Meet the Mopani worm
Mopani worms are an integral part of our Southern African cultural heritage and a source of protein going back generations. They are commonly eaten in South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia.
They are named for the Mopani tree, but go by many names – Madora (Shona), Amacimbi (Ndebele), Masonja (Venda), Phane (Tswana), and Infinkubala (Bemba).
We don’t know exactly when Mopani worms became a part of our diet, but 6 000 year-old dried Mopani worms have been found in stone-age pits in Zimbabwe. So, that gives you a good idea of how long they’ve been revered as a source of protein.
Mopane worms breed between August and November and are harvested from the ground, trunks and leaves of the mopane tree. In these summer months families and communities venture deep into the Mopani forests to handpick the caterpillars.
Preparing and preserving
Once picked from the tree, the worms are gutted and boiled with salt. Then they are laid in the sun to dry or be smoked to gain extra flavour.
From subsistence to industry
In Southern Africa, the harvesting and sale of Mopani worms has become a multi-million dollar industry. About 9,5 million Mopani worms are harvested in over 20,000 km2 of Mopani forest. Together, they’re worth about US$85 million. Nearly 40% of is invested back into the communities at the heart of the process.
Sustainable and profitable
Mopani worms are a low-cost, low maintenance, high protein and profitable harvest. Bear in mind that 3 kgs of Mopani leaves yield 1 kg of Mopani worms. In contrast, cattle farmers need 10 kg of feed to make 1 kg of beef.
Not only are Mopani worms good for you, they also empower our communities and protect our environment.
Read more on the health benefits of Mopani worms.