News / Asia

FAO: Bugs Take a Bite Out of Hunger

Selling insects as snacks in Cambodia
Selling insects as snacks in Cambodia

Multimedia

Audio
Bob Burns

Most people try to keep insects out of their kitchens. But many of the creepy-crawlers are edible and quite nutritious.  That is, if you can get past the idea of eating something usually considered a pest. In Laos, that is not a problem, since nearly everyone likes to snack on edible insects. Now, the United Nations is encouraging even more bug-eating there to solve the country's high rates of child malnutrition.

Listen to VOA Agriculture Reporter Steve Baragona discuss his insect diet:

Larrisa Brunn of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization admits the anti-hunger fight has entered somewhat unfamiliar territory.

"We've done a nationwide survey here in Laos and it showed that nearly 95 percent of the Lao population eats insects. So this shows how insects are part of the diet here and part of the culture, part of their nutrition," Brunn said. "So it's not like we are introducing something new, on the contrary we are working with the existing food base."

Insects are eaten widely in Cambodia. The UN hopes to fight child malnutrition in Laos with nutrient-packed bugs.
Insects are eaten widely in Cambodia. The UN hopes to fight child malnutrition in Laos with nutrient-packed bugs.

Researchers estimate that worldwide, there are more than 1,700 edible insects. In Laos, grasshoppers and crickets are among the most popular, but locals also eat beetles and grubs and insect larvae. The insects are rich in protein and fat, as well as essential vitamins like iron and calcium.  While some bugs can be eaten straight from the field, it is tastier and safer to prepare them Brunn says.

"Just like any meat, they are normally cooked.  I'm sure there are some you can eat live, but here in Laos traditionally they are cooked. The normal way they will be served is quickly deep fried but I've also tasted very traditional recipes which can be made with fish and other meats with insects added. They can be flavored as well with cheese. So there are many ways insects can be eaten."

Bug eating has been popular for hundreds of years in the region. The FAO is hoping to capitilize on that trend by raising the income of local bug collectors and increasing the yield of bug farmers. That, in turn, could lead more people to rely on the critters for the daily nutrition. Brunn said the FAO is working with the Lao government and insect aficionados to improve their yield and make it sustainable.

"For the past year, we've had a small pilot which where we worked with some farmers in Vientiane, the capital of Laos, trying out insect farming and now in May we had a bigger two year project approved where we will be working with a bigger group of farmers and the main aim being on nutrition, because insects are highly nutritious and part of the culture in Laos. They are tied to the diet. They can provide income opportunity and also diversity in the project."

Insect merchant in Cambodia
Insect merchant in Cambodia

As for people who may be squeamish about eating a fried grasshopper or termite, according to the FAO's Brunn, taste is not necessarily the biggest issue.

"In the West, I know in North America and Europe insects are not part of the diet like they are in Southeast Asia, Africa and Latin America. So for us, myself a European, it can be a repulsive experience once you first try it." Brunn points out, "Somebody just said to me when you eat a cow, you don't put the whole animal on the table. So we have to transform crickets for example to a cricket hamburger. You may actually like the flavor and find them delicious."

Part of the FAO's bug campaign in Laos is to encourage traditional insect eating habits and reassure people that swallowing a silkworm is not something to be embarrassed or ashamed of.  Brunn said the bugs are an important part of culture, and a potentially important contribution to a diverse and healthy diet.

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid