Health: Researcher makes health products from African palm weevil, earthworm, snail
AS the world population grows, the need for increased food production arises, especially protein. Unfortunately, the process of increasing animal protein leads to increase in methane production, a greenhouse gas involved in global warming so the Food and Agricultural Organisation, FAO, in seeking for alternative, noted that insect protein has the potential to curb malnutrition problems.
To this end, the Sub-dean, Post-graduate School and a lecturer in the Faculty of Agriculture, Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Awka, Dr. Cordelia Ebenebe, came up with an alternative protein source. She speaks to Vanguard Learning on her research works on the snail and earthworm as well.
Cerovil infant formula:
“The invention is what I call Cerovil. It is an infant formula for newly weaned babies.
The FAO requested that insect protein be investigated as an alternative given the increase in human population and the fact that increasing protein supply from ruminant animals will mean increase in methane production as supply of protein from animals, especially ruminant animals, result in the emission of methane into the atmosphere.
Methane is a very potent greenhouse gas involved in global warming and its attendant negative effects. Insect protein has been found to be one of the best animal proteins that could be used today.
“The research was born out of another research finding on the methods of mass-producing the protein-rich whitish grub called African palm weevil (Rhyncophorus phoenicis, Akpa ngwo in Igbo and Itun in Yoruba) as an alternative protein source so instead of the normal protein in milk for infants and toddlers, we are now incorporating the African palm weevil.
This nutrient-rich infant formula will counteract mortality in under-five children which is still a problem in Nigeria. The product will undergo further analyses at NAFDAC. So far, we have been able to test for chemical and sensory qualities.
“Before we made the product, we removed about 80 per cent of the oil from the palm weevil because of the end-users – toddlers and babies – as we are not too sure of the digestibility. The oil is good because it contains only unsaturated/essential fatty acids that the body needs.
Those are the things we are testing before we come out with the final product. “We incorporate the palm weevil into cereals and you make it into a pap using hot water.”
“The same African Palm weevil because of the fat content, can also be used in the production of fish feed. Unlike the conventional fish feeds produced here which easily sink and pollute the water, this fish feed does not sink.”
“Another area of my research is in the use of earthworm in livestock feed production because presently, the cost of fishmeal which is the major animal protein source in livestock feed is very high and so many people in the feed industry no longer produce feed with animal protein and that is a problem. You will discover that these days, chickens are tasteless because of the lack of animal protein in their feed.
What they use mainly now is soybeans and soybeans does not contain as much lysine and tryptophan, the major amino acids in animal protein source and because earthworm is rich in these amino acids, we have seen that it is a good alternative in the production of feed.
But the issue now is to be able to produce earthworm in large quantities. We have reared them to a large extent but we want to be able to produce in commercial quantity needed in the industry for both fish and livestock feeds.
A farmer has promised that if we are able to produce a ton of earthworms, he will buy all of them. The problem now is how to produce in that large quantity but we believe that the same technology used in producing small quantities can be used in producing large quantities, the only thing we need is finance to expand the facility.”
“It has been discovered that the slime in snails, especially the African Giant snail, has a lot of anti-aging substances.
Overseas, they do facial treatment using snails. The ladies lie down and the snails crawl over their faces, leaving the slime which contains anti-aging, anti-wrinkling substances.”
Not many people will want snails crawling all over their faces hence the need to extract the active substances. Ebenebe said although they have the technology but thery need funds to get the relevant machines.
“We have not been able to extract these substances because we do not have the machines. We are looking for funds to get the machine. We have the technology, we only need the machine now.
We are collaborating with the National Biotechnology Development Agency, NABDA in this aspect,” she said.