Edible Insects for Improved Food and Nutrition Security at Kakuma Refugee Camp
BACKGROUND: Refugee camps are commonly affected by chronic food insecurity and low levels of persistent malnutrition due to reliance on food aid from the international community. Edible insects, rich in nutrients and commonly eaten in many regions in developing countries, could ameliorate this situation by supplying refugees with a locally produced food rich in key nutrients, such as protein, iron and zinc.
OBJECTIVES: The objectives of this study were to conduct a dietary assessment of refugees at Kakuma refugee camp and the host community in Turkana county, Kenya, and to evaluate the acceptance and palatability of a processed food containing house crickets (Acheta Domesticus). Dietary histories were collected to elucidate the refugees’ past dietary habits, concurrence with current eating habits and history of insect consumption.
METHODS: Food Frequency Questionnaire and 24-Hour Recall were used to assess dietary diversity and daily nutrient intake. A five-point degree of liking scale was used to assess hedonic response to the experimental food, preceded by a dietary history survey on past staple foods and potential history of insect use.
RESULTS: Food shortage affected both the refugees and especially the host community. Dietary quality often did not meet recommendations, and this was especially true in the latter group, whose everyday diet consisted mostly of maize and beans. Poor dietary quality and reliance on coping strategies at the camp exacerbated towards the end of the month due to the once-per-month food distribution schedule. The experimental cricket-based biscuit was rated high on all aspects both by those accustomed to insects in their diet and those with no history of insect use. However, high refusal rates among the Somali clans and South Sudanese Dinka, both ethnic groups with little or no insect use, were recorded.
CONCLUSION: The results demonstrate that a nutrition-specific intervention focusing on the incorporation of edible insects in the diets of refugees and host communities is feasible and wholly justifiable on nutritional grounds. While ethnic origin was found to greatly influence the perception on edible insects, there were no significant differences in hedonic ratings between people with or without a history of insect consumption.