In urban Kenya, this time is described as Njanuary. A word coined from January and njaa (Swahili for hunger) to jointly mean the month of hunger. It is the dry season and the way the Sun is shining you would think someone challenged it to being the hottest thing on Earth. Making the Sun shine to levels bordering boasting; ‘am the hottest thing on Earth, let me remind you!’ Sun, we already know you the hottest thing on Earth, please stop showing off.
The Sun is busy shining, leaving behind a trail of scorched-bare farmlands, dried up riverbeds, and livestock dying of thirst and starvation. Some people have already run out of their food stock, and are in serious need of humanitarian aid to save them from death due to starvation and malnutrition.
Burkina Faso is one of the countries facing drought and food shortage. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, Kahitouo Hien from Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso has come up with a rather bizarre yet effective solution to the hunger problem. If people would be open-minded enough to try out his solution, that is!
Hien explains, “Caterpillars are made up of over 60% protein. They are among the most nutritious foods available in Burkina Faso.”
That is right; Hien’s solution to the starvation and malnutrition from the ravaging drought is caterpillar meals. Hey, crazier things have been eaten; there is a country where dogs, snakes, frogs, and snails are a desert. So a caterpillar meal is not really out there, but in most African communities, they are not part of the traditional food menu. Then again, extreme circumstances call for extreme measures.
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization put the level of acute malnutrition in the Northern Sahel parts of Burkina Faso at 9.4% for children aged five and under. The worst case scenario, one that warrants a serious call for humanitarian aid is at 10%.
Burkina Faso has had poor rainfall in the recent planting seasons, leading to a lack of food and diverse sources of nutrients. The drought has also made people’s income to plummet, leaving behind a starving and cashless people.
Hien’s unorthodox means wants to supply the population with nutritious meals from unconventional sources. He has set up FasoPro, also known as a caterpillar laboratory, where he mass produces the shea caterpillars; obtained from the shea insects that feed on tree leaves.
While munching on a caterpillar is something strange to most people in Burkina Faso, and Africa by extension. The Bobo tribe found in the western parts of Burkina Faso have had caterpillar as a delicacy for hundreds of years. Hien is just trying to sell the Bobo dish to the rest of the starving Burkina Faso, and caterpillars are now being sold in markets around as a tasty treat.
No one had thought about the commercialization of caterpillar as food to the masses before Hien.
“I wrote a business plan on caterpillars because I’ve been eating them since childhood. My tutor encouraged me to take part in U.C. Berkeley’s Global Social Venture Competition,” said Hien.
From caterpillars, Hien wants to supply starving Burkina Faso tasty and nutritious meals at these trying times of drought and unforgiving sunshine.