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IFAD Annual Report and Highlights 2016 – cheat sheet

Posted by Hazel Bedford Wednesday, June 28, 2017 0 comments

By Hazel Bedford

IFAD’s Annual Report and Highlights for 2016 have just been published. People from across the organization have contributed and the report contains a wealth of information on the year’s work and results – stories, facts, figures and analysis.

This short blogpost is a cheat sheet, giving you all the big numbers from the main report, plus some tasters from the stories.

All the numbers are correct as at 31 December 2016. Here’s a snapshot of the ongoing portfolio and new approvals during the year.

  • 211 ongoing programmes and projects funded by IFAD in partnership with 97 governments. 
  • IFAD’s investment in the ongoing portfolio was worth US$6.0 billion. 
  • Domestic contributions and external cofinancing for the ongoing portfolio amounted to US$7.3 billion
  • The total ongoing Programme of Work amounted to US$13.4 billion. 
  • 24 new programmes and projects were approved in 2016 funded by loans, DSF grants and ASAP grants worth US$823.2 million 
  • 53 new grants were approved in 2016 worth US$56.9 million
The AR map in the front cover of the main report shows ongoing projects by region and by country. It also shows ICOs – both operational (40) and planned (4) − and proposed subregional hubs (8).

At the time of publication of AR2016 (June 2017), total IFAD loan and grants approved since 1978 were worth US$18.5 billion and the programmes and projects we support had reached about 464 million people.

Here are the portfolio management highlight numbers by region (from the Programme of work chapter):

West and Central Africa
  • 41 ongoing projects in 23 countries 
  • US$1,244.4 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio 
  • New investments of US$76.5 million approved in 2016 for a new project in Mauritania, and additional financing for ongoing projects in Cabo Verde, Niger and Sao Tome and Principe 
  • 1 new results-based country strategic opportunities programme (RB-COSOP) for Nigeria 
East and Southern Africa
  • 44 ongoing projects in 17 countries 
  • US$1,471.0 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio 
  • New investments of US$232.9 million in 5 new programmes and projects in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Zambia and Zimbabwe, and additional financing for 1 ongoing project in Madagascar 
  • 4 new RB-COSOPs for Burundi, Ethiopia, Malawi and Tanzania 
Asia and the Pacific
  • 61 ongoing projects in 21 countries 
  • US$2,052.5 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio 
  • New investments of US$184.2 million in 5 new programmes and projects in Cambodia, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic (2 projects) and Viet Nam, and additional financing for ongoing projects in Mongolia and the Philippines 
  • 3 new RB-COSOPs in China, Indonesia and Pakistan 
Latin America and the Caribbean
  • 31 ongoing projects in 18 countries 
  • US$511.2 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio 
  • New investments of US$142.1 million in 8 new programmes and projects in Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guyana, Nicaragua and Peru 
  • 3 new RB-COSOPs for Argentina, Brazil and Colombia 
Near East, North Africa and Europe
  • 34 ongoing projects in 18 countries 
  • US$754.2 million invested by IFAD in the region’s ongoing portfolio 
  • New investments of US$139.1 million in 5 new programmes and projects in Djibouti, Kyrgyzstan, Morocco, Republic of Moldova and Tunisia, and additional financing for an ongoing project in Sudan 
  • 1 new RB-COSOP for Turkey 
Not just numbers
The Annual Report is more than just numbers. Read the stories from the field and hear from some of the rural women and men that IFAD invests in. In Nigeria, young farmer Peter Okonkwo has doubled his yields as a result of the Value Chain Development Programme. In Madagascar, IFAD has enabled rural residents to gain legal rights to their land. A TV soap opera in Laos – My Happy Family – has spread the word about good nutrition for children and adults. In a remote and arid region of Brazil, a cooperative run by women is making money processing wild and native fruits. In the West Bank, a young couple who cultivate strawberries have used a loan to increase greenhouse planting space, enabling them to sell early for the highest prices.

The Major Initiatives chapter summarizes IFAD’s engagement during the year in policy processes and dialogue on global and regional issues, including the SDGs, climate change, nutrition and more. The chapter also covers our work on impact assessment, knowledge management and significant issues such as SSTC, PARM, country-level policy engagement and indigenous peoples.

