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Eat the insects, spare the lemurs

11 / 07 / 2019, Mongabaycom News

MASOALA PENINSULA, Madagascar — It’s a lovely walk from the village of Ambodifohara to BeNoel Razafindrapaoly’s field. Nestled at the foot of the mountains of Masoala National Park in northeastern Madagascar, the rainforest tumbles down toward the sea, a fringe of smallholder plots the only barrier between these two elements. Everything seems to grow here: fruit trees (mango, papaya, guava), cash crops (clove, coffee, vanilla), staple crops (rice, yam, sweet potato). Everything is luminescent green, courtesy of the abundant rain and even more abundant sunshine. Here, Razafindrapaoly has planted tsidimy, a native bean plant, to attract a small hopping insect called sakondry. Hardly anything is known about this insect, except that it’s edible, and most importantly, delicious. A juvenile sakondry. Image by Emilie Filou for Mongabay. That was enough to grab the attention of Cortni Borgerson, an anthropologist at Montclair State University in New Jersey, who has been studying the interactions between ecosystems and human health in Madagascar for 15 years. Her work has included the question of why people hunt endangered species, which conservationists have struggled to remedy. She is now leading a three-year program titled Sakondry to see whether farming the insect, and therefore increasing its consumption, could solve the twin challenges of malnutrition and biodiversity loss. For despite the appearance of abundance and the stunning primordial landscapes, Madagascar faces serious human and environmental challenges. Three-quarters of the population live on less than $1.90 a day, and nearly half of children under the age of five suffer from…

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