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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Title Questionnaire for data collection on harvesting, processing practises and consumption of mopane worms in Zimbabwe. 
Description A research questionnaire was developed to collect data on indigenous knowledge of insects and processing of insect-based porridges 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2020 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The research tool can be adapted and used in other researches related to insect utilisation and consumption. after the survey, the questionnaire will be archived for easy access by other researchers. More so, the questionnaire shall be part of the scientific publication that shall be developed from the data collected. The publication will be in open access journal to increase access by other researchers. 
Description ZIMVAC is a technical committee comprised of representatives from Government, Development Partners, UN, NGOs, Technical Agencies and the Academia. This committee is coordinated by Food and Nutrition Council. The role of ZIMVAC is to oversee periodic national surveys in Zimbabwe that assess food insecurity. 
Organisation Government of Zimbabwe
Department Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC)
Country Zimbabwe 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We were able to compose and insert questions into the national survey on insect consumption that enabled us to have an overview and appreciation of the distribution and consumption of wild harvested edible insects (inclusive of mopane worms) in Zimbabwe. This was the first of its kind collection on this type of data in Zimbabwe. Further contributions included training of teams, supervision of data collection, analysis and reporting. The data specific to our objective is being incorporated into a manuscript which is under development.
Collaborator Contribution The Food and Nutrition Council (FNC) assisted us with access to communities through their Food and Nutrition security Committees. Throughout our project we will gain access to communities through those already established by government (through FNC) structures. More so, FNC has given us full access to their data base, such that we are now able to extract any data that might be useful to our project regarding nutrition security in Zimbabwe. In addition, we partnered with the Forestry Commission of Zimbabwe. Their District Forester in Matabeleland Province is now our contact person. The District Forester, Mr Fortunes Matutu, is now our liaison person with the communities that harvest mopane worms and will be assisting with alerting the project on availability of mopane worms and also organising with communities during harvesting times to enable us collect samples.
Impact Manuscript, which is under development, entitled Does Consumption of Non-Timber Forest Food Products (edible insects, indigenous vegetables and indigenous fruits) Contribute to Food and Nutrition security in rural Zimbabwe
Start Year 2020
Description Stakeholder Sensitisation Workshops in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Manicaland Provinces 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact The aim of the stakeholder sensitization workshops was to inform the key stakeholders about our project. More so, the purpose was for all stakeholders to have an understanding and appreciate the objectives of our project. Furthermore, the stakeholder workshops were aimed at seeking guidance, feedback and also opinions of all the stakeholders.
In each province, an average of 10 people, representing the key stakeholders in the province attended. In total, 30 people attended the stakeholder sensitisation workshops.
The audience included key government stakeholders, local NGOs, and Civil society. For example, the Provincial and District leadership attended the workshops.
All the multisectoral stakeholder in each of the three provinces visited were engaged with. The Food and Nutrition Security Committees in each of the three provinces were also engaged.
Through the stakeholder sensitisation workshops, we managed to get the approval of our project by other key stakeholders already working in the communities we intend to implement our project. More so, we managed to get positive and useful feedback regarding how we can implement our project in the targeted communities.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020