Consumption or profit? edible caterpillars collection in Northern province of Zambia, 1950-2019.

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Mwanza, Aaron
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The University of Zambia
Since the 1950s, edible caterpillars were being collected by the people of Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia‟s) Northern Province. They were consumed as a delicacy at household level. In some instances, however, edible caterpillars were sold for cash later when the cash economy was introduced or bartered with other foodstuffs. In view of this, this study investigates the extent to which edible caterpillars were collected either for consumption or for profit in the Northern Province of Zambia from the 1950s to 2019. The study focuses on two districts of the province, that is, Luwingu and Mporokso. The study discusses the methods adopted by the local people in collecting caterpillars. It argues that four main methods were used, that is, net trapping, cutting down trees, hand-picking and tree-beating (shaking). However, only the latter three were used in Mporokoso and Luwingu districts. In addition, the study examines the dynamics of edible caterpillar harvesting in Luwingu and Mporokoso districts. It argues that the methods of collecting caterpillars remained unchanged. The people of these areas did not adopt new methods of collecting caterpillars. Rather, by 2019, they were still engrossed in traditional methods of caterpillar collection. The study further demonstrates that as opposed to earlier years when caterpillars were mostly collected for consumption, by 1976 commercialisation in caterpillar collection had become prominent. Caterpillars began to be sold to local markets in Lusaka and the Copperbelt Provinces of Zambia. In some instances, they even found markets in European nations. In this respect, from mainly being consumed at household level, edible caterpillars gradually became an important source of income generation and profit for the local people. The study also analyses the socio-economic impact of edible caterpillar harvesting among the people of Luwingu and Mporokoso districts. It argues that the process of collecting edible caterpillars had both negative and positive impact on the local people of Luwingu and Mporokoso. A notable negative social impact was pupils‟ absenteeism from schools during the collecting season when they opted to collect caterpillars than attend classes. Another social impact was that church revenue, which depended on church members‟ attendance, went down during caterpillar season as most members would go and collect the insects. The churches involved were the Catholic, UCZ, Bread of Life and Brethren. This was a common trend in all the aforementioned churches. Positively, the study demonstrates that those who began selling caterpillars for profit were empowered economically. The study argues that though positive economic gains were noted from caterpillar collection, socially, negative results over-rode positive ones.
Ethnoentomology--Zambia. , Edible insects--Zambia. , Edible caterpillars--Zambia. , Caterpillar -- Zambia.