In the cold season of Laos (December – March) the cricket production ceased. When temperatures drop, cricket growth slows, and eventually stops if it stays too cold. This timing was a good opportunity to review the last production cycles with the project participants and get some project feedback. Overall, the participants were happy with their production and thought the process was very easy. All farmers want to continue raising crickets with the beginning of the warmer season and as soon as fresh cricket eggs are available. The group leader is happy about this activity as the smaller children in her household love to eat crickets, and, since she started to farm them, they are now easily available.
The cricket project raised the interest of other people inside and outside the village. Again the group leader said that her daughter, who lives in another village has also started cricket farming after being given cricket eggs. The participants also reported that other families in the village started raising crickets on their own. Moreover, 1 new participant, also female, joined the project!
The temporary stop of the production also gave us the opportunity to check the condition of the cricket cages. We realized that many of the cages need to be repaired as the plywood has been affected by the weather. The joint decision was to look for a more suitable material than plywood and then, rebuild the cages and improve their design based on the previous experiences. To test new materials and an improved design, the project manager, Thomas, built a test cage.
The cage construction was reviewed with the participants to provide feedback and suggestions for further improvement, and to finally guide the reconstruction of the new cages. On March 12, the participants received the materials for the new cages. As can be seen on the photos, they were really excited and very eager to restart their production. Everyone also received a new batch of cricket eggs.
Cricket farming however, is not just about the farming practices- must research and collaboration is happening to discuss nutrition and how the successes of this pilot project can expand to other parts of Laos. In January 2015, the preparatory field activities for this research project started with a stakeholder meeting in Bolikhamxay province and the pre-selection of potential project villages. In the stakeholder meeting, the project partners, comprising of the VWB team, representatives of the Faculty of Agriculture (including the Vice Dean), nutritionists from the University of Health Sciences, and representatives of the District Agriculture and Forestry Office (DAFO), District Health Office and Women’s Union, discussed and reviewed the project conception, and agreed on the selection criteria for the pre-selection of potential project villages. In February, village consultation visits were conducted with the same team (plus the Dean of the University of Health Sciences, a senior nutritionist). Two villages with 10 households per village were selected (i.e. total of 20 households). In addition to this, 2 control villages were selected for the research. On March 20th, a test baseline survey was conducted with 15 households in Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital. The purpose of this activity was to test the developed questionnaires and improve them for the baseline survey in the project villages at the beginning of April. The baseline survey focuses on capturing the nutritional status of the research households, especially of women of child-bearing age and children under 5 years. We look forward to continue this work and help to improve the nutrition and income of families in rural Laos!