A SMALL insect nicknamed the “bacon bug” is being farmed in parts of Madagascar to provide vital nutrients for people facing famine.
The high-protein sakondry bug, which is a hopping insect with a long proboscis, gained its nickname because of its smoky, bacon-like taste. It naturally colonises native bean species, and a project run by a UK-based charity is now helping communities that are suffering the highest levels of malnutrition to develop harvestable insect colonies to provide vital nutrients.
Regions of Madagascar are experiencing what the United Nations has described as the world’s first famine caused by climate change.
Last year, the country experienced its worst drought for 40 years. Already this year, the island has been struck by three tropical cyclones and a tropical storm. About one million people are believed to be facing famine, many of them children under five.
The charity SEED is helping with emergency relief, but also hopes to help communities to build climate resilience through projects such as this one.
The managing director of SEED, Mark Jacobs, said that its project could provide a local, resilient source of food for some communities. The bug was already eaten by many people when they could find it, but it has not been farmed before.
Communities are now being trained to establish harvestable insect colonies.
Existing work demonstrates that sakondry can be cheaply cultivated in remote areas with limited infrastructure, providing high levels of nutrients often lacking in Malagasy diets, the charity says.
SEED MADAGASCARCooked sakondry bacon bugs in a bowl
The project also hopes to relieve pressure on the biodiversity of the island, which is under threat from deforestation, by increasing reliance on natural resources.
Mr Jacobs said: “Any resilience programme can’t just rely on one source of food or income, and the bacon-bug project is only one part of what we’re doing. SEED’s sustainable livelihoods programmes enable people in food-insecure communities to increase both their food and financial resilience, and we’re also helping with rural bee-keeping, a reed-weaving co-operative, sustainable management of lobster fishing, and an embroidery co-operative, Stitch Sainte Luce.
“We hope this combination of projects will help with recovery, and build a resilient future for those on the island.”
After the planting of the host plant’s seeds, which are also an edible bean species, sakondry colonies take about six or eight weeks to arrive, and can be harvested about one month later.
To find out more about SEED, or to donate, visit madagascar.co.uk