If you're interested in the details of new approvals, all newly approved programmes, projects and large grants are summarized in the Summary of 2016 programmes, projects and grants chapter. This chapter and three others (Organization, Membership and Representation; Publications in 2016; Financial Statements) are available on the USB memory stick included in the back cover of the print report.

I’d like to close with a BIG THANK YOU to the many people who have contributed to AR2016: the focal points who pull together the information and give guidance during the writing phase, those who write their own sections, the key people who give us the numbers and the directors who give support and clearance. Then from the production phase, the production teams in the four languages, the production coordinator, the editor, the photo editor, the sub-editor, the translators, the in-house and external designers, the editorial assistant and the proofreaders. And last but not least, the COM colleagues who helped with the launch. Everyone has contributed a huge amount and I hope you will all be happy with the end result. Feel free to send suggestions for next year – work starts in September.

As usual, we’re launching the Annual Report and Highlights on social media. Take a look at our Facebook page, Instagram and join the conversation on Twitter. Use the hashtag #IFADar and tweet your favourite quotes, facts and figures to your followers.

Implications on rural household nutrition

By Marian Amaka Odenigbo and Emelyne Akezamutima 
Peeling and Washing Cassava on Josma Agro Ind. Ltd. Mampong, Ghana. ©IFAD/Nana Kofi Acquah
The path to sustainable food and nutrition security connects development workers and researchers to the poor rural households. This was stressed by Périn Saint Ange, Associate Vice President at IFAD during the first session of the Think Nutrition series that took place on 2 June 2017 at IFAD headquarters in Rome. This event showcased the research findings from an IFAD grant project; "Improving quality, nutrition and health impacts of inclusion of cassava flour in bread formulation in West Africa, Nigeria & Ghana".

Professor Michael Ngadi, the guest speaker of this first session of the Think Nutrition seminars focused his presentation on High Quality Cassava Flour (HQCF) and the implication of Linamarin on rural household nutrition. Cassava is one of the major staple food crops in the world, particularly in West Africa. It is a starchy food rich in calories, low in fats and protein, and free from gluten. In light of climate issues, cassava is a hardy crop and grows well in poor soils and low rainfall areas. The fact that it is a perennial plant makes it easy to harvest the crop when required and treat it as a food reserve during droughts and famines serving both as a cash and a subsistence crop.

According to Ngadi, cassava has the potential to contribute to efforts to end poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa where there is large production of it. He further narrated the economic move on the use of cassava in the form of HQCF as an increasingly important component of the cassava value chain. The cassava industry has increased rural industrial development in Nigeria, generating new jobs and creating wealth while in Ghana the cassava value chain represents a great part of the agricultural GDP.

In his presentation, Ngadi underscored the concern on cyanide content in HQCF that needs urgent attention. Cassava contains cyanogenic glycosides such as Linamarin from which hydrogen cyanide may be released by hydrolysis. In April 2014, an IFAD funded project conducted a national survey in Nigeria and Ghana to assess opportunities and challenges associated with HQCF production. The study revealed alarming levels of cyanide which is associated with Linamarin during processing of cassava into HQCF- the fate of Linamarin during the processing stage is closely linked to the safety and nutritional value of the cassava product for consumers.

Cassava tuber                                            
HQCF is an emerging cassava flour produced using a non-traditional processing technique. It is a non-fermented, white, smooth and odorless cassava flour processed from freshly harvested roots. Detoxification is primarily achieved through the grating, dewatering, and drying process omitting fermentation completely.

On the other hand, traditional processing entails prolonged soaking and fermentation of the cassava root in water. When fermentation is done by prolonged soaking, the liberated cyanide will dissolve in the water and evaporate when the fermented cassava is dried. But fermented flour is undesirable because of its color and characteristic odor.

As the demand for HQCF is increasing every day, there is a need to ensure adequate processing techniques that would produce a safe and high quality flour. Cyanide exposure is associated with development of goiter and tropical ataxic neuropathy while severe cyanide poisoning is associated with outbreaks of an irreversible paralytic disorder called Konzo; in some cases the poisoning can lead to death.

Cyanide intoxication is a very serious nutritional problem that should engage our attention especially in the African region as we may have high cyanide consumption combined with low consumption of protein and poverty hindering diet diversity and intake of high quality foods.
High quality cassava flour (HQCF)   
During the workshop, it was interesting to observe the active engagement of colleagues from the IFAD Programme Management Department, regarding the risk of exposure to high cyanide content in cassava food products.

