Research Article

Economic and Environmental Considerations in Collection and Processing of Winged Termites as Food in Tamil Nadu, India  

C. SEKHAR1 , P. Pradeep Kumar2 , A. Vidhyavathi3 , S. Sivakumar4
1 Professor, Department of Agricultural Economics, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore-641003, India
2 Forest College and Research Institute, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Mettupalayam-641301, India
3 Associate Professor, Department of Agriculture Economics, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore-641003, India
4 Research Scholar in Agricultural Statistics, Department of Physical Sciences and Information Technology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore-641003, India
Author    Correspondence author
International Journal of Horticulture, 2018, Vol. 8, No. 15   doi: 10.5376/ijh.2018.08.0015
Received: 10 May, 2018    Accepted: 20 Jun., 2018    Published: 30 Aug., 2018
© 2018 BioPublisher Publishing Platform
This is an open access article published under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Preferred citation for this article:

Sekhar C., Kumar P.P., Vidhyavathi A., and Sivakumar S., 2018, Economic and environmental considerations in collection and processing of winged termites as food in Tamil Nadu, India, International Journal of Horticulture, 8(15): 171-183 (doi: 10.5376/ijh.2018.08.0015)

 

Abstract

There are several species under the head “Winged Termites”. In the entomologists’ Point of view, they are asset destroying agents and in the biological sense, they are friends of farmers and in the consumption point of view, they are highly nutritious and capable of curing certain contagious diseases. Among the many species of winged termites, few species are widely collected by tribes and the rural people during the season and they process and value add the termites along with certain ingredients and make a tasty and enjoyable food products. The popular species among the winged termite is Odontotermes formosanus which is a rich source of protein, thus forming an important diet for pregnant women and children in the rural settings. Though many south Indian tribes are engaged in the collection process, other rural communities are also greatly involved in collecting, preserving and value adding the produce of termites. This paper presents the method of collection, preservation and value addition methods and distribution for consumption both in the rural and semi urban environments.

Keywords
Termites; Winged termites; Collection of termites; Processing of termites; Value addition of termites; Termites as food

Background

The Economics is no longer merely a science of production and distribution. It has to take into account the ecological repercussions of economic activities that could affect both production and distribution. Thus, economics should not merely be the study of how goods and services are produced, it should take into consideration the impacts of the use of resources on the environment. Any study, on the economic content of production, distribution and development cannot be completed without touching the issues such as externalities, pollution, damage, exhaustion and depletion, among others, Environmental Economics can there be defined as that part of economics which deals with interrelationships between environment and economic development and studies the ways and means by which the former is not impaired nor the latter impeded1. It is thus a branch of economics that discusses the impacts of interactions between humans and nature and finds human solutions to maintain harmony. Insects could play an important role in finding such solutions. Under the head insects, the termites are the one which create both positive and negative impacts to the human being and to the environment. Let us discuss what kind of interactions the human beings are having with such type of insects, preferably the termites. Before that let us see who are the termites?

 

1 The Taxonomy of Termites

The termite belongs to the order of the roaches called Blattodea. It has been known for decades that termites are closely related to cockroaches, predominately the wood eating species of roach. Until recently, the termites were the order Isoptera, which is now the suborder. This new taxonomical shift is supported by data and research to confirm the new comparison that termites are actually social cockroaches. This suborder of Isoptera has over 2,600 species worldwide, and 50 species that call North America their home. The heaviest termite populated areas are located in the tropic and sub tropic regions.

 

The origin of the name Isoptera is Greek and means two pairs of straight wings. The termite has been called the white ant over the years and commonly confused with the true ant. It wasn’t until modern times and the use of microscopes they were able to observe distinguishing features between the two orders. The features are the straight termite antennae, the four equally sized wings, the broad waist of the thorax, and broad abdomen. The earliest termite fossil known in existence dates back to over 130 million years ago.

