Obstacles and possibilities for implementing weaver ants as a means to improve food security in Africa: a case study from Parakou in Northern Benin

Start date: 19 July, 2012 End date: 21 September, 2012 Project type: Master's Thesis (prior to 2018) Project code: A17099 Countries: Benin Institutions: Aarhus University (AU), Denmark, Total grant: 15,000 DKK Contact person:
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This thesis uses an interdisciplinary approach that spans from anthropology and social science to biology. This is captured by the human security approach, which builds bridges between the different sciences in order to develop a new security approach, which focus on human beings instead of state, land and territory like the conventional security approach does. Human security does not have one definition, but several, which makes the concept rather vague. However, in this thesis the final report of Human security Now, 2003 is used taken into consideration the 1994 UNPD Human development report as it presents the seven dimensions of human security, which includes political security, environmental security, economic security, personal security, community security, health security, personal security and the focus of this research study; food security. As these dimensions are all interrelated I will take several of them into account when analyzing food security in Parakou and the possible effects of using weaver ants in mango farming.
This study deals with the obstacle and possibilities for improving food security with the aid of weaver ants (Oecophylla longinodea) in Sub-Saharan Africa in general, and Parakou in particular. Through a 3 month fieldwork in Parakou, Benin, this research study set out to investigate how to implement weaver ants as bio-control agents in Mango farms and as source of protein food and the obstacle and possibilities that would occur. The overall purpose of the study has been to investigate if the experience with weaver ants from Asia and Australia could be implemented in Africa as well, and thereby help to secure the food security in the region.
The data collected during this research study have been collected partly through key informant interviews with researchers, and semi-structured interviews with; large-scale farmers, small-scale farmers, women sealing forest related products and cheese (fromage) and city dwellers. Further, scientific data has also been collected at the mango farms, where the increasing of the weaver ants’ abundance was supposed to be monitored. The informants who provided data for this research study through interviews or more informal talks were 10 large-scale farmers, 27 small-scale farmers, 30 women selling forest related goods, 4 women selling fromage and 17 city dwellers. The empirical part of this study was conducted in July to September 2012. Fortunately, this is a period where the mango farmers are preparing the mango trees for the flowing of mango fruit to begin, which is from December. By implementing the weaver ants in this period, it was possible to ensure that the ant colonies would be developed and ready to protect the flowers and fruits from December, as the weaver ants function best when the abundance is high.
This thesis analysis and discuss the obstacles and possibilities of increasing food security in Parakou by using one of its natural resources like weaver ants. This research study analyzes how fruit fly attacks could reduce the amount of fruits sold by mango farmers and hence render them food insecure. However, it became obvious that not much has been done in order to avoid these attacks by fruit flies, and likewise, the awareness of weaver ants as bio control agent and other pest control measures was lacking amongst the mango farmers. Further, the fact that weaver ants can be used as a source of protein food, like it has been seen in Asia and Australia, was also unknown to the population of Parakou and Sub-Sahara Africa in general. The data collected from interviews with the market women in Parakou shows that they are willing to sell weaver ant queen larvae if there are clients to buy it; demonstrating that marketing is not an obstacle. Interviews with city dwellers and small-scale farmers point to the fact that the population of Parakou is not interested in eating the weaver ant queen larvae, and therefore this thesis argues that more awareness about the positive effects by using weaver ants in both farming and as a part of the diet needs to be created.
In conclusion, implementing weaver ant for improving food security cannot be realized overnight. Much time is needed to educate the population on weaver ant benefits. As such, it is obvious that the successive use of weaver ants as pest control agent in mango plantation in Parakou as well as SSA in general will improve the availability of food, increase access to adequate quantity of food consumed, increase food stability and finally, optimize the utilization of food and hence improve the food security status of farmers in the area.