The participants were challenged with this reflection: “The path to sustainable food security begins by exploring the challenges of anchoring adequate nutrition, and then developing solutions”.

The proposed recommendations for developing solution and further research to improve nutrition outcomes in cassava value chain are:
  • Regular training of processors, bakers and farmers on appropriate methods for producing high quality and safe HQCF. 
  • Selection of a variety of cassava containing low levels of Linamarin and promote its cultivation. 
  • Updating cassava flour manufacturers on research findings in order to upgrade the design of machineries used in HQCF processing. 

By Jana Dietershagen, Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Coconut-based products of the Women in Business Development Inc (WIBDI) at the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum. Photo source: CTA

Non-communicable diseases
(NCDs) are among the leading causes of premature death in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific region. High rates of obesity are linked to diabetes and hypertension. At the same time, vitamin and mineral deficiencies are affecting the health of children and women. The shift from a traditional diet of fresh fish, fruits and vegetables towards the consumption of imported highly processed foods such as sweetened carbonated beverages, tinned fish and fried snacks, though more convenient and lower priced, threaten food and nutrition security (FNS). Furthermore, a decline in crop production, climate change, overfishing, volatility in international commodity prices and limitations in the policy and institutional environment increase the cost of local foods and pose additional pressure on health, incomes and natural resources. While over 20% of the Pacific Islanders already live in hardship, this situation can worsen as the population is expected to double by 2050.

Pacific islanders are taking matters into their own hands, as shown in recent stories featured by The Guardian and the New York Times . Father Luc Dini - a retired Anglican priest, community leader and head of the local tourism council in the northernmost province of Torba in Vanuatu - has announced that together with other leaders, he aims to preserve the local food production and consumption patterns, grow organic food, and permanently ban the import of junk food by 2020. According to this plan, Torba would become the first province in Vanuatu with the capacity to produce nutritious wholesome food, which traditionally is organic “by default” and increases access to healthier options and agri-business opportunities. Torban tourism bungalows are already solely supplied with locally grown organic products.

Like Father Luc Dini, many other Pacific Islanders want to take advantage of the full potential of the knowledge and commitment of their communities to promote and increase local food production in a sustainable manner to ‘grow healthy’.

The most important challenge is: How can successful programs that enhance the production and consumption of more diversified, healthy and nutritious local foods be promoted and scaled up in the Pacific Islands to benefit more farmers, grow agri-businesses and sustain communities?

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Grant entitled “Leveraging the development of local food crops and fisheries value chains for improved nutrition and sustainable food systems in the Pacific Islands of Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu”, which is co-funded by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and implemented in partnership with the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organization (PIPSO) aims at answering this question. The main goal is to strengthen the capacity of the Pacific Island governments, farmer and private sector organizations, and sub-regional institutions to develop strategies and programs, as well as mobilize financing, that can increase poor rural people’s access to nutritious and healthy food. The joint program, was launched during the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum in Samoa in August 2016 and is adopting a three pronged approach (AAA) to: Analyze (build the evidence base), Act (build capacity for change) and Advocate (lobby for policy change and development impact) for value chain and agribusiness development. 
2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum. Photo source: CTA

At the launch, Ron Hartman, IFAD Country Director with responsibility for the Pacific Islands indicated that “this regional grant aims to complement IFAD investments in the Pacific by mainstreaming nutritionally, culturally and environmentally sensitive value chains in Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, and Vanuatu. It will also work to improve the policy, regulatory and business environment for value chain development and engagement of the private sector”. CTA Director Michael Hailu added that "the active engagement of the private sector is critical for the transformation of the agrifood sector in the Pacific to address major challenges of food security, nutrition and climate change resilience." PIPSO’s CEO Mereia Volavola acknowledged that "linking agriculture to tourism-related markets is key for agribusiness development in the Pacific region."

