By Afton Halloran, Nanna Roos, University of Copenhagen, and Yupa Hanboonsong, Khon Kaen University
Rapid urbanization, major losses of biodiversity, climate change, water shortages, and desertification. This is the depressing list which reflects our global society’s failure to maintain ecological balance. The impacts are manifold and widespread, and they quickly lead us speculate how our basic needs will be met in the future: what will we eat?
For every single issued fact, there is amplitude of both far-fetched and realistic solutions of how to ensure sustained food supply like farming with robots, growing algae and in vitro meat and eating invasive species. For others, the future of food lies in the mass-farming of insects in lieu of more conventional livestock like cows and pigs.
To put this all into perspective, we first need to imagine a timeline of agricultural history. Between 13,000 and 10,000 years ago, human beings began domesticating and farming wild animals in the so-called Fertile Crescent. Moving onward in history, we can see honey bees were the first insect species to be domesticated for human use nearly 7000 years ago. Few farmed animal species have been domesticated in the last thousand years; in fact, current trends have tended towards the loss of genetic diversity of the multiplicity of breeds which once dotted our agricultural landscapes.
Small-scale cricket farming was developed in Thailand nearly 20 years ago. Domestication of wild insect species has been proposed to relieve pressure on the hunting and collecting of wild populations as well as to create a safe food product for consumers and generate rural employment. The easy-to-implement and low-investment farming techniques faced few barriers to their adoption, partially due to the existing prevalence of insects (including crickets) within the local diet.
In our article, published in The Geographical Journal, ‘Cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand,’ we offer insight into why and how farmers have added this relatively new form of farming to their repertoire and the social and economic impacts that it has had thus far. We examine how farmers organize themselves, obtain knowledge and problem solve, and how they interact with other farmers and other stakeholders. By doing so, we formulate a complex picture of how rural communities in northern and northeastern Thailand interact with this livelihood strategy. We also explain that cricket farming was not created out of a food crisis, but rather an economic and ecological one.
This exploratory study arises from the GREEiNSECT research project which looks at producing insects as an alternative contribution the green economy in Kenya and examines the farming systems that have developed in some countries in order to gain more in-depth knowledge of their contribution to rural livelihoods. Thailand has the largest known global production of crickets for human consumption, and therefore provided a suitable region for such a case study.
About the authors: Afton Halloran is a PhD candidate within the Department of Nutrition, exercise and sports at the University of Copenhagen. Nanna Roos is a Project Coordinator at the University of Copenhagen. Yupa Hanboonsong is Associate Professor in Entomology at Khon Kaen University, Thailand.
GREEiNSECT Research Project – Department of Nutrition, Exercise and Sports, University of Copenhagen
Halloran, A., Roos, N. and Hanboonsong, Y. (2016), Cricket farming as a livelihood strategy in Thailand. The Geographical Journal. doi: 10.1111/geoj.12184
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