 

1.1 Difference between termites and ants

One could have observed during the night hours under the light that many of the flying visitors to the portico of the house or the windowsill whom are trying to penetrate the house due to attraction towards light and all these might have died in the morning if you witness very keenly. Are these Termite swarmers or the Ant swarmers? This is an important question. So how do you distinguish termite swarmers from ant swarmers. This is very easy. The main distinctive features between the termites and ants are presented in the Table 1.

 

Table 1 Distinct features between termite swarmer and ant swarmer

Note: Termites and Ants both shed their wings shortly after swarming, so wings are not always present on swarmer (Source: Mississippi State University Extension Service2)

 

1.2 Reproduction in termites

King and queen termites swarm in the summers in large groups of thousands in search of a mate. The two mates have a mild courtship dance, and then begin to start their own colony. The male or king shares the labor with the queen as she is fertilized and ready to have baby termites. The first year of laying eggs the queen can have anywhere from a hundred to thousands of eggs a day. The two care for the first few generations until there are enough young or workers to help the two. When hatched into larvae, the young termites can become workers or soldiers depending on the pheromone and temperature the eggs are exposed to. The workers are the sole providers in the colony’s division of labor and it relies on them to care for feeding of all, maintains order of the young and developing babies, and foraging. The workers and soldiers can be male or female; it doesn’t matter because both are sterile. The population of the colony will continue adding massive numbers for about five years, then the queen will have her first reproductive alates, or young kings and queens. They will mature and prepare to swarm and leave to start another colony in the summer. The cycle continues. (Web Reference-All About Termites) (Figure 1).

 

Figure 1 Life cycle of termites

 

India is blessed with immense wealth of faunal and floral diversity. There are about 45,000 species of plants and 81,000 species of animals (Government of India, 1994) which are to be manned by the Forest Department and the Tribes who are dwelling in the forest environment. There are lots of plants, insects and animals which are able to be consumed afresh or partially processed for its health benefits through essential vitamins and minerals. Termites are the one which is capable of fulfilling the human nutrition and able to alleviate certain health disorders to human being and hence they are properly collected, processed and if need be value added and are consumed at regular intervals by the general public in the Rural, Semi Urban and Urban fringes. Present study is aiming to document how the Termites are being collected, processed for ready consumption and what type of health disorders it can alleviate are discussed briefly after conducting a brief study in the dry tract of Sivagangai District of Tamil Nadu which is the Southern Most Part of India and the Mettupalayam taluk of Coimbatore District, the Western part of Tamil Nadu.

 

2 Design of the Study

Termites form an important part of diet of human beings around the world including India and China. Termites are the rich source of food which contributes protein, minerals and vitamins for the human health and hence hunting of termites during the season of its outflow is quite common in almost all parts of the world. Being the nutritive food and it has higher demand among the rural and semi urban population, certain section of people used to collect the winged termites during the season and process the same for sale in the open market. Most of the rural people are actively involved in this collection process and hence a study has been initiated to document the method of collection, costs and returns associated with the collection and sale of termites, human dependence for alleviating certain rural specific health disorders. Since the author’s native district is Sivagangai, the Sivagangai District was purposively chosen for the study and the author is working as Professor in the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore and hence the Coimbatore District was also purposively chosen for the study in the First Stage.

 

In the second stage, the number of villages in which the very active Termite Collectors were enumerated based on the inquiry with the collectors. Accordingly 19 villages in Sivagangai District and 6 villages in Coimbatore which are belonged to Thiruppathur Taluk and Mettupalayam Taluks respectively.

 

In the third Stage, 10 per cent of the sampling based on the accessibility as well as number of collectors were more in the respective villages were randomly selected following a Three Stage Random Sampling Technique forming a total sample of 60 collectors of Termites. The details of villages and the percentage of sampling is described in the Table 2.

 

Table 2 No of households involved in collection of winged termites

Note: Figures in Parentheses Indicate Percentage to Respective District Total

 

Table 2 revealed that the number of households actively participating in the collection of termites are accounted to be 860 in respect of both Sivagangai District and Coimbatore District. In Coimbatore District only 220 households in the study area are prevalent. Whereas, Sivagangai District had 640 households whom are actively involved in collection and processing of Termites.

