An update from the field!

Lab Note #1
Mar 03, 2017

It’s my last day here in Burkina Faso, and it’s been emotional.

What would you like first, the good news or the bad news?

In the spirit of optimism, I’ll go for the former, and I have three pieces of very good news for the project!

- The BBC World Service came to do a programme all about edible caterpillars and our efforts to breed them. They chatted with lots of local women, learnt how to cook caterpillars, and even dug up some living pupae. The show will be broadcast in April.

- I’ve just sent off our first shipment of leaf extracts to be analysed at Rothamstead - these will be used to help us develop an artificial feed for the caterpillars.

- In my cabin luggage, I’ve got 30 pupae and the necessary forms to allow me to take them into the UK. If you can spare a prayer/knock on wood/cross your fingers that they survive the journey, I’d be so grateful - I’m really worried about them!

And then, here’s the downer, the bad news:

I’ve also been doing food security interviews. I’ve been shocked by the answers given to me. When I’m here, I live in the village, I shop at the local market, I eat and drink with my friends who do the same. Yet - some of them are very worried about their ability to feed their families, especially at this time of year. It’s the dry season, which means that the crops harvested last year are starting to run out, and there’s very little work to be found. Also, since everyone else is in the same boat, it’s very hard to sell things at the market, because there are fewer people with money to pay for things. There's also a lot of illness, and since medical care is expensive, much goes untreated.

I’ve felt helpless on so many occasions. Breeding caterpillars year-round would be fantastic for this community - but only if we manage to make it work! So we'll keep working, keep thinking, and I'll keep telling myself that any difference we can make, no matter how small, is a good thing, and that it’s better to try than to do nothing at all.

Anyway! I feel like this is important information to share as well, because it's the reality of working here, but please do focus on the good news. It’s so exciting that we’re making progress, and fantastic to see so many people supporting our project.

Hope to be able to post some recent photos here once I am somewhere with good enough internet to upload them!

Thanks as always,

Charlotte

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