In addition, the Governments of Samoa and Vanuatu - together with CTA, PIPSO and IFAD, and with the support from the Pacific Islands Farmers Organisation Network (PIFON) and the Southern Pacific Community (SPC) – also conducted national policy setting workshops in 2016 to improve the linkages between sustainable agriculture, trade, tourism and health. As a stepping stone, the Government of Vanuatu organised its first Agritourism Festival in Port Vila, in November, and heralded it as an innovative approach to promoting healthy local foods while boosting the local economies. However, Honorable Matai Seremaiah - the Vanuatu Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biosecurity (MALFFB) - noted that the linkage between agriculture and tourism has not yet been sufficiently explored in Vanuatu and that such festivals will help in getting locally grown food from farm to fork. The complementary Chefs4Development initiative aims to promote stronger linkages between value chain actors in the culinary and agriculture sectors, with a view to enhancing the inclusion of locally sourced food and agrifood products in menus served in food establishments across the Caribbean, South Pacific and the Indian Ocean.

In April 2017, the launch of the cookbook “Kana Vinaka” by Chef Colin Chung and Greg Cornwall took place in Suva, Fiji. The book showcases the use of Pacific local ingredients to prepare healthy meals. It complements the Project’s ambitions of promoting Pacific local crops and fisheries value chains.

IFAD, CTA and PIPSO are continuing to join forces to support Pacific Islanders to realize their ambitions to live a healthy life and increase their incomes by building local capacity to take advantage of sustainable food production and processing, effective policies and regulations and adequate financing mechanisms.

Empowering Rural Women in Western Rajasthan, India

by Vincent Darlong, IFAD India Country Office, New Delhi
Traditional goat shed. 

IFAD-funded MPOWER (Mitigating Poverty in Western Rajasthan) project has successfully promoted small ruminants (Sirohi goats) to trigger social and economic empowerment of women farmers. Besides organising the women into Self Help Groups (over 5,000 SHGs with nearly 49,000 memberships) for social and financial inclusion, the goat rearing households (women are the primary stakeholders in goat rearing in rural Western Rajasthan) have been brought under the “Goat Clusters” to provide inclusive technical, extension and market support services through community resource persons (CRPs) called Pashu Sakhi (“friends of livestock”, trained by the Livestock Department, Govt of Rajasthan). MPOWER established 70 goat clusters having over 12,000 memberships, serviced by 527 Pashu Sakhis (all women who are also goat farmers) and constructed goat sheds (over 8,500 units) for the poorest households as prioritized by the cluster members.

An improved model of goat shed provided by MPOWER. 

Additionally, the project facilitated in organizing periodic “Pashu Mela” or Bakri Mela (Goat Fairs) to enable goat farmers to sell to the highest paying buyers. Overall outcomes had been significant reduction in mortality rate (35-40% at baseline to 2-5% in 2016), increase in herd sizes per household (average of 7-11 at baseline to 22-26 animals[1] during 2016 assessment), and increased in income (annual average of INR 3,500-5,000 at baseline to INR 15,000-20,000 per households now), along with better pricing following introduction of weighing machine.
Another model of improved goat shed by MPOWER 
The Sirohi goats are dual-purpose animals, being reared for both milk and meat. These animals are popular for their weight gain and lactation even under poor quality rearing conditions. The animals are resistant to major diseases and are easily adaptable to different climatic conditions. Lactation last for up to 90 days and the average milk yield is 0.75–0.90 kg/day per goat. Today, the women farmers in this part of the state proudly say that thanks to MPOWER project, the goats are their “Natural Refrigerators” as they can milk and use the milk anytime of the day and in any season (no need to have any refrigerator). They also consider the goats as their “Living ATMs”[2] as anytime they are in need of money (besides borrowing from revolving funds of SHGs), they can sell their goats and meet their requirements. It is worth mentioning that agricultural interventions are judiciously integrated with livestock, mainly with crops that will provide both grains and biomass for livestock fodder. This successful intervention has prompted the government to scale-up in new areas and also developing a new project concept note for scaling-up to larger areas.

[1] Average of 21-27 goat per household is considered to be manageable herd size for a typical household having marginal integrated agriculture-small ruminants as per experiences of the communities.