 

2.1 Method of analysis

Conventional percentage analysis was carried out for drawing inference on the details of sample households, their dependence on Termites for income and food. The study period was between November 2017 to January 2018 and the data related to the year 2017. Personal care has been taken to avoid the duplication of information from the respondents and the answers were validated by asking repeated questions from the respondents.

 

3 Results and Discussion

The consumption of insects by human beings are referred to as Entomophagy3. Approximately 491 species of edible insects have been recorded on a worldwide basis. Insects and other arthropods are also widely used as drugs in Traditional Medicine4. Ethno-zoological studies conducted among the South Indian tribes revealed that ‘Kannikaran’, Paniyan, Palliyan, Sholaga, Irular and Kota tribes have been using the Termite species (Odontotermes formosanus) for the treatment of asthma5. The Tribes like Kannikaran and Palliyan tribes were using O. formosanus as food to enhance lactation in women6.

 

3.1 Termite mounds in Tamil Nadu

The termite mounds are many in the open forest lands, common lands and in the drier areas of Tamil Nadu. As stated, the height of the mound even may go beyond 20 meters and the base extends even to several meters with inbuilt safety rooms even during the heavy flood, the rooms will not get damaged. Accordingly, the architecture of termite mound goes.

 

Termite mounds’ complex tunnel structure works to circulate air in an orderly manner from a nest chamber low in the mound, up in a central chimney away from the nest, and, as the air cools, down small outer tunnels to the bottom of the nest. That understanding of termite mound function has already inspired human architecture-including a building in Zimbabwe designed without air conditioning that instead uses wind energy and heat-storing materials to maintain a moderate temperature. The only problem with these sorts of termite-inspired designs, Turner said, is that his studies show that the mounds actually don’t work that way.

 

Deploying temperature and humidity gauges, and armed with tracer gases, Turner found that a termite mound does not regulate interior temperature. The temperature inside the mound was not appreciably different from that of the surrounding ground, rising during some parts of the year and then falling. In addition, he found that the air in the nest didn’t really circulate. Instead, it was stable, with cooler air in the nest low in the mound and hotter air in the mound’s upper portions and chimney.

 

The same fluctuation wasn’t found with humidity, which was maintained at roughly 80 per cent year-round. But it is not the mound or its design that does that job, Turner said. Instead, termites actively move water within and out of the mound as they transport water-soaked earth. In addition, the symbiotic fungi that live in the mound with the termites also help to regulate humidity. The fungi, which help the termites digest tough cellulose in the plant material the insects bring into the nest, form complex, folded bodies that absorb excess humidity during wet months and release water during dry months, Turner said. This helps to maintain a stable humidity, dry enough to keep moisture-loving fungal competitors at bay. “They actively regulate nest moisture, but not through design of the mound.” Turner, a biology Professor at the State University of New York said. So, if the mound itself doesn’t regulate heat or humidity, Turner and his collaborators wondered, what does the elaborate branching system of tunnels do?

 

The answer came on further investigation, when researchers found that the tunnels work as an air exchange system. The smaller tunnels on the mound’s surface, used by workers to move in and out of the mound, also serve to mute the gusty, turbulent air outside the mound. Those high-energy gusty breezes are blocked in the surface tunnels, allowing more gentle air movements to penetrate the mound in a pulsing, in-and-out process akin to a breathing human lung. Through this process, fresh air is exchanged into the deepest part of the mound, “sloshing” in and out in a tidal movement that refreshes the mound’s air.

 

“We think these mounds are quite efficient manipulators of transient energy in turbulent wind,” Turner said. “That’s how the mound breathes.” That in-and-out sloshing, Turner said, provides a model for building design. Though most people would refuse to live in a building resembling a termite mound, the tunnel structure could be replicated in building materials used in exterior surfaces, saving energy through passive air exchange systems in everyday, ordinary buildings. Such an important architecture mounds and its location in the common lands are presented in Table 3.

