Upscaling edible insect-based porridge to improve health and nutritional status of PrimarySchool children in Zimbabwean low socio-economic communities

Lead Research Organisation: University of Abertay Dundee
Department Name: Sch of Science Engineering and Tech


Food and nutrition insecurities and malnutrition in the developing countries call for the identification of sustainable sources of food. The necessity for countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) to be self-sustaining in the fight against malnutrition is of crucial importance to maintain their autonomy. To counteract the devastation of malnutrition, whilst ensuring food security for the SSA region, researchers nowadays suggest pathways such as the Indigenous Knowledge Systems (IKS) for sustenance. IKS in food processing practices form a bedrock of a community's composite and collective wisdom, which is passed through generations.
Maize (Zea mays) is the staple food of Zimbabwe and is used in the production of several traditional foods for the whole household and for weaning children (1). Unfortunately, maize is low in protein, essential minerals (such as calcium, potassium, iron and zinc), essential amino acids (lysine and tryptophan) and essential fatty acids (2,3). Maize fortification with inexpensive sources of proteins is suggested strategy to help alleviate the ever-increasing problems of malnutrition in developing countries (4). Additionally, the current maize-based diet could also contribute to the onset of cardiometabolic traits (CTs) such as obesity, hypertension and diabetes (5).
Edible insect's nutritional composition has been studied and it is concluded that are a valuable source of nutrients including essential amino acids, mineral content and essential fatty acids. The benefits of insect powders against malnutrition have been practised in some regions of the country. Despite the intervention showing observable nutrition changes in children, this claim has not been scientifically proven yet.
However, the mechanistic link between insect consumption and health is missing. Knowledge of these aspects could promote a broader utilisation of insects in SSA countries. The proposed project aims to contribute to enhance the nutritional status of school-aged children (SAC) (7-11 years) in low socio-economic communities in Zimbabwe by developing new insect-based porridge through modification and upscaling of existing local recipes. To ensure sustainability and availability of the edible insects for processing into the porridge, the project seeks to strengthen the local insect value chains through upscaling some of the traditional rearing techniques being practised by existing mopane worm farmers in Zimbabwe. Despite malnutrition, childhood overweight and obesity is a serious public health problem worldwide (and in the communities of interest) in the 21st century. For the current study, besides focus on linear growth we will also incorporate social behaviour change communication approach to promote healthy eating and learners active lifestyles. We will test the effects of the insect-based food on cognitive function (school performance) and weight status and CTs of SAC based on a single-blinded RCT.
This project builds on wealth of existing indigenous knowledge systems, experience of women insect experts that traditionally engage in insect rearing, and includes their active participation in research design, recipe experimentation and product innovation. The improving and upscaling of the traditional mopane worms rearing technologies will satisfy emerging demand while ensuring sustainability by reducing over-reliance on wild collections. Improved local recipes and modified insect-based products will enhance consumer acceptance towards insect consumption leading to increased customer demand, which would improve livelihoods and nutritional status in low socio-economic communities.
1.MUDIMU, G. 2002. Zimbabwe food security issues paper. 2.MBATA et al 2009. African Journal of Food Science 3, 107-112. 3. NUSS & TANUMIHARDJO. 2010. Comprehensive Rev. in Food Science and FoodSafety, 9. 4. TONTISIRIN et al. 2002. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society 61, 243-250. 5. ORDOVAS & CORELLA 2004. Annu. Rev. Genomics Hum. Genet., 5, 71-118

Planned Impact

If awarded, this content will be made publicly available and applicants are responsible for ensuring that the content is suitable for publication. The approach of food fortification using edible insects adopted in this project has been tested successfully in other countries but not in Zimbabwe
It is envisaged that the project will have the following impacts:
The use of locally grown food product as small and local insects encourage the utilisation of existing local resources and the development of sustainable bespoke foods relevant to the Zimbabwean population, thus avoiding the importation of foreign foodstuffs. It is anticipated that this will have a beneficial effect on the welfare of the most vulnerable populations and local economies. The food industry will benefit through the development of innovative functional food products utilising local crops, fruits, oils and biomasses that currently attract limited attention; The end consumers will benefit by experiencing the benefits of a nutritionally balanced diet based on familiar crops and traditional popular foods. Entomologists and researchers will benefit by having access to shared data generated to this project and during the dissemination activities. The Government of Zimbabwe through FNC will also benefit from the evidence and findings from this project - including the various illustrations to be produced - which will be used for policy changes and to promote the use of locally available resources tackle the double burden of malnutrition problem. Insect based foods are used by many rural communities in Zimbabwean with a positive observation of improved nutrition outcomes, e.g. reduced incidences of diseases and micronutrient deficiency. However, these observations are not science-based as no studies have been done to this extent. Thus, FNC (policy maker) is involved in every work package to advocate for the recognition of insect-based foods as an important food that can contribute to nutrition security in Zimbabwe. It is anticipated that this will generate a snowballing effect for more research surrounding the insects farming their exploitation for their functional properties and health benefits.


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