[2] As described by the women from Kerlipura Village under Baytu Block in Barmer distrct in Rajasthan during recent Grant Review Workshop field visit mission to MPOWER led by Mr Malu Ndavi, IFAD, Rome on 16 June 2017. Other mission members were Mariam Awad, Celik Duygu, Claudia Buttafuoco and Subhas Marcus, all from IFAD, Rome; and Dr Pooran Gaur, ICRISAT, Hyderabad and Vincent Darlong, CPO, IFAD India Country Office, New Delhi.

by Marian Amaka Odenigbo & Wanessa Marques Silva

Participants responding to the nutrition related questions during the round of quiz.
On 23 May 2017, the IFAD's Nutrition Team organized a breakout session on mainstreaming nutrition in IFAD financed projects. This dedicated session on nutrition took place during the IFAD’s East and Southern Africa (ESA) Regional Implementation Workshop (RIW) in Kampala, Uganda. The RIW presented a great opportunity to reach out and engage with project teams, country office colleagues and other stakeholders on the conversations on nutrition mainstreaming in IFAD operations. The nutrition session was jointly planned with the Rome based Agencies (RBAs) colleagues, and built on several consultative discussions to accelerate nutrition awareness in operations at country level.

Raising awareness on nutrition

In setting the scene on nutrition awareness and sensitization, participants had a round of virtual quiz to stimulate the discussion on nutrition mainstreaming. Analysis of the quiz exercise showed that most of the participants are aware of the implications of malnutrition to the wellbeing of people and national economy. Interestingly, this exercise exposed that the relation between gender and nutrition is still blurry to many respondents. This is a subject that should be explored further especially during workshops and trainings on nutrition-sensitive agriculture.

Experiences on nutrition mainstreaming

Good practices on nutrition mainstreaming within IFAD-funded operations were presented. Nutrition focal points from IFAD funded projects in Burundi (Aloïs Hakizimana), Malawi (Manuel Mang'anya), Mozambique (Jeronimo Francisco) and Zambia (Martin Lyiwalii) shared their respective country experiences, which consisted of various innovative nutrition activities and different approaches for mainstreaming nutrition. The varied approaches include:
  • Access to microcredit through women groups; 
  • Adoption of local and traditional food to tackle malnutrition; 
  • Promotion of diversified food production and consumption; 
  • Training local promoters on nutrition, food preparation demonstration with active participation of the beneficiaries; 
  • Radio messages, songs and farmers hotline on good nutrition and improved family diet along with income generation of small producers. 
Taking advantage of the presence of significant members of the IFAD-funded projects teams during this session, the key messages of the ESA study: “Mapping of Nutrition-Sensitive Interventions in East and Southern Africa" was disseminated to participants. This study provided insights on the variety of nutrition-sensitive actions being implemented in ESA's portfolio and identified gaps and opportunities for effective nutrition mainstreaming.

Dissemination of FAO Toolkits on nutrition-sensitive agriculture

This session provided the space to learn and disseminate the available resources for agriculture-nutrition projects. Militezegga Mustapha, a colleague from FAO made a presentation that illustrated the need for combined efforts of agriculture, social protection, nutrition education and adequate care practices. She stressed that nutrition is linked to the entire food system including: 1) food production, 2) food handling, storage, 3) food trade and marketing and 4) consumer demand, food preparation and preferences. FAO Toolkit and eLearning modules for nutrition-sensitive programming were discussed and the hard copies of resource materials were distributed to participants. 

RBAs collaboration for nutrition at country level

Tantely Randrianasolo, M&E Manager, and Maria Fernanda Arraes De Souza, Programme Coordinator, from Madagascar and Mozambique, respectively, shared their experiences of successful RBAs collaboration on integrating nutrition in agriculture and rural development investments. Tantely narrated how the joint efforts in AINA programme in Madagascar implemented in collaboration with FAO, WFP and IFAD have addressed various elements of the integrated pathway to nutrition (awareness raising, training, tools, storage facilities, scaling up of experiences). The collaboration has brought significant improvements in dietary intake as well as physical infrastructure and social issues such as school attendance.

On the other hand, Arraes De Souza shared the Mozambique experiences where additional nutrition components were incorporated to the already ongoing projects. The RBAs collaboration in Mozambique is using different entry points i.e. nutrition awareness with leaders, training with women groups in complementing each other’s interventions for optimization of nutrition outcomes.

Furthermore, this forum provided the opportunity to reach out to the project team on the other RBAs collaboration initiatives on nutrition, such as the Nutrition-Sensitive Value Chains (NSVC) and the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) Resource Frameworks.

Indeed, this dedicated breakout session was well appreciated by participants and was followed up by several group and bilateral conversations on specific needs and way forward to accelerate nutrition mainstreaming at project and country levels. This type of outreach is essential to increase awareness and engage with project teams on nutrition in IFAD operations.

