Professor of Entomology and Pest Management at the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Kehinde Abike Kemabonta has called for the prioritisation of insects when decisions about conservation and pest management are being made.
Delivering the 24th Inaugural Lecture of the University in the 2021/2022 academic session, Professor Kemabonta explained that many overlook the importance of insects because of their small size, abundance in number and short life cycle. She asserted that although insects are small in size, “no life is small”.
According to her, insects epitomise the phrase ‘small but powerful’, as they have the capacity to make or destroy an economy. Citing the fact that no one would want to buy grains infested with beetles or weevils, or vegetables that have been perforated by insects or that nobody would want to live in a house infested with ants, cockroaches or bedbugs, Professor Kemabonta pointed out that insects, in fact, impact several decisions humans make.
The inaugural lecture titled: “The Amazing World of Insects” provided a platform to open the eyes of the world to the crucial role of insects in the ecosystem by helping everyone see the endless possibilities that abounds in the study (Entomology) of these wonderful creatures and how their extinction may stagger the world.
The erudite scholar delved into the peculiarities of insects, noting that not all insects are 100% perfect as some serve as vectors (carriers) for numerous diseases and some as pests.
Professor Kehinde Kemabonta appealed that: “An insect has the same life as an elephant, hence, it must be treated equally.” She explained that the bias towards insects could be due to the fact that some are pests. According to her, it is quite fortunate that “insect pests are just about two percent (2%) of all insects”.
It is on this premise that the Professor of Entomology and Pest Management had dedicated 19 of her prime years (1990–2010) to promote research on storage of insects and other pests that pose risks to public health during her time at the Nigerian Stored Products Research Institute (NSPI).
At the University of Lagos, Professor Kemabonta’s extensive wealth of knowledge became a rich source for students to tap from as she remains driven by her passion for research, desire to advance knowledge in entomology and commitment to environmental sustainability. To fulfil this, she continued with the exploration of the fascinating world of insects, their roles in ecosystems and the development of sustainable pest management practices.
According to her, “there is a global increasing interest in the use of insects to understand and solve human challenges including climate change, diseases and food security. In Nigeria, beneficial insect species are fast disappearing while the harmful insects such as mosquitoes are acquiring features making them more adaptable to the environment. There is therefore not only the need to carry-out more research, but to also apply the research by translating it in simple languages understandable by the common Nigeria.”
She expounded that the common people are the ones mostly affected by harmful insects due to living in or near forest areas or other biodiversity host-spots.
Professor Kemabonta posited that since insects affect people in diverse ways, “we should learn to modify our socioeconomic lives in response to insect activities irrespective of where we live. Learning how to modify our lives, controlling and taking full advantage of insects while conserving their habitats involve going into: The Amazing World of Insects.”
She therefore made the following recommendations:
- Give insects priority when conservation and pest management decisions are being made.
- Rear Butterfly species and plant their favourite host plants. This will help to improve the conservation management of these plants, establish sustainable Butterfly gardens and buffer zones.
- Edible insects should be reared for their high nutritional qualities and sold to the populace since these insects provide high quality proteins and supplements (antibiotics, minerals and vitamins) even when dried. Growing insects for economic and nutritional purposes is one mine of wealth, Nigeria is yet to tap into.
- Government should encourage small and medium scale insect farmers with low interest loans to venture into this.
- Awareness about the benefits of edible insects, especially for Black Soldier Fly (BSF), should be strongly propagated.
- Monitor Rice imports and stored grains meticulously to control the distribution and maintain the low genetic diversity of insect pests. This recommendation is based on findings that most of the insect/pests associated with stored rice products form monophyletic groups with worldwide isolates.
- Standard regulations involving the input from all stakeholders (Local Insect Farmers collectors, community heads, food companies, NAFDAC and SON) should be formulated and implemented. Through collaboration with appropriate stakeholders, plant products can be made into capsules or tablets that can be applied to grains to prevent stored product insect infestations.
- Appropriate and holistic pest management and control measures should henceforth be employed by seeking professional guidance. This would help in addressing pest-related challenges in a holistic, sustainable and environmentally conscious manner.
Professor Kemabonta also called for more attention to be given to controlling and managing public health insects. She explained that these categories of insects, also known as insect vectors, play a significant role in the transmission of diseases to humans, and it is therefore pertinent that they are professionally controlled and managed for the protection of public health.
Upon completion of her inaugural lecture delivery, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Development Services), Professor Ayodele V. Atsenuwa who represented the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor Folasade T. Ogunsola, OON, FAS, recognised Professor Kemabonta’s immense contribution to knowledge and efforts to improve the world.
In the parlance of learned academics, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor discharged and acquitted Professor Kemabonta on behalf of the University Senate for paying her academic debt to the University. She was warmly welcomed the 24thInaugural lecturer of the University in 2021/2022 session, to the Committee of Professors that have paid their debts.
Professor Kehinde Abike Kemabonta, born in Bukuru-Jos, Plateau State on Sunday, August 20, 1961, has supervised 62 undergraduate, 74 MSc. and 7 PhD students respectively.
With over one hundred (100) local national and international publications in articles, journals and books, her exceptional academic contributions have been acknowledged and supported through the receipt of prestigious grants, such as the: UNILAG Central Research Council grant (CRC); Haggai Institute Hawaii, USA; Biodiversity Information for Development (BID) grant under Global biodiversity and Information Facility (GBIF) twice; and LASRIC grant.
Outside her academic obligations, she devotes her services to church and educational advocacy for the less privileged.
Professor Kemabonta is married and blessed with children.