By Amy Fallon
It is known as the land of copper to the outside world, but there’s another c-word that does a roaring trade in Zambia, albeit locally – caterpillars.
On a street corner in the capital Lusaka on a scorching hot day, Dorothy Chisa, 49, is selling the insects, a popular high-protein delicacy in the southern African country. They come raw in different sized pots starting at five Zambian Kwacha (less than one dollar).
“[People\ like them very much. They taste very nice, like fish meat. They have vitamins. You pound them and you make a porridge for babies,” the married mother of seven, who can earn 600 Kwacha a day selling caterpillars, tells IPS.
Found on the Mopane tree in Zambia’s north, the insects are called ‘Ifishimu’ in Bemba or ‘Ifinkubala’ in the Chewa language heard in the country’s east. The thorns on the black type are more visible than the brown, which vary in size.
After locals pick the living insects from the trees with their bare hands, the creatures are squeezed to discharge the leaves they’ve consumed and put on low heat to roast. In the sweltering Zambian weather, they normally dry within two days.
Locals mix them with nshima, a cornmeal dish and a staple in Zambia, as a snack with tomato and onion on top, and add them to stews. One Lusaka restaurant serves the insects, and at least one safari lodge at Victoria Falls, on the border with Zimbabwe, has them available to tempt mzungus (‘whites’).
Locals flock to the north from Lusaka and other parts of Zambia to buy them in bulk, selling the caterpillars across the country, all year round. This year, attendance in Northern Province schools dropped by more than 70 percent at one stage as students abandoned their lessons to catch the insects, a Zambian newspaper reported last month.
Demand by businessmen and women from urban areas is reported to have pushed up their price, with Kitwe and Lusaka residents camping in villages to snap them up. It was also claimed parents were forcing children to sell caterpillars. More....