The high price of meat has led the people of Solusi and Khami to seek Mopane worms as an alternative source of protein. The worms are large caterpillars of the Gonimbrasia Belina, commonly found on mopane trees.
In 2019, the government of Zimbabwe removed subsidies on grains which are primarily used to feed livestock. This had a negative effect on the price as it reduced the demand for meat by 30 percent. Prior to the removal, the prices were constantly raising in the market due to economic issues.
Over the years, the country has been dealing with food shortage mainly due to the currency crisis. In mid-July 2019, inflation had increased to 175 percent, this launching the country into another hyperinflation.
The people of Zimbabwe have staged several protests against the hiking food prices but the government is yet to resolve the current food shortage. It would be recalled that the president encouraged people to neglect meat, emphasizing it was dangerous to their health.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa discouraged the people from eating meat when they complained about the prices. He emphasized that it was dangerous to their health and encouraged green food. Emmerson said “You should eat vegetables, they are recommended by doctors. Doctors want you to eat vegetables so that you stay healthy. Meat is not good at all. We have differed there. I listen to doctors, so I eat vegetables. They said vitamins are found in vegetables and potatoes.’’
Furthermore, in search of alternatives to regular food, some Zimbabweans have embraced pet food. An article by the Institute for War and Peace Reporting cited an anonymous woman quoted to have said “Pet food is food and it is perfectly edible by human beings. What can I do when I cannot afford to buy meat? Have you ever tasted it? It’s like minced meat and it is very tasty. We boil it or fry it and mix it with vegetables. We go through a 500-gram packet of pet food in three to four days. We only eat the whole packet all at once if we want to give ourselves a treat.”
Prior to the hike in the prices of meat, mopane worms were part of Zimbabwe cuisine, mainly served in sauces. Now farmers are trading the worms in commercial quantities to meet urban demand.
However, experts are worried that the unregulated trade of these animals may cause extinction, felling of trees and burning. It is also believed that if the demand continues at this rate, there will be a ripple effect on the environment.
According to a report by NewZimbabwe, A Forestry Commission official explained that there’s been a huge shift from harvesting Mopane worms for subsistence to trading them in both rural and lucrative urban markets. “This trend has however created a lot of environmental problems as a lot of people from as far as Harare have set up makeshift amacimbi processing camps in surrounding bushes where there are using firewood to dry the worms. A lot of firewood is needed during the dying process.”