new industry. New policies need to be put in place to regulate this new farming system.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Zsofia Pasztor

I love this. Fascinating!! We are starting to get into black soldier fly larvae and hopefully other insects. I think insects will be essential for our future protein sourcing. Thanks for all you do!

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