By Tiffany Minjauw

©Tiffany Minjauw 

The International Fund for Agricultural Development's (IFAD) East and Southern Africa Division (ESA) , the IFAD funded Smallholder Market-led Project (SMLP), and the Microfinance Unit (MFU) in Swaziland jointly organised and facilitated a sub-regional monitoring and evaluation (M&E) workshop for ongoing IFAD funded projects in Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, and Swaziland.

The workshop brought together staff (mainly M&E officers and Knowledge Management officers) from the Project Implementation Units. The objective of this workshop was to strengthen the planning, monitoring, evaluation and knowledge management functions of IFAD operations in the five countries by strengthening the technical understanding of the key concepts and by sharing experiences (good practices and challenges).

Held in Manzini from the 17-19 May 2017, the workshop provided theoretical and conceptual guidance, emphasizing real country level good practices. Clarifications were provided on the different monitoring and assessment mechanisms in place for different sources of funding, namely the Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
©Tiffany Minjauw 

The interactive nature of the workshop generated rich discussions and insights into methods to overcome challenges and achieve effective monitoring and evaluation.

By the end of the workshop, the 30 participants had a better understanding of the use of the Log Frame, of the measurement of outputs and impacts, and of the principles of the Results and Impact Management System (RIMS) and how to link it to the project M&E system.

"This is the first time that we have had specific training on M&E and K&M. Consultants provide support during implementation missions but it is never as in-depth as what we experienced here" - Rural Livelihoods and Economic Enhancement Programme (RLEEP) in Malawi.

"We like that IFAD, unlike many international organisations, is paying great attention to M&E. We hope that more workshops like this one will be organised periodically in the future" - Smallholder Agriculture Development Project (SADP) in Lesotho.

Connecting with Nature: Should we eat insects?

Posted by Francesca Aloisio Monday, June 5, 2017 0 comments

By Christopher Neglia

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is Connecting with Nature. In this context, entomophagy, or the practice of eating insects, is a topic that bears consideration, owing to its prospects for food and nutrition security.

Entomophagy is well documented in history, and at one time it was extremely widespread. The first reference to entomophagy in Europe was in Greece, when eating cicadas was considered a delicacy. Aristotle wrote in his Historia Animalium “The larva of the cicada on attaining full size in the ground becomes a nymph; then it tastes best, before the husk is broken.”

For centuries, people have consumed insects. From beetles, to caterpillars, locusts, grasshoppers, termites and dragonflies. Which raises the question: why is the notion of eating insects so taboo in Westernized societies? People in most Western countries have formed a moral judgement against eating insects, which it can be said is perceived with disgust. But it is important to realise that the origins of disgust are rooted in culture. Culture, under the influence of environment, history, community structure and politico-economic systems, define the rules on what is edible and what is not (Mela, 1999).

A worldwide inventory conducted by Wagenheim University found there are about 1,900 edible insect species, and insects form a large part of everyday diets for more than two billion people around the world. For example, red maguey worms, are a highly nutritious variety of caterpillar considered a delicacy by Mexican farmers. They are generally eaten deep fried or braised, seasoned with spicy sauce and served in a tortilla (Ramos Elorduey et al., 2007). In Cambodia, a species of tarantula, Haplopelma albostriatum, is typically served fried and sold in street stalls (Yen, Hanboonsong and van Huis, 2013). This goes to show that in most countries, insect consumption is a matter of choice, not necessity, and insects are a part of local culture.

From a nutritional perspective, insects represent a huge untapped source of protein, energy rich fat, fiber and micronutrients like vitamins and minerals. Edible insects are rich sources of iron and their inclusion in daily diets could improve iron status and help prevent anaemia in developing countries. WHO has flagged iron deficiency as the world’s most common and widespread nutritional disorder (Anaemia is a preventable deficiency but contributes to 20 percent of all maternal deaths).

Gathering and harvesting insects can offer unique employment and income-earning opportunities in developing countries, particularly for the rural poor. In many cases, insect cultivation can serve as a livelihood diversification strategy. For example, silkworms and bees can be harvested for food and fiber. In Thailand, middlemen buy insects from farmers to sell as food to wholesale buyers, who then distribute the products to street vendors and retailers.

When you add up all the benefits, it becomes mystifying why insects don’t make up an integral part of our diets. Perhaps it is time to reconsider our culinary customs and try to reconnect with this abundant, yet neglected, food source.