Dr. John Kinyuru Publishes in Nature

Dr. Kinyuru conducting a training of farmers from across the country on cricket farming at the University/File Photo

Dr. John Kinyuru, a Food and Nutrition Research Scientist, in the Department of Food Science and Technology, JKUAT has jointly published with others in the globally acclaimed scholarly journal, Nature.

The paper titled Inventory reveals wide biodiversity of edible insects in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was published January 28, 2022. Dr. Kinyuru in collaboration with seven other scholars sought to give a first insight on inventory showing diversity, perception, consumption, availability, host plants, harvesting techniques and processing techniques of edible insects in South-Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The study recorded twenty-three edible insects belonging to nine families and five orders, some of which are consumed in the larval, adult, egg and pupa stages. These edible insects inventoried as a source of food included; Macrotermes subhyalinus, Acheta domesticus, Rhyncophorus phoenicis, Alphitobius diaperinus, Ruspolia differens, Gryllotalpa africana, Apis mellifera larvae, Nomadacris septemfasciata, Locusta migratoria, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, Imbrasia oyemensis, Imbrasia epimethea, Oryctes monoceros, Cirina forda, Nsike, Kigelegele, Kansenda, Bangwangwa, Maguina, Mingungu, Ngohangoha, Bikolongo and Bachache.

Out of the twenty-three, Ruspolia differens (Nsenene, bush cricket) Imbrasia oyemensis (edible caterpillars), Apis mellifera larvae (western honey bee), Gryllotalpa africana (African mole cricket) and Nsike were the most preferred for their taste.

“The wide biodiversity of edible insect species revealed in South Kivu depicts the importance of entomophagy (technical term for eating insects) in the region and could be associated with the richness of the natural environment conditions in each territory as most edible insects are gathered from the wild,” explained Dr. Kinyuru.

Dr. Kinyuru at the JKUAT Insect Farm, showing farmers the processes of cricket farming/File Photo

The study established that entomophagy habits differ from country to country and culture to culture, as do preference factors. Insect consumption depends not only on sensory characteristics and nutritional value but also on customs, ethnic preferences, prohibitions, and medicinal properties.

Across the globe, the perception is that insects are associated with filth, fear of contamination and disease, as well as psychological and biased thinking about taste, smell, and colour. Some argue that entomophagy, especially in DRC, was motivated by starvation and is merely a survival mechanism.

The study contradicts this, saying “This is far from the truth, as insects are not inferior to other protein sources, such as fish, chicken, and beef. Dr. Kinyuru et al including Mr. Jackson Ishara, a JKUAT PhD student, however admits that it will take a bit more motivation to reverse this mentality.

“It is possible to explore edible insects for consumption and increase the possibility of replacing animal products with insects, given that there is evidence that they are clean, tasty, and nutritious,” averred Dr. Kinyuru.

The study recommends similar studies in other provinces and further research on the nutritional and safety profiling of processed and non-processed edible insects, while encouraging the rearing of certain edible insects for mass production as an opportunity to alleviate food insecurity.

With several studies demonstrating the superior nutritional value of edible insects compared to conventional foods, edible insect are among the most important bioresource being promoted to address global food and nutritional security.

Dr. Kinyuru describes how to set up a cricket pen/File Photo

Dr. Kinyuru, who is also the JKUAT’s Director of Research has been in the forefront of fostering entomophagy in the region. He has been researching on edible insects for over 10 years and his work involves mass production, post-harvest management and processing of insects to acceptable, delicious, nutritious and affordable food products to enhance food and nutrition security.

He holds a PhD in Food Science and Nutrition and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Educational Technology from the University of Cape Town.

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