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Insight & Analysis - Uncategorized - February 16, 2022

6 African Countries Where Insects are a Staple Food

A look at the practice of insect-eating in Africa and how it’s carving an industry. 

Eating insects dates back to the dawn of time. The consumption of insects is a practice known as Entomophagy. Globally, insects are consumed by 2 billion people. More African countries have made insects a staple food than anywhere else in the world. More than 500 species of edible insects live on the continent, ranging from caterpillars through termites, locusts, grasshoppers, crickets, ants and bees, bugs, and beetles.

Insects have long been considered as animal feed or food by scientists. However, opinions on entomophagy vary greatly. On one hand, food-conscious lobbies and scientists advocate insects as unique delicacies, while on the other hand, some people consider eating insects bizarre. Communities that have been practising entomophagy for millennia fall in between the two extremes.

The majority of edible insects are collected in the wild. There hasn’t been much thought given into how they could be bulk manufactured and used as a protein source in general. To do so, it’s critical to better understand the biodiversity of edible insects and to uncover indigenous knowledge.

The United States, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  has sponsored a robust campaign promoting the benefits of entomophagy, predicting scarcities of agricultural land, water, and nutrients as the world’s population grows. Despite this, there is still skepticism about eating insects. This is compounded by the fact that present biodiversity conservation initiatives, sadly, ignore the world of insects.

Here are 9 African countries where insects is a staple food.


african countries insects
Source: The Economist

Edible insects, which are only now gaining popularity in the West, have long been a favorite cuisine in the Congo. Grilled and often served with hot pepper, lemon, and onions, they are commonly offered as bar food or on special occasions.

According to a United Nations study, the average household in Kinshasa consumes roughly 300 grams of caterpillar per week, however bug supplies are seasonal and generally more expensive than other types of food. A kilogram of crickets costs around $50 in Kinshasa, more than twice the price of beef.

The edible insects are rich in magnesium and protein. Experts believe that the DRC’s love of edible insects could be the answer to ending rampant hunger among the country’s 65 million inhabitants by expanding a millennia-old consumption habit.


african countries insects
Sourec: Forest News- CIFOR

Entomophagy is practised all throughout this country, from the Sahelian desert to the humid forest. Insect intake is associated with a wide range of beliefs across the country. Throughout the year, some localities have a wider selection of edible insects than others. The differences in practices and recipes observed among communities are due to personal preferences, harvesting and processing capabilities, and the social significance of insect consumption. In Cameroon, a great number of insects are eaten.

Caterpillars, termites, and the palm weevil are just a few of the insects that are explored in this country.

Insects are used to enhance the diets of Cameroon’s forest communities. The palm weevil grub, a large worm found in palm trees, is such a popular source of protein that it has made its way out of the forest and onto restaurant menus.


african countries insects
Source: Awesome Without Borders

In Uganda mealworms are a good source of protein. Mealworms have roughly double the protein of chicken. Mealworms are a very valuable food source for Ugandan refugees, as they provide high-quality nutrients at a low cost. 

Uganda today has over a million refugees, many of them are women with little choice for earning a living.



african countries insects
Source: CALS Global

The Nshima main meal, eaten with roasted or pan-fried insects, is one of the most exquisite traditional Zambian dishes.

Most of these edible insects like flying ants, and caterpillars are seasonal, allowing people to take advantage of what is available in the natural world. The edible insects are available throughout the rainy season, which runs from November to April, or the dry season, which runs from May to October.


african countries insects
Source: The Independent

In the rural African diet, bugs provide up to 60% of the dietary protein. For many people in Ghana, eating termites can be an important means of survival. Insects are an important source of proteins, fats, and oils, especially when other food sources are scarce.


african countries insects
Source: Global Times


Fried beetles have become a popular delicacy among Zimbabweans in the countryside. The chafer beetle, often known as the Christmas beetle, is a dark-red bug that is popular during the holiday season.

The process of preparing the meal is straightforward: the beetles are cooked until soft, then fried until they reach the proper crunchiness. The benefits of these insects are numerous.

In Zimbabwean cities, dietary tastes have become more westernized, but in the countryside, eating insects, mopani worms, and white ants is still a respected practice.

READ MORE: Meet the Man Who’s Making it Big from Cockroach Farming

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