In Gwanda district, about 550 km south-west of Harare, villagers have turned to selling Mopane worms (amacimbi) because of food shortages resulting from their crop being destroyed by quelea birds, crickets and grasshoppers.
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A good harvest looked promising for these villagers until a swarm of quelea birds and grasshoppers invaded the area and ravaged all crops.
“It’s going to be the same old story of food shortages and queuing for handouts again” said Elitsha Ncube one of the villagers from Takaliawa village.
“They have destroyed so much of my crops that I think I will only be able to harvest maybe two 50 kg bags of maize which cannot feed my family for long,” he added.
Like many other subsistence farms, Ncube cannot afford to purchase pesticides and chemicals to fight the grasshoppers.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation the birds devour about US $ 70 million of crops per annum worldwide.
To compensate for this loss, Villagers camp in the bush near Shashe River on the border of Botswana for more than a week harvesting Mopane worms. It is from the sales of these worms that they are able to pay for their children’s school fees and other necessities.
It takes at least 2 days to fill up a 50kg sack with Mopane worms which are then sold in 20 litre tins for US$ 20.00.