Project Lead(s): Kahitouo Hien, Sylvain Ouedraogo
In 2014, the United Nations estimated that five million children under age five would suffer from malnutrition in the Sahel – the region between the Sahara to the north and what has historically been known as the Sudan region to the south.
In Burkina Faso, malnutrition is responsible for the deaths of more than 40,000 children each year and there is a need to identify alternative sources of food to combat malnutrition.
While the shea tree is known for its nuts (used to produce a butter and to which a myriad of benefits have been attributed), much less is known about the caterpillars that feed on its leaves.
FasoPro is a Burkinabe agrifood company that seeks to create value from the shea caterpillar, an insect that is particularly rich in proteins, iron, omega-3 and essential fatty acids.
In this project, FasoPro sought to develop and promote the use of shea caterpillars as a food source, by taking a number of steps:
a. Establishing an equitable network for harvesting shea caterpillars.
b. Identifying local partners, and bringing together and training women’s associations to increase their skills in collecting caterpillars
c. Marketing consumer products that are based on processed shea caterpillars
d. Conducting experiments to commercialize five consumer products on the Burkinabe market
e. Establishing a strong distribution network.
FasoPro has established a viable working relationship with a local partner, the Guiriko Farm, to bring together 10 women’s associations in the western part of the country, representing about 250 women. This has enabled the team to recruit harvesters/collectors, to train them to improve their skills, and to buy – at a fixed and reasonable price – the raw material that has been collected.
Additionally, FasoPro successfully created a production process that meets precise quality specifications developed by independent laboratories specialized in food products analysis (in France and Burkina Faso). FasoPro has developed a line of products that are commercialized in smaller formats and accessible at lower price points (salted cakes with caterpillar filling, caterpillar powder to flavour dishes, and caterpillar pepper chips).
Available in many local shops, sold at various promotions and events, and distributed via strong and diversified networks, caterpillar-based products are entering the day-to-day lives of Burkinabe year round.
The third significant achievement of the project was the development of an artificial shea caterpillar breeding operation, for the formulation of products targeted specifically at populations suffering from malnutrition. However, some scientific issues still need to be resolved prior to implementing the breeding operation.
FasoPro plans to finalize the research work by studying with more accuracy the parameters influencing the life cycle of shea caterpillars, with the aim of formulating products for the prevention and elimination of malnutrition. Potential partners have already been engaged and are awaiting the conclusion of research work aimed at stabilizing the raw material, before proceeding to the next stage of product formulation.
Going forward, the team would like to extend the network of collectors to the southern region of the country, where shea caterpillars are not yet perceived as a potential source of additional income for women.