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Small-Scale Cricket Farming in Ban Hathviangkham, Laos

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The End-of-Project Report describes and assesses outcomes and impacts of a small-scale cricket farming project with 16 women in Central Laos, and provides recommendations for the further development of cricket farming for improving livelihoods and food/nutrition security. The report concludes that small-scale cricket farming can be a sustainable livelihoods option in Laos and other countries, where edible insects are part of traditional diets.

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Small-Scale Cricket Farming in Ban Hathviangkham, Laos

  1. 1. Veterinarians without Borders / Véterinaires sans frontières END-OF-PROJECT REPORT Small-Scale Cricket Farming in Ban Hatviangkham, Laos Under the project “Improving Livelihoods and Food Security in Laos and Cambodia”, Implemented by Veterinarians without Borders - Canada, And the Faculty of Agriculture, National University of Laos, In Ban Hatviangkham, Xaythany District, Vientiane Capital, Lao PDR. March 2014 – December 2015
  2. 2. Veterinarians without Borders / Véterinaires sans frontières – Canada (VWB/VSF) Vientiane, Lao PDR, 2016 Author: Thomas Weigel (Project Manager Mini-Livestock) VWB/VSF, Lao PDR Contact: thomas@vetswithoutborders.ca VWB/VSF Headquarters: 1 Nicholas Street, Suite 712, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7B7, Canada. Contact: info@vetswithoutborders.ca More information about VWB/VSF’s work at: Web: https://www.vetswithoutborders.ca Blog: http://blog.vetswithoutborders.ca Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VetswithoutBorders Twitter: https://twitter.com/VWB_VSF_Insects
  3. 3. TABLE OF CONTENTS Table of Contents Executive Summary ...................................................................................................................................... 1 I. Project Rationale....................................................................................................................................... 2 II. Project Objectives..................................................................................................................................... 3 III. Project Set-up & Methodology ............................................................................................................... 3 IV. Capacity Building & Trainings ................................................................................................................. 5 V. Outcomes and Impact ............................................................................................................................ 10 VI. Lessons Learned..................................................................................................................................... 14 VII. Conclusions & Recommendations ....................................................................................................... 15 Annex .......................................................................................................................................................... 17 Most Significant Change Story ............................................................................................................... 17 Results of End-of-Project Survey............................................................................................................ 18 Activities Conducted (Chronological Order) .......................................................................................... 20 References................................................................................................................................................... 22
  4. 4. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 Executive Summary Project Location: Ban Hatviangkham, Houychiem Community, Xaythany District, Lao PDR Project Duration: April 2014-December 2015 Main Donor: Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) Main Local Partner: Faculty of Agriculture/National University of Laos The cricket farming project aimed to improve the livelihoods and food security of villagers in Ban Hatviangkham through increased income generation and protein intake by supporting 16 villagers to set up and manage small-scale cricket farms at the household level. The income generating activities focuses on engaging women while the food security component of the initiative targeted both women and children. The project supported the provision of co-financing mechanisms as well as micro-credit for initial set up of the cricket farms, training and capacity building on cricket raising, processing, value-chain development and health/nutrition. At the end of the project 15 women were running cricket farms with an average production of about 5- 7kg raw crickets per production cycle per family. One participant temporarily ceased her cricket farming activity due to pregnancy. All 16 participants intended to continue cricket farming in the future. The head of the producer group had already extended her cricket farm and set-up additional cages on her own, while most other participants reported that they would expand, if market access improved. Prior to the project, none of the participants had earned any income from selling insects. However, in comparison to other sources of income, cricket farming had only a minor impact on the total household income. Better access to markets and reduced input costs for feed would increase economic returns significantly. While the generation of income is an important economic aspect, cricket farming can also contribute to saving money, as the farmed crickets can be used as gifts for visiting relatives and friends. In comparison to the situation prior to the project, the diets and food security of nearly all households improved. Out of the total cricket production, the participants consumed between 20 and 40% of their produce. In cooperation with the Food Processing Unit of the Faculty of Agriculture, the participants also developed innovative cricket-based products with market potential (cricket chili paste and cricket chips). An initial product promotion and introduction to the market showed that there is demand for these novel products. In order to integrate these products into the market system, however, challenges remain.
