‘Big lumps of protein’: Zimbabwe’s edible-insect farmer
Nutritious, packed with protein and easy to grow, one insect farmer is promoting crickets as a sustainable food source.
“Oh, they sing! I love their sounds. I love being in a room full of crickets,” enthuses Esnath Divasoni, her eyes sparkling behind her large glasses. Wearing a blue and green dress and black jacket with her hair tied back, she smiles over the Zoom call. “I love what I am doing and why I am doing it,” she says.
The 33-year-old mother-of-one is an edible-insect farmer in rural East Zimbabwe. While people in her village and beyond have been eating insects and worms foraged in the forest or collected during crop harvest for generations, the young entrepreneur has found a way to breed them all year long and in quantities large enough to feed her community and help mitigate the effect of climate change.
In 2020, she set up her edible-insect production unit in a small corrugated-roofed room on her parents’ farm in Marondera, some 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Like her parents, everyone in her community are smallholder farmers, growing maize, sugar beans, groundnuts, tobacco and other crops, and tending cows and chickens. Their farm is one of 150 homesteads grouped in three villages, which are settled on a flat landscape crossed by rivers and dams
Like elsewhere across sub-Saharan Africa, life in the villages is becoming increasingly difficult. The country is in the grip of severe food insecurity, with millions of people already requiring humanitarian assistance, according to the 2020 Global Food Crisis Report Forecast (GFCRF). “Climate variability has become more extreme in the past few years. We have experienced both floods and droughts,” Divasoni explains. This has reduced crop yields and led to malnutrition, hunger and poverty – and also a drop in education because when resources are limited, parents cannot afford to send their children to school, she adds
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