Burkina Faso: Entrepreneur harvests, sells shea caterpillars to fight malnutrition (Agribusiness TV)

| June 27, 2016

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Kahitouo HIEN

Kahitouo Hien sits in his busy workshop, where his employees hold large metal pans filled with caterpillars. The women are sorting the black bugs. Later, they will fry and package the insects to sell in Ouagadougou and elsewhere in Burkina Faso.

Mr. Hien is the entrepreneur behind FASOPRO, a company that harvests, processes, and packages shea caterpillars as an excellent source of protein and iron.

The 31-year-old explains, “There are many different types of caterpillars in Burkina Faso, but they are not all consumed. The caterpillar that we are talking about is the shea caterpillar.”

During the July to September rainy season, more than 100 women harvest the caterpillars from the Bobo-Dioulasso region, 350 kilometres west of Ouagadougou. During the rainy season, shea caterpillars eat only the leaves of shea trees.

Mr. Hien says the bugs are rich in protein and iron, which is how they fight malnutrition. Just 100 grams or 40 caterpillars provide the daily recommended dose of iron and 60% of the daily dose of protein. The caterpillars have twice the protein of meat, by unit of weight. Chenille de karité

Photo credit: AgribusinessTV

Mr. Hien demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair from a young age. He financed much of his studies by rearing livestock. Now, he is an agro-chemical engineer.

He says: “Many people ask me why, with my degrees in engineering, I don’t find a good job in mining. Why I am bothering myself with the caterpillars? I tell them it’s because I want to do it.”

FASOPRO produces a variety of products for sale, including pre-cooked caterpillars, powder for seasoning, and caterpillar cakes. Mr. Hien is developing other products, including canned versions.

Kam Hien is an employee at the Ouagadougou workshop. She explains the process for producing pre-cooked caterpillars: The employees wash, steam, and sort fresh caterpillars, and then fry them for 30 minutes until they are crispy. Some are seasoned, and then they are packaged.

The cooking process preserves the caterpillars for up to 18 months. Mr. Hien says, “And when you open a packet, you have the impression that the caterpillars have just been harvested.”

He says the first challenge he faced in starting his business was connecting with technical centres to develop and test a product prototype. He explains, “Unfortunately, there are not enough technical centres, notably in the area of nutrition.” He developed and tested his first product, “Toumou’Déclice,” in France.

His second challenge was convincing people to consume caterpillars. In western Burkina Faso, the Bobo people eat caterpillars, but Ouagadougou residents were wary of the idea. Mr. Hien says people of the Mossi ethnicity are very opposed to it.

He had to be persuasive to encourage new consumers. He explains, “You need to be patient, and find the right words to convince the person.”

Now, with good products and a good market, Mr. Hien is ready to tackle the supply challenges. He says he is unsure what the shea caterpillar population will be in 10 years, so he is developing an intensive production system to raise caterpillars himself. That way, he can better manage the supply chain.

Mr. Hien is excited to tackle this challenge, just as he is with other challenges. He adds, “To be able to overcome these challenges, we need to do more and look for solutions. This is what makes entrepreneurship exciting.”

To learn more about FASOPRO and to watch the video on which this article is based, Shea caterpillar to fight malnutrition, go to: http://en.agribusinesstv.info/Shea-caterpillar-to-fight-malnutrition_v65.html

Main photo credit: AgribusinessTV