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

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More