The contribution of ‘chitoumou’, the edible caterpillar Cirina butyrospermi, to the food security of smallholder farmers in southwestern Burkina Faso

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Payne, Charlotte LR 
Badolo, Athanase 
Cox, Sioned 
Sagnon, Bakary 
Dobermann, Darja 

Edible insects have been advocated as a means to combat food insecurity, which is prevalent in West Africa. In this study we look at the contribution of the shea caterpillar Cirina butyrospermi, colloquially known as ‘chitoumou’, to the food security of smallholder households in rural southwestern Burkina Faso. We used a mixed methods approach to understand the relationship between caterpillar collection, consumption, and sale by smallholder households, and their seasonal food security status. We found that caterpillars are an important source of food and income for households, significantly increasing the household consumption of animal protein and, with shea nuts, representing the main income source for the majority of women. We also found that food security is higher during caterpillar season, and that household-level food security during this season can be predicted by the amount of caterpillars collected, consumed and sold. However, this relationship holds only during the caterpillar season, suggesting that the positive impact of caterpillars on food security is temporally limited. We conclude that the shea caterpillar is an example of an edible insect that is crucial for seasonal food security in a widespread agricultural system.

Edible insects, Smallholder farmers, Burkina Faso, Nutrition, Food security, Livelihoods
Journal Title
Food Security
Conference Name
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Springer Nature
NERC (1653278)
Includes NERC.