Villagers retaliate by eating locusts

It's an “eye for an eye” affair up north, where communities are fighting back at swamrs of locusts by turning them into a relatively unusual delicacy.

15 April 2021 | Agriculture



The arrival of massive swarms of locusts in northern Namibia, especially in the Kavango West and East, Ohangwena and Oshikoto regions, has been a blessing in disguise for some families who have started eating the insects as a delicacy.

The agriculture ministry responded to the outbreak and ministry spokesperson Jona Musheko confirmed that they are spraying pesticides in the affected areas.

Namibian Sun asked people in the know whether eating locusts was in any way harmful to humans as videos of the villagers consuming the locusts caused a stir on social media platforms.

Eating locusts is also very unorthodox and unusual within many Aawambo communities, some of whom claim it leads to swollen throats.

Celilia Nkuvi, a food scientist, said it is safe to consume locusts. Nkuvi was quick to point out that the only locusts safe for human consumption are those which have not been sprayed.

“The contaminated ones are harmful and people should not even consider consuming them. Those not sprayed are okay as insects are rich in iron and zinc in human nutrition and I would even recommend them for pregnant women,” she said.

A part-time human nutrition lecturer at the University of Science and Technology, Erick Uukule, said one can compare the locusts to caterpillars/omagungu, a well-known delicacy in the Aawambo tradition.

Uukule said locusts are classified as edible insects and they are a good source of protein, with some species reported to contain up to 50g/100g (dry basis) of crude protein.

“Another positive thing is that this protein is much more digestible compared to protein obtained from plant sources, for example. I don't know who exactly is consuming these locusts, but chances are that its mostly people whose income does not allow them access to animal protein, which is far better than plant-based protein. So, consuming these insects is actually good for them,” he said.

Pesticides a concern

Uukule said different pesticides have different time frames/periods over which they break down before the treated food item can be deemed safe for consumption.

“I am not well versed in that regard, but the public should be made aware of that fact and cautioned accordingly,” he said, adding that for now it is safer not to consume locusts which have been sprayed as they are contaminated.

Sharing the same sentiments as Nkuvi and Uukule is Simaneka Mbeeli, a nutrition lecturer at Welwitchia Training Health Centre.

Mbeeli said several articles have featured people in Israel and some African countries consuming locusts with no reported cases of poisoning.

“Some authors have even praised the choice to eat the mentioned insect because it is a good source of protein and calcium, which makes up its exoskeleton. Consumers should however be mindful not to harvest insects that have been exposed to insecticides. Residues of fumigation chemicals may be toxic to humans when they accumulate,” he warned.

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