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Tydskrif vir Geesteswetenskappe

versão On-line ISSN 2224-7912
versão impressa ISSN 0041-4751


DURAND, François. Insects and food security in South Africa in the light of climate change. Tydskr. geesteswet. [online]. 2022, vol.62, n.4, pp.623-646. ISSN 2224-7912.

The Covid-19pandemic has had a devastating socio-economic effect on the country, including the death of more than 102 000 people, many ofwhom were the breadwinners of their families. This could not have happened at a worse time, since the economy of the country was in a recession even before the pandemic. The situation is exacerbated by the highest level of unemployment in the world, widespread nepotism and corruption, the plundering of state coffers and the favouring of the business interests of ERICS partners by government officials over those of South Africans. The government's commitment to prioritising their ERICS partners' business interests over those of the South African people contributes to food insecurity in South Africa. This includes the export of coal from mines in Mpumalanga to China and India, while nothing is done to rehabilitate the region, which was once known for its agriculture. The government handed over to the Chinese company SAEME the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone, where four opencast mines, a 3 300 MWpower station and an iron smelting plant will be developed. This development, however, requires the government to build a dam that will harvest 60% of the annual runoff of the Limpopo River, which in turn will have a devastating effect on farmers and communities downriver in South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique who irrigate their crops with water from the Limpopo River. The same kowtowing of the South African government to its ERICS partners can be seen in the reluctance with which the government responds to the plundering of our marine resources by Chinese fishing boats and abalone smugglers. The unfair competition imposed on local chicken farmers by distributers of dumped chicken, mainly from Brazil, with the approval of government, caused the closure of several South African chicken farms and the resulting loss of tens of thousands ofjobs along the supply chain. The reluctance of the government to take sides in the Russia-Ukraine war is partly linked to the fact that South Africa imports fertilizer and wheat from Russia. South Africa, a water-scarce country, is more vulnerable than many other countries to the effects of global climate change. The abnormal rain pattern, that is characterised by severe droughts in certain regions and heavy rainstorms and floods in others, has a devastating impact on the already economically struggling South African community. Abroad, attempts are made to ensure that mean temperatures do not exceed the pre-industrial level mark by more than 1,5 °C. South Africa, however, heats up twice as fast as many other countries, and has already exceeded the pre-industrial era level by more than 2 °C; it will continue to get warmer and drier, causing most of the country to become desertified by 2050. A third of South African rivers do not reach the sea anymore because of over abstraction ofwater from rivers; similarly, there is extensive abstraction of groundwater. Together farming and forestry account for 70% of water use in South Africa. This over abstraction of water, worsened by the heat and aridification resulting from climate change, led to the degradation of most wetland and estuarine ecosystems and the drying and burning of irreplaceable peatlands. These political, socioeconomic and environmental calamities create the worst possible scenario for food security in South Africa. Already one in four people in Africa suffers from food insecurity and this number will rapidly rise in the wake of global climate change, which will result in the loss of two thirds of arable land by 2025. South Africa is nearing socioeconomic collapse. This, in conjunction with continuing droughts, storms and rising temperatures associated with global climate change, will lead to food insecurity, starvation and anarchy. The effect of global climate change will make it progressively more difficult to produce enough food for the South African population. It is imperative that South Africans consider alternative methods of food production, including water use. Entomophagy is widely practiced throughout the world, but is especially prevalent in South America, the Far East and Africa, where approximately 2 billion people use 1 900 species of insects as food. The nutritional value of insects is unsurpassed and, in some respects, even more nutritious than meat. The larvae of the black soldier fly (BSF) Hermetia illucens are a source of high-quality proteins and unsaturated fats that are used worldwide as animal feed. Insects are a source of minerals such as iron, calcium, copper, zinc and magnesium and high levels of vitamin A, B2 and C. The ecological and socioeconomic benefits of using BSF larvae instead of grain as feed for fish, chickens and pigs are enormous. BSF larvae can be bred almost for free by feeding it a wide variety of organic waste, including rotten vegetables and fruit, manure and even carcases that would have ended up in rubbish dumps and would have contributed to the methane and carbon dioxide pollution emanating from such dumps. The water use of BSF is negligible, because the water in the organic waste that would have been discarded in waste dumps is sufficient to sustain them. BSF affords the subsistence and small-scale farmer the opportunity to raise chickens at a lower input cost than ever before. The conversion of feed to food in insects is far greater than that of chickens, pigs or cattle. In the case of the house cricket (Acheta domestica) the conversion rate of feed to food is twice as effective as that of chickens, four times as effective as pigs and twelve times greater than that of cattle. Compared to conventional farming, this implies that with insects far more exceptionally nutritious food can be produced in a smaller area, with little water and no poison or fertilizer whatsoever, while waste and the associated methane gas are removed from the environment at the same time. A few South African companies have already seen the potential of insects as food and feed. Even though insect farming is still in its infancy, it is already generating jobs and new socioeconomic opportunities in South Africa. Insect farming, especially BSF farming, will in the near future probably grow in popularity all over the world as an affordable, healthy, ecologically sustainable alternative food source that will, directly or indirectly, be consumed by humans. BSF afford the environmentally conscious homesteader who wants to produce livestock such as chickens, fish, or pigs in a sustainable manner an unsurpassed environmentally friendly alternative. BSF will also give the desperate, impoverished and starving population of the future an alternative free source of feed that will offer them economic prospects and food security.

Palavras-chave : entomophagy; insects; black soldier flies; BSF; starvation; global climate change; food security; animal feed; methane; waste dump; sustainability; water use.

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