 

Table 3 Number of termite mounds available in the study area of Tamil Nadu

 

Table 3 revealed that the Termite mounds has zero openings to more than 20 openings per mound. Based on the size of the mound, the number of openings and its internal architecture goes vary. The large termite mounds are available less in numbers in the study area which had around 20 openings and spread in a three to four kilometer radius. The number of such mounds available in the locale are numbering between 20 to 30. Large mounds have the tendency of large collection of termites during the season and less number of openings resulted in small collection of termites. The small mounds with 5 to 10 openings are available plenty in the study area which are extending more than 1,000 numbers. People of rural environ design the chart and time of collection of termites from the mounds. They identify the early maturing, late maturing and the medium time of maturing of termites and accordingly the mounds are identified, mapped and collection operations are designed and implemented by them.

 

3.2 Details of species of termites collected in Tamil Nadu

Termites are considered to be the most destructive insect pests in the world. Many buildings and structures are damaged by these pests each year resulting in huge financial losses. In agriculture these termites are boon to aerate and fertilize the soil. On the other hand it loosens the soil so as to permeate air for crop growth. In agriculture also it creates damages by cutting the stems and roots in some occasions. These are managed by using dustable powders.

 

There are 220 different species of termites in India that cause problems to properties. They are:

 

  • Coptotermes gestroi
  • Coptotermes heimi
  • Heterotermes indicola
  • Schedorhinotermes spp.
  • Ondototermes spp.
  • Psammotermes rajathanicus
  • Macrotermes gilvus
  • Microcerotermes spp.
  • Nasutitermes sp. (Pest Control India)

 

However, in our perspective, the Termites are serving as the nutrition bank for the rural poor. Its collection and utilization are discussed in the respective heads. Here, there are some species of termites identified which are useful to the mankind which are presented in Table 4.

 

Table 4 Details of species of termites harvested in Tamil Nadu

 

Table 4 highlights four important Winged Termite Species which are regularly collected by the tribals and the rural poor for their food. The species collected are:

 

  • Odontotermes formosanus
  • Odontotermes feae
  • Odontotermes gurdaspurensis
  • Coptotermes curvignathus

 

These termites are causing some damages to the tree species also in the wild lands. Odontotermes species are normally collected processed and value added during the season of abundance. The season of collection of winged termites are analyzed and the details are presented elsewhere.

 

3.3 Herbal extract as basis for termite attractant

So far, the understanding is there among the common public regarding the Treatment to Termites to destroy them from infecting the assets like wood, living trees and furniture both at home environment and in the wild environment. The extent of damage is discussed in respect of certain forest trees. A lot of chemicals and different formulation of chemicals are available in the open market for termite treatment. But Termite Attractant (TA) has been developed by the Termite Hunters as an indigenous practice and are utilized to hunt the termites alive and do processing the Termites for their food and medicine. The termite attractant is purely a herbal powder prepared with different plant parts and components. The details of plant part and their composition are presented in Table 5.

 

Table 5 Components of plants/plant parts used in preparation of attractant for termites

 

Table 5 revealed that the herbal powder for harvesting the termite was prepared from 12 different plant parts which comprises both leaves, roots and barks. Here, the quantity needed for preparing one kilogram of Herbal Powder as Termite Attractant is presented individually and their percentage share are discussed. The Urikkodi leaves and roots are used as major component which is accounted for 20 per cent to the total composition of Herbal Extract. Urikkodi leaves are normally used for preparing a juice blended with other plant leaves (Mudakkaatran) for relief of Headache, Joint Pain and the Cold and Cough. It is otherwise also called as “Thalaisuruli” which is capable of producing a fragrance from leaves and roots formed the major component in the herbal powder preparation.

