Food insecurity remains a significant international problem, with developing regions including Nigeria enduring most of the burden. This becomes worrisome given the fact that inadequate, safe and nutritious food availability does not ensure food accessibility. The search for alternative source of food nutrient remains a perpetual event as human population growth is dynamic and ever increasing under – exploitation and under-utilisation of abundant alternative natural resources has now been recognised as one of the militating factors against nutrient glut as intended by the ‘creator’. Persistent undernutrition and malnutrition has a consequence of leaving children weak, stunted, wasted, vulnerable to disease attacks like diarrhoea, measles, malaria and acute respiratory infections. Malnutrition in adolescents and adults can lead to decreased energy levels, growth failure, and decreased ability to resist infections, short life expectancy, powerlessness and even death (Akinsanmi, 2005). The consumption of selected insects in diverse forms could be a positive response to this imperative. Yoloye (1988) has reported that insects are the most successful prolific group in animal kingdom, constituting about 76% of known species of surviving animals.
Malnutrition often begins at conception and child malnutrition is linked to poverty, low levels of education, and poor access to health services, including reproductive health and family planning. Over one-third of child deaths are due to undernutrition, mostly from increased severity of disease (UNICEF, 2009). Children who are undernourished between conception and age two are at high risk for impaired cognitive development, which adversely affects the country’s productivity and growth. The economic costs of undernutrition include direct costs such as the increased burden on the health care system, and indirect costs of lost productivity. Childhood anemia alone is associated with a 2.5% drop in adult wages (Horton and Ross, 2003).
Globally, about 11 million children under five years (U-5) die annually and 99% are in the developing countries (Ashworth et al., 2004). Malnutrition accounts for about 66% of these deaths and poor hospital care of severely malnourished children accounts for case fatality rate as high as 50% (Ashworth et al., 2004). Early recognition of malnutrition is very essential for effective treatment and control of the problem if the vulnerable groups are to be protected.
1.1 FOOD SITUATION IN NIGERIA
In the 40s and early 50s, Nigeria did not have to contend with the problem of food insecurity. The system was able to feed her citizens and at the same time export the surplus food items. Every regions of the country specialized in the production of one or two major crops, whether food or cash crops, and together the country was relatively self-sufficient in food production. Nigeria had the groundnut pyramids in the North, the cocoa maintains in the west, oil palm and kernel heaps in the East and the rubber plantation in the mid-west (Tell, August 3, 2009:2). But when oil was discovered in 1956 and exportation of it started in 1958, things started changing gradually, and later furiously. It was like declaring holiday for hoes and machetes. As oil prices went up, interest in agriculture waned which marked the beginning of decline into the abyss as a polity.
The consequential effect of the decline like some countries of the world, the nation’s economy is feeling the brunt of the rising cost of food items, especially the rise in the prices of staple foods.
In the same vein, recent wave of natural disasters coupled with economic depression and its attendant effect on the purchasing power of the populations of less developed countries, it has become obvious that the local food stuffs will play increasing roles in the food and nutrition security of the rural people and the increasing urban poor. One of such habits is the use of insects as food (entomophagy) by the African rural communities to supplement their protein intake.
Nigeria faces huge food security challenges; about 70 percent of the populations live on less than N100 (US$ 0.70) per day, suffering hunger and poverty (Akinsanmi, 2005). Reducing malnutrition among children under the age of five remains a huge challenge in developing countries of the World. Malnutrition is widespread in Nigeria, especially in the rural areas. This is partly due to inadequate food and nutrient supply. The 2013 Nigeria Demographic and Health Survey revealed that 37 percent of children under age 5 are considered to be short for their age or stunted, while 21 percent are severely stunted (below -3SD). The prevalence of stunting increases with age from 16 percent of children under 6 months to 46 percent of children 24-35 months and decreases to 37 percent among children 48-59 months. Rural children are more likely to be stunted than urban children (43 percent compared with 26 percent). Stunting is lowest in the South East (16 percent). In other zones, stunting varies from 18 percent in South South to 55 percent in the North West. Among the states, stunting is highest among children in Kebbi (61 percent). Children of mothers with no education are more than three times as likely to be stunted (50 percent) as children of mothers who have completed more than secondary education (13 percent).
Eighteen percent of children are considered wasted or too thin for their height and 9 percent are severely wasted. Wasting peaks at age 9-11 months (27 percent). Differentials in wasting by other background characteristics are similar to those for stunting; however, the differences are smaller. Wasting among children is worse in the North West (27 percent) and North East (20 percent) zone as compared to other zones probably due to high poverty level and illiteracy.
Twenty-nine percent of children are underweight (low weight-for-age), and 12 percent are severely underweight. The proportion of children underweight increases sharply at age 6-8 months (29 percent) and remains so up to age 36-47 months when it starts to decrease. Patterns of differentials by other background characteristics are similar to those for stunting and wasting. The impact of weaning and introduction of complementary foods can be seen in younger children: data on all three indices show that the nutritional status of children deteriorates after age 6 months.
In the same vein, infant and child mortality rates are also basic indicators of a country’s socioeconomic situation and quality of life (UNDP, 2007). Comparison of mortality rates recorded in the 2013 NDHS with the estimates from the 2003 NDHS and 2008 NDHS shows that the rates have decreased, the under-5 mortality rate decreased from 201 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2003 NDHS to 128 deaths per 1,000 live births in the 2013 NDHS. However, Nigeria still has a long way to go to achieve the MDG target of reducing the under-5 mortality to 64 deaths per 1,000 live births and the infant mortality to 30 deaths per 1,000 live births by 2015 (Government of Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2010).
Furthermore, protein foods especially those of animal sources are in short supply, and thus not within reach of low-income households who unfortunately form the major part of the population of most developing economies. The insufficient availability of common animal protein sources, and high cost of the few available plant protein sources, should as a matter of urgency prompt an intense research into the possible exploitation of the potentials of insects, especially the popular African termite (Defoliart, 1989).
While every measure is being taken to boost food production by conventional agriculture, including current interest focused on the possibilities of exploring the vast numbers of less familiar plant resources existing in the wild (Ezeagu et al, 1998), almost zero interest has been shown to the consumption of insects, a traditionally recognised and available source of protein and fats.
This research work is aimed at providing information concerning the nutritional content of winged termite, enhance and popularise their acceptance and consumption in less developed countries especially Nigeria. Winged termite would form a whole new class of food made to order for low-input small-business and small-farm production. International trade in edible insects would almost certainly increase. Although prospects for widespread acceptance are uncertain, there has been a notable increase in the number of articles in newspapers and magazines, and the subject is usually treated more seriously than in the past. With this increasing attention on the part of educators and the mass media, there is good reason to expect that the current momentum in public education on the subject of insects as human food will continue.
1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The specific objectives of this present study are to:
- Determine proximate and mineral composition of the winged termite (M. bellicosus).
- Determine the amino acid and fatty acid composition of the insect
- Evaluate the protein quality of winged termite using weanling Albino rats.
- Evaluate the physicochemical characteristics of winged termite oil.