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    Eating termites is healthy and there are people who farm them for ready markets

    While other farmers in Gisambai village in Vihiga County struggle to raise various crops on their farms, Samson Otengo,  is busy building ant hills, a rare kind of farming that he says he has productively practiced ford the past three decades, with an available market market in Mbale Town.  

    Speaking to Farmbiz Africa, Otengo said that he learned the trade  from his uncle as a young child, but only opted to pursue termite-farming after being retrenched by the Kenya Railways Cooperation in the early 1980s.

    Otengo is one of a few farmers in the country who are exploring the consumption of insects- entomophagy- as one way to address the food and nutritional security challenges the country is currently grappling with..

    Last year, agricultural stakeholders and researchers from more than 45 countries across the world converged in Netherlands in a conference convened by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) to discuss ways of making insects a viable source of food for human beings.
    The aim of the gathering was to seek ways to increase the production of edible insects insects and influence consumer attitude into accepting the delicacy.

    Dr. Sunday Ekesi, Head of Edible Insects programme at ICIPE, insects are “an important source of protein, which offer a sustainable, ecologically-friendly way to feed a growing population and boost incomes by diversifying farming activities”.

    Dr. Ekesi says that while at least 2billion people around the world consume more than 1000 different insect species many are yet to realize the nutritional value in the bugs, and dismiss those who consume as conservative and poor.
    ICIPE, according to Ekesi has a comprehensive list of edible insect, some of which can be commercially cultivated.

    ‘’ICIPE already produces a variety of insects, including crickets, grasshoppers, black soldier flies and silkworms, and has the facilities to measure the nutritional content of insects and to analyse food safety-related issues. We have also developed a comprehensive framework to guide our R4D activities,’’ said Dr. Ekesi.

    But those who think they can go into this kind of farming and come out as millionaires the following day are in for disappointment.

    Dr. Ekesi says that termite farming requires a lot of patience “because an ant hill can take up to two years to grow”. One also needs to study the termites in order to understand the kinds of weather and the type and texture of soils they enjoy.
    Otendo currently runs eight ant hills, from which he says he harvests at least a bucket full of ants twice a week. The harvests are much lower during the rainy season.

     The harvesting process requires him to cover the anthill with blankets at night and then placing some candles above it in order to draw the termites to the trap.  

    Although he cannot explain the science behind it, he says that making noise around the anthill, by beating metal pans and singing, helps confuse the termites, further drawing them into his ‘net’.

    After making his harvest, Otendo dry fries them and takes them to Mbale, where one cup (approx.150g), fetches him Sh12.
    Although he is aware that this is not the business from which he will get his retirement millions from-many people in the area relate termite farming with poverty-but he knows that he has the kind of knowledge he can share with nations to help boost food production around the world.

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