 

The second important component equally combined with Urikkodi are Kodappalai roots and leaves; Kilakkai (Carissa caranda) root or bark; Purasu (Butea frondosa) leaves and bark; Lemon leaves and Wild lemon leaves are respectively accounted for 10 per cent each in the composition of preparation of Termite Attractant. In addition to these, the Jasmine root formed 5 per cent of the total composition coupled with Easakottai 10 nuts are also added for forming flavor. These are active ingredients in the Termite Attractant. The Red Sorghum grain and the Cumbu (Bajra) grains formed the additive to form one kg powder. All these are dried well under the hot sun hygienically and are grinded in the machine to form a good powdery form of extract so that it will be easy to spray in the openings of Termite Mounds. Around 50 grams of Termite Attractant is sprayed over the openings of Termite Mounds. Immediately after the spray of TA, the termites started flowing on the ground within half an hour. In this respect, the method of collection of termites assumed greater importance which is presented in the flow chart depicted in Figure 2.

 

Figure 2 Method of collection of winged termites

 

3.4 Steps to be followed in collection of winged termites

The methods of Termite hunting or collection is clearly presented in Figure 2. During the season of abundance, the tribes as well as the residents of rural origin closer to the common lands and in the villages used to visit regularly for identifying the matured mounds for termite collection. On identifying the maturity, the collectors of termites used to clean the site very neatly to avoid any interruption in collection. Regularly they prefer the night hours for collection which are delineated elsewhere. Mid night may be the right time for them to avoid any interruption by the owners of land. In the forest jungle, collection of termites is possible by making fumigation with controlled burn to keep away the wild animal interruption. After cleaning the site, a small hole will be dug out to place the collecting vessel nearby the termite mound and if any ant and other insects are nearby they will be kept away by spraying a chemical or marking the mound with chemicals bordering 10 to 12 feet radius to avoid the damage of Termites by the ants.

 

The day time collection is normally avoided because of diversion to termites due to light. It may fly to different places. Congregation is not possible. In this respect, pit preparation will be carried out in the evening and the Termite Collection will be taking place during the night hours. Before collecting the termites, the Herbal Extract or Termite Attractant is sprayed over the openings around 50 to 100 grams depends on the number of openings and one has to wait for few minutes preferably up to half an hour. The winged termites started flowing towards light placed nearby the vessel submerged in the ground and the winged termites will be collected. This process will be continued for half an hour to one and half hour depending on the size of the pit. If mother has come out of the mound, the harvesters will be suitably gently place the mother inside the mound. Otherwise, the mound will become dead. If the mound to be made active, the mother has to be safeguarded.

 

While collecting the Winged Visitors to the floor, care has to be taken to check the snakes. Normally the snakes will be available in the mound in a separate hill. If the termites started flowing, due to disturbance, the snake will also come out and hence the collectors should be careful to keep away from the snake. Normally, the harvesters of Termites will not disturb the snakes and they will guide the snake to follow a different route. The termite collectors had revealed that so far no such snake bite incidence took place while collecting the termites due to their respect to the snakes and they believe that if they witness the snake, they believe that they were blessed in the wild environment.

 

After the collection, cleaning the winged visitors (Termites) using the Palmyrah leaf took place and then the cleaned termites were properly dried in the partial sun light for making the value added food for the consumption of poor. Very few of the collectors will be selling the processed Termites for want of money. One kg of Termites will be priced at Rs 250 to 300 based on the size and color of the processed Termites.

 

An economy or economic system consists of the production, distribution or trade, and consumption of limited goods and services by different agents in a given geographical location. The economic agents can be individuals, business units or organizations or governments. Transactions can occur when two Parties agree to the value or price of the transacted good or service, commonly expressed in a currency (Wikipedia, 2014).

 

Consideration refers to a fact or circumstance to be considered in forming a judgment or decision. It could also mean payment given in exchange for a service rendered. Consideration could mean a matter weighed or taken into account when formulating an opinion or plan. It means something to be taken into account when weighing the pros and cons of a situation before making a decision.

