As the locust infestation becomes an increasingly dire problem, experts have been drafting strategies to combat the situation. In war-torn Yemen, where food shortage was already rampant, authorities have been encouraging people to eat locusts. In Saudia Arabia eating desert locusts is far from unheard of.
Muhammad Khurshid from Pakistan’s food ministry and biotechnologist Johar Ali have successfully run a pilot scheme in the Okara district where they incentivised locals to catch locusts, offering Rs 20 per kilogram. Pesticides had not been used in the chosen region so the locusts were safe to be dried, shredded and repurposed into chicken feed.
Hi-Tech Feeds, which is Pakistan’s largest producer of animal fodder, added the caught locusts in the feed as a substitute to the 10% soybean used otherwise. General Manager Muhammad Athar tested the feed on 500 broiler hens and concluded that “there was no issue with the feed, the locusts have a good potential for use in poultry feed.”
The project started off slow with Muhammad Khurshid and Johar Ali learning and in teaching locals how to catch them, “We first had to learn, and then teach the locals how to catch the locusts. Nets are useless against them.” Eventually by the third night, hundreds of locals had joined in and caught 20 tonnes of the insect, with the program being put on a hold after authorities ran out of money to pay the collectors.
With the success of the pilot project, plans are being laid to expand the scheme to further locations.