CAIRO – A Canadian Muslim graduate of University of Mississauga has been named in ‘Forbes 30 Under 30’ list in the Social Entrepreneurs category in recognition of his successful approach to help locals and developing countries cultivate insects for food and profit.
“These people typically spend half their income on food, eating a lot of carbs and fats because that’s all they can afford,” Mohammed Ashour, co-founder of Aspire Food Group, told University of Toronto news.
“Insects have protein and other micronutrients people need. And it’s a source they already enjoy.”
Ashour’s Aspire is helping small farmers in Kintampo, a town in the Brohn Ahafo region of Ghana, to cultivate palm weevil larvae, a popular local food.
The larvae, which are served grilled, dried, fried, in soups of in stews, are high in protein.
It was suggested as an alternative to poor communities in Ghana as it reaches maturity in just four weeks, making it a sustainable option for feeding a single family or starting a small business.
“I thought it was disgusting and insulting,” he said, referring to his now favorite chili-lime grasshoppers, which is deemed halal in Islam.
“Feed poor people insects? But then I did some research and saw that all my assumptions were wrong.”
Forbes nomination is not the first success for the growing company of Ashour, who earned an Honors Bachelor of Science in life sciences from UTM in 2009 and was cited as one to watch in the Social Entrepreneurs category.
In 2013, Ashour and the Aspire team beat out 250 other proposals to win the $1-million Hult Prize, an award given in partnership with the Clinton Global Initiative to support startups aimed at fixing major social problems.
“The Hult Prize has completely flipped our understanding of serving communities in resource-limited settings,” Ahsour said.
“The idea that food-insecure urban slum residents are best served by for-profit businesses would have been unthinkable not too long ago.”
Ashour hopes that his company, Aspire, can work alongside charities and NGOs in solving global issues like food insecurity.
“Working in parallel to target different ends of the same spectrum, social enterprises and NGOs are now in a better position to effect global change than either of them could alone,” he said.
Muslims represent 3.2% of Canada’s total population.
Muslims are the fastest growing religious community in Canada, according to the country’s statistical agency, Statistics Canada.
Canada’s Muslim population increased by 82 percent over the past decade – from about 579,000 in 2001 to more than 1 million in 2011.