Japanese social entrepreneur Seiya Ashikari is using tourism as a tool to push Cambodia’s cricket farming industry.
In August 2018, the 24-year-old pressed pause mid-way through pursuing a biology PhD in Tokyo to volunteer on a cricket farming project in Cambodia.
Ashikari saw that growing the insects were a potential way to boost the income of farmers struggling to make ends meet cultivating traditional crops. He launched Ecologgie, helping train farmers and turn their produce into cricket-based protein powder and nutritious snacks.
The insects, which are easy to farm from the rural homes that dot the country and sold for about US$3/kg, are packed with protein – a missing ingredient from many local diets.
Now, Ashikari has launched one- and two-day cricket farming tours in Kampong Thom. The rural province is famed for its cricket farming and home to one of Ecologgie’s current two centres. The other is in Takeo.
Ashikari said: “I want visitors to learn about the cricket farming industry, and raise understanding about insects as a sustainable source of food protein in the future.”
In line with his philosophy of placing locals at the heart of his work, Ashikari’s tours are community-driven. While visitors get to see Ecologgie’s operations, grassroots cricket farmers also introduce guests to their work. Overnight guests stay with farmers in their home.
During trips into surrounding countryside, guests can see the critters in the wild. There is also the chance to accompany tarantula hunters as they head into the jungle in search of spiders.
They are caught using home-made, pronged sticks poked into spider holes. After coaxing out the arachnids, they are caught by hand, defanged and sold. Vendors then deep-fry them in garlic and chili, and sell them as tasty snacks.
Added Ashikari: “This is a great experience for people wanting to really learn about and experience local livelihoods in Cambodia. I wanted to create something different, while helping local communities.”
In 2019, Ashikari ran two tours. This year, he plans to push it as an add-on to Siem Reap trips, or to break up over-land travel between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh.
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