  5. 5. I. PROJECT RATIONALE 2 I. Project Rationale Improving Rural Incomes Edible insects constitute a very popular choice of food in Laos and are traded at high prices, often exceeding the price of more conventional protein sources, such as meat and fish. A national survey on edible insects in Laos found that approximately 97% of people consume insects (Barennes et al., c2010), while another study concluded that insects rank first amongst the best-selling edible non-timber-forest products (NTFPs) (Boulidam, 2010). Despite the popularity of edible insects in Laos, their consumption has declined due the decreased availability of wild insect species. Factors which impact the availability of wild insets include the seasonality of certain species, an increasing market- based demand for insects, and environmental factors (Boulidam, 2010; Barennes et al., c2010). In contrast to its neighboring country Thailand, the farming of edible insects in Laos is very rare and seems to occur mainly in the Vientiane area. Against the background of high demand and high market prices for insects, the decreasing availability of wild insects, and limited numbers of insect farmers, insect farming is a promising livelihoods activity to improve rural incomes. This is especially important in rural areas, where 40% of the rural population falls below the poverty line (World Food Programme, 2013). Improving Food and Nutrition Security In addition to the generation of income, insect farming has the potential to improve food and nutrition security. Malnutrition is the most important risk factor for the burden of disease in developing countries (World Food Programme, 2014). In Laos around 30% of the population is undernourished, with women and children being particularly affected. Traditional diets rely on rice and low protein-fat foods and protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is common (World Food Programme, 2014). In addition to protein-energy deficiencies, levels of micro- nutrient intake, such as vitamin A, iron, iodine, and vitamin B1 are low. Insect farming can make an important contribution in reducing malnutrition, as they are an efficient source of protein, fat, vitamins and minerals, and reproduce rapidly (see Table 1) (cf. Hanboonsong and Durst, 2014; Hanboonsong, Jamjanya and Durst, 2013; van Huis, 2013). Facilitating the adoption of insect farming provides farmers with a culturally appropriate means of producing high protein food. Insect traders at Dongmakkhai Market, Vientiane Table 1: Nutrient contents of insects in comparison to beef, fish, and eggs per 100 grams (Source: FAO, 2013)
  6. 6. II. PROJECT OBJECTIVES/III. PROJECT SET-UP & METHODOLOGY 3 II. Project Objectives 1. Increased use of cricket farming as supplementary livelihoods activity in Hatviangkham 2. Increased income of participants 3. Improved diets and food security of children & women in participating households III. Project Set-up & Methodology Project Introduction, Selection of participants and Project Support Following a village consultation, during which the concept of small-scale cricket farming was explained, interested villagers of Hatviangkham and the project team visited two female cricket farmers at the outskirts of Vientiane in Nongtheang. The visit provided the villagers with the opportunity to see medium-scale cricket farming, ask questions, and decide whether this livelihoods activity matched their interests. After the farm visit, the project team provided more in-depth details on the project scope, the activities to be supported, and the eligibility criteria for joining the project (see box below). Fifteen villagers, 14 women and 1 man1 , decided to participate in the project, and signed an agreement, which outlined their financial contributions and repayment schedules as part of the project’s co-financing mechanism. The project participants decided to function as a producer group, with the main objective of providing mutual support and knowledge transfer. They then selected a group leader who gradually took over organisational and basic administrative functions, including the organization of meetings, informing the other group members of project activities, collecting the loan repayments, and maintaining and keeping group documents (e.g. loan repayment records). The group leader also became the main contact person for the project team. 1 After some time, the man was replaced by his wife – since then, all of the 15 project participants were female. In April 2015, a new woman joined the project, raising the total participant number to 16. Cricket Farm Visit in Nongtheang Selection Criteria for Project Participants  Sincere interest in cricket farming & sufficient time to take care of cricket farm  Attendance of project trainings and workshops  Own construction of cages and shelter for cages & responsibility for sales of produce  Payment of 50% of costs for farm set-up and own purchase of feed after the 3rd production cycle Project Support  50% co-financing of farm-set up with 1 cage per participant + free feed for 3 production cycles  Provision of interest-free micro loans (350.000 LAK for cage and shelter/180.000 LAK if only cage needed)  Trainings & workshops on cricket rearing, health and nutrition, food processing, and marketing  Regular mentoring visits to provide technical support for individual farmers and the group  Small monetary support for group leader (30.000 LAK/month to cover phone costs)
  7. 7. III. PROJECT SET-UP & METHODOLOGY 4 Set-up of Cricket Farm and Basic Farming Techniques Each of the participants received the following materials as an in- kind loan:  Wood/ply wood to construct 1 cricket cage (length: 2.00m, width: 1.00m, height: 0.90m)  50 egg cartons, which provide the housing for the crickets inside the cage  Netting to cover the top of the cage  Drinking devices and feeding trays  Corrugated iron sheets for the roofing of the shelter to protect the cricket box from rain/sun (13 participants opted to construct a shelter, 3 participants had a suitable shelter available)  Cricket eggs to start the cricket production The production cycle started with the placement of cricket eggs in the cage. Usually, the eggs are kept in a small plastic bowl or a wooden tray with either moistened saw dust or burned rice husk. After hatching, the crickets were fed with protein-rich chicken feed, as well as vegetable/fruit scraps and leaves. After laying eggs, the crickets are harvested. The eggs are collected and used to start the next production cycle. One production cycle, from eggs to harvest, lasts between 45 and 60 days. Capacity-Building Activities The main activities included (more details in Chapter IV):  Training on cricket farming techniques and life-cycle of crickets  Workshops on constructing the cricket boxes and setting up the cricket farms  Workshops on processing crickets  Training on healthy diets and health behavior  Market exploration and assistance in assessing markets Monitoring and Evaluation For monitoring and evaluation, both quantitative and qualitative data was collected using the following tools:  Individual and group discussions and observations during meetings and farm visits;  Collection of production data (i.e. amount of crickets harvested, consumed, gifted, and sold; amount of eggs produced, used for own production, gifted, and sold);  Most Significant Change (MSC) story collection (see Annex);  Baseline survey and End-of-project survey (for the latter, see Annex);  Regular mentoring visits. Cricket cage with shelter
