Edible Insects as tribal food among the Rabhas of Assam

Bhupen Rabha

Abstract

Insects are highly specialized group belonging to the largest animal phyla, Arthropoda. It is in folk mind of the people that they are enemies of mankind but there are number of insects which are beneficial to man in a number of ways so much so that same can be considered more or less indispensible to man. Edible insects are a natural renewable resource that provides food to many ethnic groups abroad and North East India too. Some of these species are overexploited because of increased consumption, caused by the huge human population growth in the area. The rural people hunt or collect different kinds of resources, in order to have more means to satiate their hunger, but the quantity or quality of foods found is unequal depending on the place, season and people seeking these foods. Insects are a healthy, nutritious and a savoury meal. Species of insects are collectedaccording to their seasonal presence and abundance. Most people in developed countries dislike or hesitate to consume them – probably because they are repulsed by the appearance of insects, not their taste.Tribal people especially Rabha people of Assam have chosen to take entomophagy as a sustainable source of food as it has been using since ancient times, a knowledge which has been passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth. The Rabhas are a tribe belonging to the great Bodo family and scattered in parts of lower Assam, Kamrup district, Goalpara district, parts of West Bengal and Meghalaya. Some edible insects consumed by Rabha people in lower Assam in India are cricket, grasshoppers, water giant bug (Bellostoma) termites, red ants, beetle larvae, pupa of insects, water skater (Gerridaec) etc. Edible insects, among the Rabhas, are not used as emergency during food shortages, but are included as a planned part of the diet throughout the year or when seasonally available. Insects can be accepted favourably in the future by processing and mixing them with other foodstuffs.

Keywords

Edible insects, Energy, folk food, Rabhas of Assam

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