 

With the above understanding, economic consideration can therefore be defined as the facts or circumstances or matters weighed or taken into account when formulating a judgment or decision concerning the production, distribution and consumption of value added termites by consumers within a given geographical location.

 

Gathering or collecting insects particularly the termites can offer unique employment and income-earning opportunities in developing countries, particularly, but not exclusively, for the poor in urban and rural areas. In many cases, termite collection and hunting of wild animals like rabbits and rats can serve as a livelihood diversification strategy that provides multiple income-generating opportunities for households. For example, silkworms, ants and bees can be considered as multipurpose production systems: silkworms can be used for food and fibre; the bees can provide honey and the juvenile bees or larval stage of the bee will be serving as food to the human. Mostly the tribes in the forest fringes have their own style of hunting the bees.

 

Almost all the rural households are consumers of Winged Termites and its value added products. Very few of the consumers in the household are reluctant to consume due to the nature of insects which moves here and there and hygienically it is not suitable to consume. In this respect, the opinion of the households in the rural setting are analyzed and the results are presented in Table 6.

 

Table 6 The opinion of consumers in the sample households

 

Table 6 revealed that the consumers opinion is in favor of consumption of value added products of Termites. Around 80 per cent of the households reported that the Termites are good to consume and are nutritional and capable of alleviating certain diseases is supported by around 87 per cent of the consumers. The termite produce are not easily available according to 38 per cent of the households. Because of its rare and rarest collection and its abundance per mound is also comparatively less and hence it cannot be produced in large quantities. Termite culture focusing consumption of termites is not prevalent anywhere in the world. In this context, availability is rare and the price is also not affordable to 32 per cent of the households as it is currently priced between Rs. 250 to Rs 300 per kg.

 

The Termite produce are consumable but averse to consume due to unhygienic way of extraction as reported by 23 per cent of the households and 17 per cent of the households reported that they are unaware that it is consumable. If opportunity comes, they are ready to consume. In this context, an in-situ conservation and development possibilities of Termite can best be explored to meet the demand for Termites as food and feed.

 

3.5 Income and employment generation

The rural and tribal population are mostly depending on the forest and common lands for their income and employment generation through the collection/hunting of natural resources in the wild environment. The activities are being honey hunting, rearing silk worms, hunting of wild animals like rats, rabbits and termites, collection of non timber forest produce like wild mangoes, silk cotton pods for extracting floss for preparation of pillows; wild grasses for broom making; wage labor and agricultural activities. Through these activities they were generating considerable employment opportunities per annum and hence these results are analyzed and the results are outlined in Table 7.

 

Table 7 Income and employment generation in the termite collecting households

 

Table 7 revealed that the rural folks of Sivagangai District is actively involved in the wage labor activities followed by hunting of wild animals like rat, rabbit and termites during the season of abundance which are respectively generated 121 and 109 man days of employment to them. The involvement in agricultural activity had generated only 46 man days of employment per annum. Likewise, the total man days of employment generated per annum is arrived at 312 days which has generated an annual income of Rs 93,600/-which is 28 per cent lesser than the income generated by their counterparts in similar activities of work in Coimbatore District.

 

The rural folks and the tribes of Coimbatore District whom are able to generate an annual income of Rs 130,800/per household through the activities delineated in Table 5. The collection of Non Timber Forest Produce activity had generated the highest employment opportunity followed by wage labor and hunting of wild animals like rabbit and rats and termites for their own consumption. The activity of Agriculture had generated an employment of 64 man days. On an average, the monthly income generated by these households in the activities delineated in Table 7 were found to be Rs. 10,900/alone. However, the average monthly income earned by the counterparts of Sivagangai District is arrived at Rs 7,800 only.

 

In a nutshell, the termite collection activity and the hunting of wild animals like rabbits and rats found to be the important activity to the rural folks of Sivagangai District. Whereas, the collection of Non Timber Forest Produce found to be the major activity for Coimbatore based rural folks because of their nearness to the forest fringes of Mettupalayam Taluk.