  8. 8. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS 5 IV. Capacity Building & Trainings Cricket Farming Training and Workshops The first training session was focused on providing a general understanding about cricket farming, including farming techniques, and the life-cycle/production-cycle of crickets. This half day training was followed by a practical workshop during which the participants constructed a model cage together. Once all participants had constructed their cages and shelters, one of the cricket farmers from Nongtheang conducted a workshop on setting up the cages and starting the production. The workshop included practical demonstrations on how to:  Prepare saw dust/burned rice husk for the egg production;  Make drinking devices and feeding trays;  Place the cricket eggs and the other equipment in the cages. Preparing rice husk for egg production Equipping the cages with egg cartons Explanation of cricket farming techniques Construction of model cage
  9. 9. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS 6 Health and Nutrition Training In order to increase the nutrition impact of the project, the University of Health Sciences/Vientiane conducted a training on health behaviour, including hygiene and sanitation issues, and healthy diets. As part of the training, the participants also thought about different foods into which crickets could be added. Cricket Processing and Development of Value-Added Cricket Products Based on the positive experience with former farmer-to-farmer trainings, the cricket farmers from Nongtheang were asked again to conduct a workshop – this time, on how to fry crickets. Fried crickets are the most popular form of processing, as value-added products for sale or for home consumption. During the workshop, the participants also cooked a traditional Lao bamboo soup (Gaeng Nor Mai), and increased its nutritional value by adding crickets. Following this first training on cricket processing, the participants developed cricket-based products in collaboration with the Food Processing Unit of the Faculty of Agriculture. The idea was to process frozen crickets into value-added products to generate some income during the cold season when the cricket production usually slows down or comes to a halt. An additional consideration was to make use of the smaller crickets that are not usually sold raw at the markets. Collecting ideas for cricket-based foods Explaining sanitation measures Frying crickets and adding spices and kaffir lime leaves Bamboo soup with crickets
  10. 10. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS 7 During the initial workshops, which took place in the village, the farmers learned how to produce cricket chips and cricket chili paste with locally sourced ingredients. In order to sell the products, the participants decided to develop labels for the chips and the chili paste, use proper packaging, and use posters and handout for the product promotion. Production of cricket chips: 1. Pounding ingredients in mortar, 2. Making the dough, 3. Steaming the dough 4. Slicing the steamed dough, 5. Drying the slices, 5. Fried chips ready to eat Label for Cricket Chili Paste Label for Cricket Chips Producer Group Label
  11. 11. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS 8 Cricket Product Promotion Poster (English version)
  12. 12. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS 9 During the rainy season when drying of the chips is more difficult, the production facility was moved to the faculty’s food laboratory. To assess the market potential, the products were introduced and promoted at markets and in restaurants in Vientiane. Production of cricket chips and cricket chili paste in the Faculty’s food lab Cricket-based products displayed at markets and food stalls in Vientiane
  13. 13. IV. CAPACITY BUILDING & TRAININGS/V. OUTCOMES & IMPACT 10 From the feedback of the market sellers and restaurants, the cricket farmers learned that they had to adjust the recipes of the products more to the taste preferences of their potential customers: they reduced the spiciness of the chili paste and increased the salt content of both products. In order to ensure product quality and safety, the cricket farmers participated in a workshop on hygiene and food safety measures conducted by the Faculty’s Food Processing Unit. V. Outcomes and Impact The following data derives from the baseline survey, end-of-project survey (see Annex), the production monitoring, the MSC story (see Annex) and discussions during meetings and mentoring visits.2 2 Baseline survey: 15 respondents; End-of-Project Survey: 16 respondents Workshop on food hygiene and food safety measures Project Successes at a Glimpse  15 female farmers active at the end of the project, want to continue in the future & majority has plans to expand their farms  All participants are satisfied with cricket farming as livelihoods activity  Approx. 500kg of crickets were produced during 6 production cycles, with an average of 5.3kg/person/cycle  All participants perceived an improvement in their diets due to the availability of crickets  All participants could generate some income & crickets as gifts for relatives which has positive impact on household savings  Value-added cricket products have market potential Some Challenges at a Glimpse  Access to high-value markets & development of value chains difficult  Cultural/social barriers (rural vs. urban – low vs. high social status) are obstacles to new market opportunities  Reliance of farmers on external help – lack of own initiative & entrepreneurial spirit  Supply not constant enough to meet demand of market  High cost of commercial chicken feed raises production costs – participants reluctant to use lower-cost feed  Production of value-added products time-intensive & needs upgrade of production facilities  Constant quality of value-added products has to be ensured
