Drawn for us by science illustrator Alex Cagan.
Could you help?
Our crowdfunding page is here, please take a look. It has a video explaining the project and lots of details about who we are, what we’re doing, and why we’re doing it.
The project is called ‘Achieving food sovereignty with edible insects: Breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition’, and here’s a short summary:
What’s the project?
A 12-month multi-site collaboration to develop a breeding protocol for the edible shea caterpillar. We’re currently working to develop some trial feeds at Rothamsted Research Institute. In June, we’ll trial these feeds with newly hatched caterpillars in two laboratories (Rothamsted Research Institute and the Entomology Department at the University of Ouagadougou) and at one field site (Soumosso in southwestern Burkina Faso).
Why is this important?
Poverty and malnutrition – particularly micronutrient deficiency – are major global problems, and rural smallholders are the worst affected. New sources of livelihoods and income diversification are key to breaking this cycle. If those livelihoods also provide a stable supply of edible protein, entire households will be more food secure.
Caterpillars have a high market value, they are rich in protein and essential micronutrients, and they have a high feed conversion efficiency compared to vertebrate livestock. They’re also a celebrated traditional food - there’s even a caterpillar festival! – throughout western, central and southern Africa.
A replicable caterpillar breeding protocol could empower rural smallholders throughout Africa, by providing a year-round source of nutrition and income.
Who are ’we’?
Our core team members are: Athanase Badolo, University of Ouagadougou; Darja Dobermann, Rothamsted Research Institute; Charlotte Payne, University of Cambridge. You can see our full profiles on our crowdfunding page.
Why do we need to crowdfund?
The Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition have given us 8000EUR towards this project to use during 2017. We estimate that our total costs this year will amount to 10,000EUR, which is why we’re trying to raise the last 20% through crowdfunding.
Where does the money go to?
The money will cover the costs of: Sampling and analysing the composition and sensory characteristics of shea leaves, the caterpillars’ natural food source; purchasing and processing ingredients for the trial feeds; collecting pupae and eggs in the field and transporting them to the laboratory; purchasing equipment for keeping the caterpillars; employing technicians in the laboratory and the field to run breeding trials.
Who will benefit from this research?
We will publish all our results open access, and we will ensure that our protocols are easy to replicate, so that anyone interested in breeding edible caterpillars will be able to benefit from the knowledge that we generate.
The technicians we employ will be Burkinabe students at the University of Ouagadougou, and women with rural smallholdings in southwestern Burkina Faso; we hope that the employment and the training we provide will be of benefit to them and may potentially lead to a longer-term source of income.
Ultimately, if we are successful in developing a full breeding protocol for the caterpillars, we anticipate that thousands of rural smallholder farmers in West Africa will benefit from this project.
To give you an idea of who they are, here are a few of the women smallholders we work with in Burkina Faso who we hope will benefit:
This is Mme Ouattara. She lives in a household of 18 people, and in 2016 they made more money from selling shea caterpillars than from selling shea nuts.
This is Antoinette. She moved to the area, and didn’t grow up eating caterpillars. But when they’re in season, she goes out at 3am every morning with the other women in the village and collects them to sell. She’s also a musician and a shaman.
This is Annette. This isn’t her bike; it’s her father’s. She’s 30 and has her own family now. Annette was born deaf and dumb and she’s one of the strongest women in the village. And she’d love to be able to afford a bike – maybe caterpillar breeding will help with that!