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© 2019, The Author(s). Edible insects have been advocated as a means to combat food insecurity, which is prevalent in West Africa. In this study we look at the contribution of the shea caterpillar Cirina butyrospermi, colloquially known as ‘chitoumou’, to the food security of smallholder households in rural southwestern Burkina Faso. We used a mixed methods approach to understand the relationship between caterpillar collection, consumption, and sale by smallholder households, and their seasonal food security status. We found that caterpillars are an important source of food and income for households, significantly increasing the household consumption of animal protein and, with shea nuts, representing the main income source for the majority of women. We also found that food security is higher during caterpillar season, and that household-level food security during this season can be predicted by the amount of caterpillars collected, consumed and sold. However, this relationship holds only during the caterpillar season, suggesting that the positive impact of caterpillars on food security is temporally limited. We conclude that the shea caterpillar is an example of an edible insect that is crucial for seasonal food security in a widespread agricultural system.

Original publication




Journal article


Food Security

Publication Date





221 - 234