  14. 14. V. OUTCOMES & IMPACT 11 Adaptation of cricket farming as livelihoods activity Prior to the project, none of the participating households were farming crickets – all insects consumed were either purchased or collected. Also none of the participants had any knowledge with regard to cricket farming (e.g. knowledge about the life cycle of crickets, how to construct cages and set-up a cricket farm). Two participants were perceived to have a good understanding of how to process crickets, and only one participant had a vague idea where to sell crickets. At the end of the project, 15 out of 16 participants were actively farming crickets (one woman temporarily stopped due to pregnancy). All participants were female. At the time of the last production data collection, the participants had completed 6 production cycles (from August 2014 until September 2015) during which a total of around 500kg of crickets were harvested. This translates to an average of 5.3 kg per production cycle per participant. Individual yields and harvest results amongst the different production cycles, however varied – the highest amount harvested per time was 13kg. The participants used their harvest either for their own consumption, sales, or as gifts (see Figure 1). When being asked about their future plans, 15 participants answered that they plan to continue cricket farming after the end of the project – only one person was not sure. Eleven farmers had plans to expand their cricket farms, 3 persons were not sure, and 2 persons have no expansion plans. Those hesitant about the future expansion of their farms, named limited market access as the reason. The end-of-project survey also showed that the project had an impact on non-participants. Ten of the participants had explained to other people how to raise crickets, 15 of them had sold eggs to others, and 5 were aware that other people had started cricket farming. The total number of new cricket farms was estimated to be 14 – however, the actual number might be lower, as some of the new cricket farms mentioned might have belonged to the same participants. Impact of cricket farming on diets and food security According to the baseline survey, approximately half of the respondents reported that they had some difficulties in obtaining sufficient food around the months of March to May, which coincides with the hot, dry season in Laos. This might not necessarily be interpreted as an acute food shortage, but might rather be an indication that the variety of food decreases at the same time as the need to spend money to purchase some crops, which in other seasons can be grown or collected in the wild.3 Nearly all participating households (14 out of 15) consumed insects, either purchased (farmed or wild insects) or collected (wild insects). The production monitoring showed that the participants consumed about 30% of the total production, while the rest was sold or gifted. According to the participants during the discussions, most of the family members, including small children, ate and liked the crickets. The crickets were mostly fried. The cricket- based products (chili sauce and chips) were mainly produced for sale, but were also eaten by the participating households. During the end-of-project survey, all 16 participants responded that cricket 3 There were conflicting answers regarding the food security status. 30% 14% 56% % of Total Cricket Production Consumed, Gifted, Sold Own consumption Gifted Sold Figure 1: Percentage of crickets consumed, gifted & sold
  15. 15. V. OUTCOMES & IMPACT 12 production had improved their diets, while 14 saw an improvement in their food security status. In the future, all participants plan to continue eating some of their harvested crickets. A laboratory test conducted with a small sample of the harvested crickets and the cricket-based products, indicated the high nutritional value (see Table 2). Table 2: Crude protein & fat content of dried crickets & cricket products Approx. % per 100g Sample Dried crickets Cricket chili paste Cricket chips Crude Protein 56% 25% 5% Crude Fat 16% 6% 1% Tests conducted by the Food Science Cluster, College of Agriculture, University of the Philippines Los Banos College, Laguna, Philippines. Date of test result: 22.09.2015. The survey results also indicated that an increased availability of farmed insects would reduce the consumption and gathering activities and the pressure on declining wild insect populations (Boulidam, 2010). Thirteen respondents answered that their consumption of wild insects had declined since commencing cricket farming, while 3 respondents estimated the amount of wild insects eaten was the same as before. Income generation through cricket farming The baseline survey showed, that none of the participating households had earned any money through the sale of farmed or wild insects. The main motivation for participants joining the project was for the generation of some additional income. At the end of the project, all participants had generated income through cricket farming. The sources of income were nearly exclusively the sales of raw crickets, but to some minor extent also the sale of cricket- based products and cricket eggs. Over the course of 6 production cycles, a total of 10,500,000 Kip was generated by the participants, the sales of raw crickets accounted for 86% and those of eggs for 14%. A major proportion of the cricket eggs were purchased by VWB for a research project in Bolikhamxay. The average amount earned per production cycle per person by those who sold either raw crickets or eggs was around 145,000 Kip.4 The highest amount earned was 390,000 Kip. The individual amount earned per person fluctuated significantly between the different cycles – influenced inter alia by the amount of crickets produced, sales opportunities, but also personal choices regarding the split up of the harvest between sales, own consumption and gifts. Several times, some participants reported that their families had consumed most or all of the harvest. The expenditures for the production (i.e. purchase of commercial chicken feed) varied between an estimated 40,000 – 145,000 Kip, with an average of 72,000 Kip. The cost of commercial chicken feed (approx. 5000 Kip/kg) is relatively high and increases, the production costs. Despite the advice to substitute a larger amount of chicken feed with free vegetable/fruit scraps, leaves, or lower-cost rice bran, the participants had been hesitant to do so. While income generation through this livelihoods activity is an important aspect of this project, cricket farming can also have a positive effect on household savings. As one participant reported, since she had started cricket farming, she has been giving crickets instead of other gifts to her relatives when she visited them, which represented a saving (see also MSC story in Annex). This seems also to be the case with many 4 Not all participants sold their produce during all production cycles.
