Families survive on cicadas as food stocks run out

Cicadas have become an important part of diet as food stock runs out.

THE cold wind blew on to his face.And watery mucus dripped down from his nose as he shivered uncontrollably.

It was early morning on June 5 in Bikita district, a rural community about 360kilometres south of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, with birds chirping and whistling, what is often called the “dawn chorus”, signaling the beginning of yet another day.

Douglas Mudume, a 38 year old father of two, together with his sons, carries a long log and a 10-litre bucket half filled with warm water.

They rummage through a nearby dense mopane forest, shaking branches and picking falling cicadas.

They have become an important part of their diet as food stock runs out in this part of the country, when rainfall is low.

Under cold weather, cicadas are easy to catch.

“We usually come and catch cicadas in this mopane forest this time of the year when it is very cold,” Mudume said.

“They are unable to fly in the morning.

“I use this long V-shaped log to shake trees and cicadas fall like water berries,” he added, showing this reporter his important hunting tool.

In what has become a daily routine, Mudume wakes up his sons before they leave for school so that they assist him.

On a good day, he said they fill up a 10 litre bucket and return home in time for the kids to go to school.

It is a lot of work that requires courage and patience, he said.

But this has to be done, Mudume said, noting that the family may starve without cicadas.

“It is tiresome to catch cicadas. More work is needed since I have to shake every tree in the forest. If they urinate into your eyes, it is dangerous. Cicadas use urine to defend themselves,” he said.

“When preparing them into a meal, I boil 10 to 15 litres of water and pour it into a bucket, which contains cicadas. I remove wings and boil the cicadas again, while adding salt.

“I leave the cicadas to dry outside for at least five days. After that, they will be ready, then we know our food problems will be solved for some time while we look for maize for sadza,” Mudume said.

Maize is Zimbabwe’s staple food.

Zimbabwe’s meteorological services department has forecasted a gloom 2023/24  season, which means Mudume’s struggle for food may continue.

Related Topics