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The Impact of Cricket Farming on Rural Livelihoods, Nutrition and the Environment in Thailand and Kenya

Publication: ResearchPh.D. thesis

Background: Over the past five years, a growing amount of attention has been placed on the potential of edible insect species to address the global challenge of food and nutrition security. Even greater attention has been put on the handful of insect species which can be easily domesticated and raised en masse. Some of these species belong to the Gryllidae (cricket) family. The oldest and most developed example of cricket farming for human consumption comes from Thailand. For nearly 20 years, thousands of rural Thai farmers have adopted and developed these unique farming systems, providing not only food for their households but also employment and income. This development has resulted in the subsequent promotion of small- and medium-scale insect farming systems in
rural communities in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), such as Kenya. However, the policy environment for cricket farming, the social and environmental impacts in Thailand and the adoption of cricket farming in Kenya is not well understood. There is therefore a critical need for more research into the impacts of cricket farming on nutrition, rural livelihoods and the environment. My thesis addresses this research gap by reviewing the literature and empirically examining cases from Thailand and Kenya. The results of this thesis are a part of ‘GREEiNSECT: Insects for Green Economy’, a research project that assesses the contribution of insects to green economy.

Methods: The thesis is presented in the form of five research papers. Paper I is presented in the form of case studies, where the policy and legislation governing the consumption and production/harvest of edible insects in four countries (Kenya, Thailand, Switzerland and Canada) are compared and contrasted. Paper II is a literature review of the previously published life cycle assessments that have been conducted on insects for food and feed. Empirical data collected in Thailand and Kenya in 2014 and 2015 are presented in Papers III, IV and V. Paper III uses life cycle assessment technique to evaluate the environmental impacts associated with current and future cricket production in contrast with broiler chicken production in Thailand. Paper IV employs questionnaires to assess the contribution of cricket farming to rural livelihoods in northern and north-eastern Thailand. Data from this study was used to inform the development of the household questionnaires used in Paper V, a study of the awareness and adoption of cricket farming amongst cricket farmers and households in Homa Bay, Kisumu, and Siaya counties, Kenya. Thirteen focus group discussions were also conducted in the same counties.

Results: The results of the case studies in Paper I showed that there is a lack of policies, regulations, and legislation governing global insect consumption by humans. In the countries where insects have been a part of traditional diets (Thailand and Kenya), edible insects have not yet been a significant part of well-designed policies concerning health, nutrition, agriculture, food safety, and
conservation. In Paper II, a total of six life cycle assessment (LCA) studies were found to have been carried out in Europe. Each LCA had unique goals and scope, functional units, and impact categories. Future LCAs are recommended to address existing gaps in knowledge, such as quantifying greenhouse gas
emissions from farmed insect species. In Paper III, a LCA was carried out to compare the environmental impacts of commercial cricket farming and broiler chicken farming. The LCA found that commercial cricket farming has fewer
environmental impacts when compared to medium-scale broiler chicken production in the same region of Thailand. A future scenario that modelled a contained, climate-controlled cricket production facility demonstrated further resource efficiency and lower environmental impacts. A major hotspot in cricket production was found to be related to the production of feed that contains
maize meal and soy meal. In Thailand, results from a study (Paper IV) of 49 cricket farms in three provinces found that farmers took up cricket farming to diversify their existing agricultural livelihood strategies and provide significant income to rural households. Social and human capital also played a role in the
adoption and perpetuation of cricket farming and helped farmers negotiate market access. Overall, cricket farming had a positive impact on rural livelihoods in Thailand. In Paper V, 42 cricket farmers and 317 farmers who have not adopted cricket farming were interviewed. A number of variables influenced the awareness and adoption of cricket farming in Kenya, including distance from a cricket farm, crop diversity score, and frequency of visits to the extension office. Results from focus group discussions show that lack of adequate equipment, space and housing were most frequently cited as barriers to the adoption of cricket farming. Dissatisfaction with the lack of market for crickets and lack of training were cited as the second and third most common barriers.

Conclusion: The results of this thesis show that there is limited policy and legislation that specifically addresses the production/harvest and consumption of crickets or other insect species. There are limited LCAs of insect farming and limited data on the environmental impacts associated with insect farming
systems. Further, cricket production was found to have a lower environmental impact than broiler chicken production. Cricket farming had a notable impact on rural livelihoods in Thailand in terms of household income, and social and human capital. Finally, cricket farming is a livelihood strategy that few farmers in Kenya are aware of. The barriers to adoption must be addressed if cricket farming is to have a positive impact on food and nutrition security. The findings presented in this thesis have relevance for non-governmental organizations, civil society, policy makers, intergovernmental organizations and governmental agencies seeking to implement policies and interventions to improve access to a nutritional source of food with a relatively low environmental impact that can also improve rural livelihoods.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationCopenhagen
PublisherDepartment of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen
Number of pages145
ISBN (print)978-87-7209-035-1
StatePublished - 2017

ID: 182000749