  16. 16. V. OUTCOMES & IMPACT 13 of the other participants. The analysis of the production data shows that out of the total cricket production, 14% or nearly 70kg had been used as gifts. With a market price between 35,000-50,000 Kip/kg, these gifts were worth between 2,450,000 and 3,500,000 Kip. The economic returns generated through the production of value-added cricket products, i.e. chili paste and chips, are difficult to estimate, as the products have been just introduced to the market, with free samples being provided, and based on the customer feedback further developed. In addition to this, some adjustments in the production processes, especially for the chips (e.g. wrong dough mixture, insufficient steaming, too long drying), lead to some losses. The product promotion and the customer feedback showed that there is a demand for these cricket-based products. A larger restaurant ordered increasing amounts of crickets and cricket chips, and was willing to introduce the cricket farmers and their products to a wider network of restaurants in Vientiane. However, to fully tap into the market potential, the producer group will have to develop further and also ensure a continuous supply of their products. In addition to further support from VWB and the Faculty of Agriculture, the Agriculture Extension and Cooperative Section under the Provincial Agriculture and Forestry Office has agreed to assist the cricket farmers in the developing their business. With regard to the future, 11 out of the 16 respondents answered that they will continue to sell crickets, either raw, frozen, or fried, 8 want to sell cricket-based products (e.g. chili paste and chips), and only 6 answered that they consider giving their crickets to relatives or friends. While there is some significant potential for the cricket farmers to increase their economic returns, there were also various challenges and barriers. One difficulty was the distance from the village to the city and, during the rainy season, the difficult road conditions. Sales opportunities might exist closer to the village (including various festivities/Lao celebrations, restaurants, the Faculty of Agriculture etc.). More coordinated group action along with an increased entrepreneurial spirit of participants could lead to better access to sales opportunities (e.g. by organizing trips to the city/other market places). Another issue seems to be related to cultural/social norms. People from rural areas seem to be hesitant or shy to interact with urban or socially higher ranked people. In the end-of-project survey, 15 respondents stated that they would like further project support, if available. Finally, it has to be understood that the participants and their household members also engage in other livelihoods activities, which generate income. Satisfaction with Cricket Farming and the Project All 16 respondents questioned during the end-of-project survey responded that they are satisfied with cricket farming as a livelihoods activity. They explained that crickets are easy to raise with low time investment and a short production cycle, and that they provide more food and income. The two main challenges were perceived to be market access and difficulties in selling crickets, as well as the high costs for commercial chicken feed. All of the participants also responded that they were satisfied with the overall project and the project team. The main 3 reasons stated were the gaining of knowledge about cricket farming, the provision of a wide range of project activities and support, and the assistance in generating income.
