Ugandan farmer in effort to boost grasshopper incomes
Grasshoppers, locally known as nsenene in Uganda, are considered a delicacy and are seasonally harvested in March, April, May and November. But many people who collect or eat them hardly know the origin, breeding or migration patterns.
Traditionally, it was believed that nsenene fell from the skies. Ensenene zagudde (Luganda for “grasshoppers have fallen”) is a common phrase used to announce their appearance in an area.
However, Mr Deo Kiwanuka, 65, who has developed an interest in breeding and rearing them on a small scale, refutes the myth asserting that grasshoppers breed like any other insects asserting they lay their eggs in semi-arid areas under the sands.
The retired industrial technician, a farmer in Njjangano Village in Buwunga Sub county, Masaka District in Central Uganda, says he has a better method to harvest the insect which is a big source of income for many in the country.
In a bid to maintain sustainable production, Kiwanuka has been working with the assistance of researchers from Makerere University since last year to breed grasshoppers.
He collects mature grasshoppers and put them in sand soils near the swamps where he keeps monitoring them for a period of two months and when they lay eggs in clusters, he collects the eggs and takes them to laboratories at the university for hatching.
He says grasshoppers inhabit Central and West Africa and are widespread in inter-tropical areas. They are blown by monsoon winds to other parts of the continent like Uganda.
Kiwanuka says he found out this when he visited Malawi where he found a swarm of grasshoppers where they had laid eggs. The climatic conditions in these dry areas favour the egg development until they begin to move in swarms at the adult stage.
The colouring of different species is often dependent on the environment, with many adapted to fields and forests to avoid predators.
Greater Masaka is generally known because of its lucrative trade in grasshoppers and it has become a valuable source of income for many people.
In Nyendo a town in Masaka district, people devised a method of collecting grasshoppers using large shiny iron sheets lined up vertically into a barrel at the bottom with bright bulbs suspended to attract them to the trap.
When the grasshoppers come to the lights, they circle around them until they fall onto the sheets, and slide into the barrels. While in the trap, they cannot escape.
This is the large-scale method that was popularised in Masaka District where grasshoppers swarm in very large numbers.
The method has since caught on in urban areas like Kampala and in other districts. It is also being used in both rural and urban areas in central, southern and some parts of western Uganda.
But Kiwanuka says his idea will conserve the environment where people will not be cutting down the trees and destroying the sandy areas where the grasshoppers breed.
In addition, it is a way to overcome the challenges associated with the “bright lights-iron sheets-drums” method.
Some grasshopper trappers in Masaka have welcomed Kiwanuka’s innovative idea of breeding grasshoppers.
They said sustainable production of grasshoppers will help in continued income generation and provision of a food source.