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Women in the Democratic Republic of Congo clean caterpillars harvested from the trees surrounding their village.

From: Insects – Footsteps 115

Why insects are important and how we can look after and benefit from them

Chan Tola Cheam is a cricket farmer in Cambodia. Here she tells us more about it.

Why did you decide to rear crickets?

I really like the taste of crickets. When I was young we used to catch and cook them and they were so delicious. People sell crickets along the side of the road but I tend not to buy them because I do not know if they are fresh or safe to eat.

About four years ago, my church started to go through the Umoja process. This process encourages churches and communities to look at the resources they already have, and to learn new skills from each other.

A pastor in my Umoja group was rearing crickets at his home and when I saw how simple it was, I thought maybe I could raise them too.

How did you get started?

My husband agreed that we should try farming crickets on our rooftop. With technical support from the pastor we prepared two tanks using metal for the frames and medium-density fibreboard for the sides. Each tank is about 1 metre deep, 1 metre wide and 2.5 metres long.

Cricket eggs take about ten days to hatch and then the crickets are ready to harvest 40 to 60 days later, depending on the type. Our first harvest was about 15 kilograms. I cooked them all and shared them with family and friends.

What happened next?

I decided to try selling some of the crickets from the next harvest. I asked around but the street sellers did not give me a good price, so I started to sell them online.

Initially I only sold raw crickets, but many people started asking me to cook them first. I could not keep up with demand so I expanded my business. I now have six tanks on the roof housing crickets at different stages of development.

Chan Tola cooks the crickets according to the different tastes of her customers.

Chan Tola cooks the crickets according to the different tastes of her customers. Photo: Kagna Sorn/Tearfund

How do you look after them?

Crickets eat many types of green vegetables and plants which I collect from around the house. I was told not to use vegetables from the market because they might contain traces of pesticides. This can kill the crickets.

If it gets too hot or too cold the crickets might die, so it is important to protect them from the sun and rain. Nets over the tanks protect the crickets from birds, and engine oil spread around the outside of the tanks helps to stop ants from crawling in and eating the eggs.

How are the crickets processed?

First I clean the tank and discard all the waste and dust. Next I put down clean egg boxes and the crickets settle into them. I then shake the crickets into a bucket of water where they drown.

‘I appreciate the flexibility that cricket farming brings as it leaves me time to do other things during the day.’

I wash them and deep-fry them in oil with lime leaves. The customers can decide what else they want me to add depending on their tastes: green onions, garlic, sugar or chilli, for example.

What are the benefits of rearing crickets?

It is a good business. I can sell 40 to 50 kilograms of crickets each month for five dollars per kilogram raw and 12.5 dollars per kilogram cooked.

I appreciate the flexibility that cricket farming brings as it leaves me time to do other things during the day. My family and I also enjoy having plenty of tasty crickets to eat!

Umoja, which means ‘togetherness’ in the Swahili language of East Africa, equips church leaders and their congregations to work together with their local community to bring about transformational change.

Learn more about the process or download the Umoja guides.

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