  17. 17. VI. LESSONS LEARNED 14 VI. Lessons Learned • Constructing the cages according to the recommended size is important – nearly all farmers built larger cages than advised, which lead to increased costs (i.e. more netting than planned had to be purchased) and difficulties in accessing the cages to provide feed, cleaning, and harvesting • The cages have to be constructed carefully – newly hatched crickets are small enough to escape through tiny gaps • Particular attention has also be paid to preventing predators, such as lizards, spiders and ants, from entering the cages (e.g. tight netting to cover the cage) • 1 cricket cage is not enough to ensure a continuous production – more cages (maybe of smaller size) would be more advantageous • The harvest times of the different members should be spaced out to avoid over supply, to meet market demand, and to quickly provide eggs to members who experience failed production • Needs-based micro loans and co-financing have shown to be suitable financing mechanisms to set up small-scale cricket farms - they aided the feeling of ownership and commitment • Group cohesion and leadership can be important to make cricket farming successful – group members helped each other and exchanged knowledge; the leader took over important administrative and coordinative functions for the group and served as the main contact person for the project team • Farmer-to-farmer exchange visits and practical trainings delivered by farmers have been very successful. Farmer exchange visits also proved to be an excellent preparation for a Training of Trainers – the trainers-to-be learned together with other farmers and could conduct the actual training in a more interactive way by relating to the exchange visit • The cold season affects the cricket production – the production slows down if it gets too cold. Re- starting the cricket production after the cold season can take a long time as many cricket farmers experience losses and eggs are difficult to source. Preventative measures, e.g. covering the cage and using electric light bulbs can help. • Farmers opted for short-term economic returns instead of storing crickets to process into higher- value products or sell them at higher prices at a cultural event/festival. • The use of commercial chicken feed remains an obstacle to low cost production. The feed is not only expensive, but as the project had initially supplied larger quantities of the feed, the participants were hesitant to feed their crickets with free or low-cost feed (e.g. leaves). Cricket farmer removes lizard from cricket cage
  18. 18. VII. CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS 15 VII. Conclusions & Recommendations Summary of the project experiences The project has shown that cricket farming is a culturally acceptable livelihoods activity in Lao PDR, which is especially suitable for women due to the low time investment. Moreover, the increased availability of nutritious insects in the households can enrich and improve diets, which is especially important for women and children, who are most affected by malnutrition. It has also become evident that cricket farming can generate additional income, and contribute to household savings. However, there are obstacles to accessing high-price markets, including distance, time investment, road conditions, but also social and cultural barriers related to the interaction of rural people with urbanites or persons with (perceived) higher social status. Other issues are of more personal nature and relate to entrepreneurial spirit and self-initiative, as well as to the livelihoods portfolio of the cricket farming households. As a result of the combination of these issues, cricket farming has so far made only a marginal contribution to household incomes. The development of a stronger producer group with more management and coordination skills could offset some of the obstacles and also create greater confidence. Another important factor which negatively impacted the economic returns of cricket sales is the reliance on commercial chicken feed as production input. The increased experimentation with and use of free or low-cost locally available inputs (e.g. leaves, rice bran), could significantly lower the production costs. Value-added cricket products have a good potential in generating additional income. They are innovative and nutritious niche products, for which market demand exists. However, as with any new product, the introduction to the market and the sustainable supply of high-quality products is challenging – even more when produced in rural areas with limited facilities. Potential for scaling up cricket farming in Laos & Southeast Asia Cricket farming clearly has the potential to be scaled-up in Laos and other countries in the region, where insects are part of traditional diets. In many parts within Laos, but also in other countries, people collect, trade, and consume wild insects. Increasing the availability, accessibility and safe use of insects through farming them in a controlled environment with minimal time investments and space requirements is an obvious solution – both, from a food and nutrition security perspective, as well as for the purpose of generating additional household income. Of course, the production system has to be adapted to the particular local context. Cricket farming can not only be a suitable livelihoods activity in rural areas, but also in more urban environments. In addition to this, it can be an adequate activity for disadvantaged groups, including women, older people, persons with a disability, and the poor in general. Cricket farming can also be easily integrated into schools, both as a practical learning opportunity for school children, as well as providing a source of nutritious food to complement school meals. Lastly, cricket farming is a climate-change considerate activity in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Crickets produce significantly less greenhouse gas emissions, need much less space (land), and have a much higher food-conversion ratio than conventional livestock. Cricket farming is also less impacted than many other agricultural production systems by climatic events, if preventative measures are taken (e.g. adequate shelter). Moreover, due to the short production cycle and easy set-up, cricket farms can provide a quicker supply of nutrition in emergency situations than conventional livestock and crop production.
  19. 19. VII. CONCLUSIONS & RECOMMENDATIONS 16 Recommendations Producer groups, either of informal or formal status, can make a big contribution to successful cricket farming in terms of knowledge exchange, mutual self-help mechanisms (e.g. provision of cricket eggs to members whose production has failed), and marketing. The facilitation of the group formation, including the clarification of objectives and roles, might be necessary. Involving business consultants or government agencies can help to develop the business of a producer group, including the provision of business training, market access facilitation, and support in reaching a formal status (e.g. cooperative). Access to adequate financing mechanisms in the form of micro loans can facilitate the expansion of the cricket production facilities, as well as in setting up/upgrading food processing facilities for the production of value-added products. In addition to this, partnerships with private businesses in the food sector should be explored. To drive the expansion and scaling up of cricket farming, capacity building of government authorities at the province and district level has to take place. Trainings of Trainers can provide extension workers with the necessary skills to introduce and monitor cricket farming in the villages. However, capacity building alone is not sufficient and without monetary support the extension work is unlikely to happen. In addition to this, cricket farming can be easily added to and integrated into many food security and income-generation programs of international NGOs. Finally, further (applied) research needs to be undertaken, including the assessment of low-cost, locally available alternatives to commercial chicken feed, improved production systems, breeding techniques, food safety issues, and inclusive value-chain development. This involves also information sharing between and amongst research institutions, practitioners, and the emerging insects for food and feed industry. Participants showing their value-added cricket products produced during a food processing workshop
  20. 20. ANNEX 17 Annex Most Significant Change Story Date: February 18th , 2015 Interviewee: Mrs. Phouangthong-Head of insect farming group in Hatviangkham Most Significant Change Statement: The most significant change for Mrs. Phouangthong, head of the insect farming group in Hatviangkham, is the availability of crickets which are enough for her family members’ consumption and enough to share to friends and relatives, after the insect farming activities started. Most Significant Change Story: Mrs. Phouangthong is a farmer in Hatviangkham village, Houychiem community, Xaythany district, Vientiane capital, Lao PDR. She is one of the 16 participants who joined the insect farming activity in 2014. When she joined the activity, she had the chance to attend trainings on insect farming, including a field trip to an insect farm; she received all equipment needed and was elected leader of the farming group for this activity. So far, she has completed 3 production cycles, harvesting between 5-8kg per cycle. The crickets she produced have become a favourite food of her two children and family members. She has shared the cricket products with her relatives as gifts which has saved her money, and she has also been able to earn income from selling the cricket products. The most significant change for Mrs Phouangthong since joining this project is the feeling that she has learned about insect farming and gained knowledge and experience on how to run her own cricket farm. In her family, there are insect products available as popular food compared to previously when they relied on foraged insects, the availability of which was more limited. In the future, Mrs Phouangthong plans to continue and expand her cricket farm with the purpose of providing food for family consumption as well as for family income.