 

3.6 The meaning of environmental considerations

Environment refers to the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival (Encyclopædia Britannica, 2012). It also refers to all of the external factors affecting an organism. These factors may be other living organisms (biotic factors) or non living variables (abiotic factors), such as temperature, rainfall, day length, wind, and ocean currents. The interactions of organisms with biotic and abiotic factors form an ecosystem. Even minute changes in any one factor in an ecosystem can influence whether or not a particular plant or animal species will be successful in its environment9.

 

Environmental Considerations is nothing but the spectrum of environmental media, resources, or programs that may impact on, or are affected by the planning and execution of military operations. Factors may include, but are not limited to, environmental compliance, pollution prevention, conservation, protection of historical and cultural sites, and protection of flora and fauna.

 

The Ants and Termites creates both positive and negative impact on agriculture and other sectors. Here, two examples have been taken for citing the positive and negative impacts of the Termites. These are outlined in Table 8.

 

Table 8 Positive and negative impact of termites on the environment

 

Table 8 revealed both the positive impacts and negative impacts which is presented below. The case of forest species, the termites has created negative impacts and in the case of agriculture it has created a positive impact which are clearly reviewed with citations.

 

3.7 The role of ants and termites in promoting yield in agriculture

Recent research conducted by scientists at the University of Sydney revealed that ants could also help farmers increase crop yields. The findings show that termites and ants improve soil fertility in dry lands by digging tunnels that allow plants greater access to water. The research also found that termites provide plants additional nutrients because they increase the amount of nitrogen contained in soil. This is done through nitrogen fixing bacteria in their stomach, which allows them to transmit nitrogen into soil through their saliva and feces. Land that was treated with ants and termites showed a 36 per cent increase in the amount of wheat produced. This research gives new scientific insight into how using termites and ants effectively reduces water waste while improving crop yield.

 

Using termites to improve crop production is widely practiced in Africa. Africa is home to more than 660 termite species and while many of them destroy crops, especially exotic crops like maize and sugarcane, farmers in Africa have found innovative ways to integrate termites into their farming systems. In many parts of West Africa farmers place wood on soil in order to attract termites to the soil. In Burkina Faso, farmers bury manure in holes near newly planted grains in hopes that the manure will attract termites to their soil10.

 

In other parts of Africa farmers are trying similar techniques to use termites as a natural fertilizer. In Malawi, farmers plant bananas next to termite mounds. Similarly, in Uganda, Niger, and Zimbabwe, farmers plant a variety of fruits and vegetables on top of termite nests while farmers in southern Zambia take soil from termite nests and use it as top soil for their land.

 

By integrating termites and ants into their agricultural systems, farmers who depend on agriculture for their income and diet are developing low costs sustainable practices that strengthen crop production while maximizing resources.

 

In a field experiment conducted by them revealed that ants and termites increase wheat yield by 36 per cent from increased soil water infiltration due to their tunnels and improved soil nitrogen11. The results suggest that ants and termites have similar functional roles to earthworms, and that they may provide valuable ecosystem services in dry land agriculture, which may become increasingly important for agricultural sustainability in arid climates.

 

Various studies have shown that ants and termites help to create soil structure, influence aeration, water infiltration and nutrient cycling in natural ecosystems12-13. However, despite the apparent similarity in functional roles in soil that ants and termites have with earthworms, their potential use in intensive agriculture in drier and hotter habitats has been largely overlooked. Ants and Termites have so far been considered as anti-agriculturist and hence no significant studies have been initiated in this respect and hence special effort has to be taken by the entomologists and social scientists to assess their environment friendly actions and its impact on agriculture in India.

 

A constraint is something that limits or controls what you can do. Any production and processing activity normally attracts some constraints on the move. Certain factors either in the production process or processing will hinder the progress. One has to identify the factor that limits the progress of activity which are delineated under the head constraints.

 

3.8 Constraints in collection of termites

Termite collection and distribution is an activity quite naturally faced certain constraints in the routine and hence the details are analyzed and the results are presented in Table 9.

