The Vets without Borders Cricket Farming team has had a very busy fall season in Laos!
First, our Project Manager, Thomas, attended and presented at the AIDF Asia Food Security Summit in Jakarta on October 9th. Thomas discussed cricket farming from a Food & Nutrition Security Perspective, as well as from a Sustainable Development perspective. Insect farming and processing for consumption and sale is a growing trend in developing countries- building off of many eating habits that people in these areas already have had for generations. Being able to make the farms more productive and sustainable however, helps increase livelihoods for families and communities and boost nutrition for those who need it most.
Thomas’s presentation supporting insect farming summarized the following:
1. Malnutrition (both, protein energy malnutrition, as well as micronutrient deficiencies “hidden hunger”) are prevalent in Southeast Asia (SEA) and Laos due to disruptions in the Food/Nutrition Security dimensions of availabilty/accessibility/stability/utilizsation
2. Edible insects have a huge potential to address both forms of malnutrition, because a) they have high nutritional values, and b) they are widely consumed throughout SEA and Laos 3. However, there are barriers to insect consumption, because most insects are wild species and have limitations with regard to improving food & nutrition security 4. Insect farming is a sustainable livelihoods activity, which can address and overcome these barriers, increase insect consumption, and thus, contribute to improving community nutrition and malnutrition
Later in October, Thomas and his team held a 2-day practical workshop on cricket processing with the Lao farmer counterparts and theFaculty’s Food and Safety Processing Unit. The workshop was really excellent! As you can in the pictures, the participants really enjoyed it, were proud of their own produce, and received a huge boost of motivation through the workshop!
The workshop was divided into several parts:
As part of the introduction, Ajarn Thansamay pointed out that in order to sell unprocessed crickets to market vendors or restaurants, the size of the crickets has to be big enough. Accordingly, there has to be a selection process after the harvest. While too small crickets cannot be easily sold unprocessed, they can, however, be used without problems for producing cricket products, such as those in produced during the workshop (chips, noodles and chili sauce). Another advantage of crickets products is that they can generate more profit than unprocessed crickets, because they are mixed with cheaper ingredients, such as flour. And, of course, they enhance the nutritional value of common products.
2. Hygiene & Hand washing
Ajarn Sayvisene emphasized how important basic standards of hygiene are, especially, when the participants want to produce cricket products and sell them to other people. In addition to keeping working places clean, basic hygiene measures start with hand washing.
3. Processing of cricket chips
Chips or crisps are a popular snack amongst adults and children. Cricket chips have the potential to be sold either in the form of raw dried chips (need deep-frying at home), which have a shelf life of 1 year, or as deep-fried ready-to-eat chips, which can be kept between 1-2 months. Properly packaged, both products can be sold at markets, in shops, within the village, and to restaurants etc. Considering their enhanced nutritional value and popularity, ready-to-eat crickets chips could be sold at/nearby schools.
The production of the chips takes between 2-4 days as a sun-drying process is involved.
Processing Steps: a) Dry frying crickets in pan to dehydrate them b) pounding dried crickets c) mixing with rice flour and spices d) preparing dough e) wrapping chunks of dough into plastic foil c) steaming dough for 1 hour d) cooling & resting dough in fridge for 1 night e) cutting dough into thin slices f) drying slices in sun (1-3 days) g) deep-frying or packaging raw chips
After producing the chips together, it was obvious that the participants loved the taste of the chips – within a short time all chips were eaten. The young daughter of a participant was particularly fond of the chips, and asked for more until her mother stopped her.
4. Processing of cricket noodles (Khao piak jingleed )
Khao piak noodle soup is extremely popular and ranks probably amongst the most often sold dishes in Laos. During the workshop the participants produced these rice flour-based noodles enhanced with cricket powder. As the noodles have to be consumed fresh within 1 day, they are limitations when it comes to selling them. However, they are a good means to improve the nutrition of the participants and their family members.
a) Pounding of dried crickets b) preparing dough out of rice flour & tapioca starch & other ingredients, c) flattening the dough d) cutting the dough into noodle slices e) cooking the noodles
The participants shared the noodles, which they produced during the workshop, with their family members (some shared their noodles with 8 family members).
5. Processing of Chili Paste with Crickets (Jaeow jingleed )
Chili paste or Jaeow is a popular spicy dip when eating sticky rice. At the workshop, the participants learned how to produce Jaeow jingleed, which can be packaged nicely in a small plastic container and sold at local shops or the market at similar prices to conventional Jaeow.
a) roast garlic & shallots over fire to intensify the aroma, b) pound dried crickets together with dried chilies, garlic, shallots and other spices until it becomes a paste c) heat the paste to increase shelf-life d) eat or package into bags/plastic containers
The participants got really excited after they had produced the paste and packed it into small plastic containers. They were already thinking about their own label and selling them as a special chili paste from HVK. On the group photo, it can be seen how proud the participants are of their workshop results, showing their produced cricket chips and Jaeow!
6. Demonstration of Packing Methods
Ajarn Sayvisene also showed the participants how a simple bag sealer can be used to have an appealing packaging of products and to improve shelf-life and food safety.
On both days all the participants, and trainers/facilitators enjoyed lunch together. On the 2nd day, the self.made Jaoew and chips were part of the lunch. After the workshop, the participants sat together with Sayvisene and me and had a lot of fun singing a self-composed cricket song together!
After the coming harvest, the Ajarn Sayvisene and Thansamay will visit the participants again and try the cricket chips and chili paste, which they will do on their own. Having learned how to process crickets into simple products, the participants will also decide, if they want to produce some of the crickets products for sale.