  21. 21. ANNEX 18 Results of End-of-Project Survey Survey Date: 12/11/2015 Respondents: 13 women/3 men (husbands of participants) I. Income & Food Yes No Don’t Know Improved Income 14 2 0 Earned Money 16 0 0 Improved Diet 16 0 0 Improved Food Security 14 1 1 Expenditure for farming inputs/participant/production cycle Average: 72,000 Kip Range: 40,000 – 145,000 Eat less wild insects Eat more wild insects Eat same amount as before Don’t know Consumption of wild insects since start of cricket farming 13 0 3 0 II. Satisfaction with Cricket Farming Yes No Satisfied with cricket farming 16 Like about cricket farming5 Dislike about cricket farming More food 6 No access to market/difficulties to sell 4 Easy to raise 11 Cricket feed expensive 2 Low time investment 3 Crickets often die 1 Short production cycle 4 Need to look after water every day 1 More income 4 Cold season = slowed down production More knowledge 2 Good taste of crickets 1 Enjoy activity 1 III. New Cricket Farms Yes No Don’t Know Explained to others cricket farming 10 6 n.a. Sold/gifted cricket eggs to others 15 1 n.a. Others started cricket farming 5 10 1 Number of new cricket farmers 14 new farms6 Relation of new cricket farmers to participants (# of answers) Family: 3 Friends: 1 Other: 1 (5 students from NUOL/Dongdok started research on cricket farming) 5 Multiple answers possible 6 The actual number might be lower, as the questionnaire did not check whether all new cricket farms mentioned by the participants belong to different persons, or whether there has been double counting
  22. 22. ANNEX 19 IV. Future Plans Yes No Don’t Know Plans to continue cricket farming after end of project 15 0 1 Plans to expand cricket farm7 11 2 3 Plans to eat crickets 16 0 n.a. Plans to sell crickets (raw/frozen/fried) 11 5 n.a. Plans to sell cricket products (e.g. chili paste/chips) 8 8 n.a. Plans to give cricket for free to relatives/friends 6 10 n.a. Support Yes No If opportunity, wants further support 15 1 More chicken feed 3 More cages 3 More training 2 More support in accessing markets 6 Somebody to collect harvest 1 Visit of bigger cricket farm 1 More project activities/new project 1 V. Satisfaction with the Project Yes No Satisfied with project 16 0 Satisfied with work of project team 16 0 Like about project/team Dislike about project/team Helped to improve income 3 No access to market/difficulties to sell 1 Helped to improve diet 2 Recipes for cricket products changed too often 1 Helped to gain knowledge 8 Not enough monetary support 1 New/good livelihoods activity 2 Team friendly/nice 2 Team explained well 1 Team paid attention to all aspects of activity 4 Good training 2 Monetary support 1 Opportunity to visit other places (e.g. cricket farms, promotion visits in city) 1 Fun 1 How would you solve problems?8 Self-help/solve problems alone 1 Communication/problem-solving within in group 4 Communication/problem-solving with group head 3 Communication/problem-solving with project team 9 7 Some answered that they would build more cages, if they had improved market access. 8 The initial question was “How could problems/difficulties be solved to improve the project?” Due to translation issues, the question was asked in a different way.