 

Table 9 Constraints in collection and distribution of winged termites

 

Termite extraction is a cumbersome process which needs identification of termite mound. For that the collectors of termites have to walk several kilometers and mark the mounds for harnessing the insects. Accordingly the long distance travel for collection of termites formed the major constraint which is reported by 90 per cent of the households. Considering the nutritional importance of the insects, the same can be explored in the in-situ environment for cultivation and harnessing the insects.

 

Poor awareness among the consumers in the urban and semi urban fringes regarding the nutritional status of the Termites formed the next important constraint and the same is reported by 85 per cent of the consuming households. Hence, a promotional measure can be taken up by the personnel in the entomology wing so that the people both in the city and urban living can create a demand for the produce. Once demand is created, then the cultivation is possible.

 

The sleeplessness among the hunters of insects is another constraint during the season of abundance. They have to be collected only during the night hours and hence the day time activities are come to halt for the hunters. The free flow of snakes while collecting the termites and the non-availability of water facilities for preparation of the mound for easing the collection process are the other constraints which are at best be managed by the hunters during the process of hunting. In this context, the following strategies and their implementation could aid the producer or the collectors in a big way.

 

  • Planning and implementation of high volume production of insect based food products.
  • Provide opportunity for innovative entrepreneurs in the field of insect food formulations.
  • Organic Certification procedures for insect based food products manufacturing and value addition need to be implemented.
  • Ensuring Fair and Competitive Market price for the value added insect or termite based formulations.
  • Providing legislative rights to the entrepreneurs, harvesters or the hunters of insects in the process of production, processing, value addition and distribution.

 

4 Conclusions and Policy Implications

The collection, processing and distribution of winged termites in the rural setting is the routine phenomena during the season of abundance. Since the termites are capable of providing essential nutrients to the human living and has better pharmaceutical importance and formulations, it is better to harness the insects by way of improved, scientific approaches. By 2020, many nations are interested in taking the insect based foods and feed formulations and hence the new and innovative entrepreneurs in the field of insect harnessing, value addition and export may be concentrated and the promotional measures may be taken to create awareness among the common public in the urban environment might promote this sector in a big way. What is needed is the legislative support for preparation and harnessing of value added food keeping the insects as base for the new and innovative products.

 

Authors’ contributions

The Corresponding author (1) has played the role of conducting the survey, analysis of data and drafting of the findings while the second author (PPK) gave the technical insights of termites and the third author (AV) did the tabulation works and the fourth author (SS) joined with me during the survey and analysis of data. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.

 

Acknowledgments

My sincere thanks and regards goes to Dr. K. Mani, Professor and Head, Department of Agricultural Economics, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore for permitting me to do such small research amidst my teaching and other outreach activities of the university.

 

References

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Graham Salingar, 2012, “Innovation of the Week: Using Ants and Termites to Increase Crop Yields”, Nourishing the Planet, (World Watch. Org)

 

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https://doi.org/10.1016/S0378-8741(98)00209-8

 

Roonwal M.L., 1970, Termites of the Oriental region, In: Biology of Termites, K. Krishna and F.M. Weesner (eds.), Vol.2, Academic Press, New York, pp. 315-391

 

Roonwal M.L., and Verma S.C., 1991, The South Asian wood destroying termite, Odontotermes feae (synonym O. indicus), Identity, biology and economic importance (Termitidae, Macrotermitinae), Oee. Pap. Rec. zool. Surv. India, 129: 1-33

 

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Solavan A., Paulmurugan R., Wilsanand V., and Ranjith S.A., 2004, “Traditional Therapeutic use of Animals among Tribal Population of Tamil Nadu, India”, Indian Journal of Traditional Knowledge, 3(2): 198-205

 

Verma S.C., 1989, Termites from Uttar Pradesh Tarai Region (India) , with a key for identification of species, Indian J. Forestry, 12(4): 296-301

 

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