Love them or hate them but one thing is for sure, mopani worms are on the rise and the market is ripe. During a recent Gather To Grow session on Twitter, experts shared tips to produce, process, and market this Pan-African delicacy.
Phuti Kabasa, founder of Mopani Queens, unpacked why mopani worms are one of the most popular superfoods in the Southern African Development Community (SADC). According to her, mopani worms are a species of emperor moth of which there are about 1 300 types of emperor moths throughout the world.
“In the Sadec region, we are very much obsessed with gonimbrasia belina (a species of emperor moth native to the warmer parts of southern Africa),” Kabasa says.
The gonimbrasia belina species can be found especially in Nambia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, as well as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Meanwhile, Wendy Vesela-Ntimbani, founder of Matomani, gives insight into the harvesting season for mopani worms. Harvesting takes place twice, in December and April.
“How the process unfolds; the rural people will harvest when the mopani caterpillars are ready to be harvested.”
In the session, she explains how moths mate and produce eggs. These eggs are then laid on the mopani tree. She also explains why emperor moths are only alive for seven days.
“We never harvest all of the mature caterpillars because we want to create a sustainable environment and we want more caterpillars to be available for future generations.”
Ntimbani also discusses the efforts by “mopani-preneurs” and agro-processors to look after the caterpillar population.
The session also touched on exports. Ntimbani says Botswana is the largest exporter with Zambia not too far behind.
“There’s a lot of interest from outside the country. Approximately two billion people worldwide eat insects as part of their daily diet. The concept of edible insects is not new,” she says.
During the session, experts also discuss the following:
- Establishment of a South African mopani association; and
- Export opportunities.
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