  23. 23. ANNEX 20 Comments of Participants “Need more market access for sales.” “Thank you for the project, which brought this activity to us. It was very nice as I could earn more income and had good food.” “Thank you very much for bringing this good activity to us.” “I would want the project team to do new activities.” “Need project to find markets.” “Need market to sell crickets.” “Need project support for feed and market access, and also some middlemen/wholesalers to pick up our produce after the harvest.” “Thank you for the project which provided good knowledge and more income.” “Need markets for sales.” “Need project to improve market access, and find a new project to continue.” “Need project to find market for product sales.” ” Thanks you for having gained more knowledge and for providing us crickets for raising.” “I want the project to find markets, because many households want to expand their farms.” “Thanks a lot for support, if there is a project like this in the future I will join.” “Thank you a lot.” Activities Conducted (Chronological Order) April 2014:  Consultation visit in Ban Hatviangkham: 20 farmers showed interest in proposed cricket farming activity May 2014:  Meeting with Women’s Union to discuss micro-credit/savings scheme and explore financing possibilities for setting up the cricket farms: 9  Farmer-to-farmer exchange visit: 16 women interested in joining the project visited 2 female cricket farmers in Nongtheang June 2014:  Selection of 15 project participants (14 female, 1 male farmer) & facilitation of producer group formation/selection of group head  Training on cricket farming (including life-cycle of crickets, farming techniques) & workshop on cricket cage construction (1 model cage constructed) July 2014:  15 cages (plus 12 shelters) constructed by project participants  Workshop on setting up the cricket farms together with 2 female cricket farmers from Nongtheang & start of cricket farming  Exploration of market opportunities in Vientiane together with participants  Start of regular mentoring visits to monitor the production & provide technical advice 9 Under the scheme money can be borrowed for agricultural activities or particular life events (e.g. wedding, school fees) at a monthly interest rate of 3% for members of the savings group and 8% for external persons. The usual loan size is between 5 and 10 million Kip. Land is used as collateral.
  24. 24. ANNEX 21 August 2014:  Workshop on cricket processing (frying crickets) conducted by Nongtheang cricket farmer September 2014:  Baseline survey  Training on Healthy Diets & Health Behaviour conducted by University of Health Sciences/Vientiane November 2014:  Workshop on processing crickets into value-added products (cricket noodles, chips, chili paste) together with the Food Processing Unit of the Faculty of Agriculture December 2014:  Visit of 25 students (Masters of Public Health) from Laos, Vietnam & Thailand to learn about cricket farming & its relevance for nutrition  Cease of cricket production due to cold season February 2015:  Most Significant Change (MSC) story collection – interviews with 2 female project participants April 2015:  Restart of cricket production  New female farmer joins the project (total number of cricket farmers: 16) May 2015:  Farmer-to-Farmer exchange visit: 20 farmers from Bolikhamxay visit the project participants to learn about cricket farming June 2015:  Training on product marketing & promotion’ including introduction of value-added cricket products to restaurants & retailers in Vientiane  Product development in the food processing laboratory of the faculty August 2015:  Market access review & training on food safety/hygiene September – October 2015:  Processing of value-added cricket products in food processing laboratory together with project participants & marketing activities in Vientiane November 2015:  End-of-project survey  Final stakeholder meetings with representatives of Government, NGOs, villagers & Faculty of Agriculture  End-of-project celebration together with participants
  25. 25. REFERENCES 22 References Barennes, H. et al. (c2010). Edible insects in Lao PDR. National Survey, 2010. [PowerPoint slides]. Boulidam, S. (2010). Edible insects in a Lao market economy. In: Durst, P.B., Leslie, R.N., Shono, K. (eds.) Edible forest insects. Bangkok (Thailand): Food and Agriculture Organization, pp. 131–141. Faculty of Agriculture/National University of Laos, Food and Agriculture Organization, (n.d.). Edible insect recipes: Edible insects for better nutrition and improved food security. Hanboonsong, Y., Jamjanya, T. and Durst, P.B. (2013). Six-legged livestock: edible insect farming, collection and marketing in Thailand. Bangkok: Food and Agriculture Organization. Hanboonsong, Y. and Durst, P. B. (2014). Edible Insects in Lao PDR: Building on Tradition to Enhance Food Security. Bangkok: Food and Agriculture Organization. Ministry of Health and Lao Statistics Bureau (2012). Lao social indicator survey 2011-12 (Multiple indicator and cluster survey/demographic and health survey). [online] United Nations Populations Fund. Available from: http://countryoffice.unfpa.org/lao/?reports=7237 [Accessed: 10th August 2014]. Van Huis, A. et al. (2013). Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization. Veterinarians without Borders/Vétérinaires sans frontières-Canada and National University of Laos/ Faculty of Agriculture (2014). Exploration of insect trading in Vientianne area, March 2014. World Food Programme (2013). Lao PDR – Food and Nutrition Security Atlas. [online] WFP. Available from: http://www.wfp.org/content/lao-pdr-food-and-nutrition-security-atlas-september-2013 [Accessed 10th August 2014]. World Food Programme (2014). Hunger. [online] WFP. Available from: http://www.wfp.org/hunger/malnutrition [Accessed 10th August 2014].

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