WILDLIFE MADAGASCAR
SAKONDRY FARMING

SAKONDRY FARMING

Wildlife Madagascar Initiative: Implementing Sakondry Farming as a Sustainable Food Source

Growing bean plants to host the sakondry insects.

Nearly 70% of Madagascar’s people live beneath the global poverty line, and half are undernourished. When people are hungry, they do whatever they can to feed their families, including hunting wildlife like lemurs and logging and clearing forests. One of Wildlife Madagascar’s goals is to develop sustainable food sources for people living in and around the areas we work, in order to improve food security, household income, and nutrition, especially for children. If we can help increase the affordability, accessibility, and stability of nutritious foods in these communities, it will be an important step toward improving people’s lives—and toward saving Madagascar’s endangered wildlife. This initiative seeks to accomplish that.

What Are Sakondry?

Sakondry are an insect species, Zanna tenebrosa, that is native to Madagascar and already used in Malagasy culture as a food item. It is a type of leafhopper that feeds on the fluid inside plant stems, specifically its host plant, a native bean called tsidimy (Phaseolus lunatus). When fried, the insects taste like bacon—giving them the nickname “bacon bug.” More importantly, they are nutritious: a high-protein, low-carbohydrate food that is rich in essential fats and micronutrients. After cooking, they store well without refrigeration, and they do not contain harmful microorganisms—they even show significant antimicrobial activity against Streptococcus pneumoniae. They are a traditionally eaten food, tied to the identity of the local people, and they are perceived as wild, natural, cheap, and available during seasons of low food production.

Sakondry gathered on a plant stem
Cooking sakondry

Why Farm Them?

Farming sakondry and increasing their consumption could help prevent biodiversity loss and reduce malnutrition. Sakondry have many characteristics that make them favorable for cultivation. They are a native wild species that already exists in the environment, and testing has shown that they do not colonize other plants or nearby crops. They reproduce quickly, but they have a minimal effect on the production of beans on the plants, so the beans can also be harvested as another source of nutritious food. Plus, the bean plants can be grown in unused and underused agriculture areas, including on fences, along paths, and between existing crops. Therefore, no new agricultural land needs to be developed, and no forest needs to be cut down to farm sakondry.

Sakondry feeding on a bean plant
Fried sakondry ready to eat

Our Project

Wildlife Madagascar will be working in rural villages that are evenly distributed around our first field site, the Anjanaharibe-Sud Special Reserve (ASSR) in northeast Madagascar. There are six main village clusters, each containing five to six village hamlets, where we will recruit volunteer households to grow the bean plants and farm sakondry. We will provide seed stock for Malagasy varietals of climbing bean plants, and we will participate in monitoring the plant growth to determine which varieties are best for the areas. We will conduct education workshops and training sessions for the participants on cultivating the bean plants, how to raise and sustainably harvest the insects, and techniques to solve production problems. We also plan to create a women’s cooperative seed-sharing program, and eventually a sales network for communities to sell excess sakondry and beans, as well as seed stock and insect larvae so other communities can set up their own farms. This will improve overall income and increase funds available to purchase other types of food and household items.

Local village near ASSR

Timeline

We plan to conduct this project over a three-year period. The first year will be to recruit 20 volunteer households to grow different varieties of the bean plants and test which are the most successful and productive. We will help monitor the arrival and accumulation of wild sakondry on the plants and provide training about cultivation techniques. This year will provide the data needed to determine the best types of plants and the best production methods to establish successful farms.

Madagascar bean plant (Phaseolus lunatus)

In year two, we will distribute seed stock to all households in the villages so they can establish their bean plant plots. We will conduct training sessions and workshops in each area, covering plant cultivation and best practices in supporting the growth of sakondry through its seven life stages. We will provide support, assistance, and knowledge sharing wherever requested. This will be a full roll-out phase in which we expect all households in the village clusters around ASSR to be involved.

Year three will include an assessment and evaluation phase, to determine any obstacles, problems, or knowledge gaps and to address them. We then expect production to scale up and expand to other villages, and to establish a network to sell adult sakondry, insect larvae, and seed stock, providing an additional source of income to families in the area.

Expected Benefits

Creating sustainable farms that produce sakondry and beans in remote, rural areas will provide food security and increase nutrition for people who are now dependent on forest resources for their food. Through this alternative, communities can improve their health and livelihoods, while also reducing the need to exploit the wild habitats near them. It’s a definite win-win for Madgascar’s people and its wildlife!

You Can Help!

If you would like to help us implement this important project, please consider donating to Wildlife Madagascar or becoming a member. Support from people like you who care about Madagascar and its incredible wildlife is what makes our work possible. Thank you!