Can bugs save the environment and solve world hunger?
caterpillars on farms
Credit: © JanJutamas / Getty Images

In the west, we typically greet the thought of eating insects with disgust. Not so in the rest of the world: A UN report suggest that as many two billion people consume bugs regularly. The tiny creates actually wield an incredible power: they could have the power to save the environment and sold the global hunger crisis.

In Burkina Faso, where 30% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, shea caterpillars are a regular part of the diet, and one woman is hoping to harness the nutritional value of the insect to combat starvation in her country.

The BBC reports that Charlotte Payne, a PhD student at Cambridge University, is currently studying the life cycle of the caterpillar to determine if they might be suitable for farming.

“Shea caterpillars have the potential to help people break out of a cycle of poverty," she said.

Caterpillars are basically a superfood: they contain high levels of protein, as well as iron and zinc, making the ideal food for children suffering from vitamin deficiencies.

Along with Darja Dobermann, a PhD student at the University of Nottingham and Rothamsted Research, Payne wants to make caterpillars available all year around. Not only would they be available to eat, but women farmers could earn an income selling them.

There are environmental benefits, too: Unlike cattle, caterpillars don’t require huge swaths of land, and they don’t emit nearly the same level of greenhouse gases.

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Some farmers are trying to bring the insect gospel to the Western world: Aspire Food Group, based in Austin, Texas, breeds crickets for human consumption. It’s one of a growing number of farms in the U.S. that grow insects for this purpose – and they’re already pioneering change in sustainable agriculture:

Research shows that producing a third of a pound of beef takes 869 gallons of water. How are some farmers keeping their crickets hydrated? All it takes is a moist paper towel.