Zainah Nampijja was preparing to defend her Masters thesis when she was nominated for the BioInnovate Africa Women Fellowship. This nomination and eventual placement in the Insect Protein project was a welcome opportunity to further her research and interest in insect science.
For the fellowship period, Zainah has been carrying out a detailed analysis of different insects (specifically amino acids, fatty acids, minerals and vitamins) to identify their nutritional requirements with the aim of developing a feed formula for the production of crickets and grasshoppers. Specifically, she has been assessing the potential of Black Soldier Fly larvae instars as an alternative protein source in cricket and grasshopper diets.
According to Zainah, one of the important lessons she learnt was that, there still exists gaps in knowledge on insects as a source of food even though many discoveries are still being made. This insight has revealed to her the need for continuous research to update one’s knowledge.
“I was privileged to participate in the fellowship and I have loved the constant interaction with my mentor and other insect science researchers from Belgium and Netherlands. This has been an eye-opening experience to the potential of insects as an alternative protein source for both livestock and people”
Globally, more than 2 billion people rely on different insects to supplement their diets. In eastern Africa, protein-rich edible insects are increasingly becoming a viable and sustainable alternative to animal and plant protein for improved food and nutrition security. Therefore, Zaina’s work with Dr Dorothy Nakimbugwe of Makerere University, Uganda will contribute towards finetuning the rearing techniques of grasshoppers and crickets to ensure their consistent market supply in safe and hygienic conditions.
To other aspiring young female scientists she says:
“Young women we are the future of this world, Work hard, believe in yourself and relentlessly pursue your goals until you achieve them.”
On completion of the fellowship, Zainah tells us that she will continue to work on insects as food and feed and later pursue a PhD in the same field.
I will continue with some work on insects as food and feed together with my mentor because I have realized that a lot about insects is not known to myself and the local Uganda community and yet they have a great potential of feeding humans and livestock. I also expect to do my PhD in insect science.”