Most people would agree that the appearance of a Mophane worm is far from appetizing, especially when it is raw and alive.
However, over the years, “Phane” or “Mashonja” as it is commonly known in Botswana, has become a household name as it is eaten locally at a high rate and in other Southern African countries. The worm is also of high economical value to its harvesters as it has high market demand.
For the devoted Phane consumers, its delicious taste would make one forget the tasty Kentucky Fried Chicken, Spur meals or Nandos.
According to scientific research, Mophane worm is an important type of food, especially that it has high protein which is needed by the human body.
Currently, in villages like Tonota, Topisi, Tati Siding and Borolong in the Northern Region, people are already flocking to the forest in search of the worm as it is its harvest season. Some harvest the worm for relish while others are only harvesting it for its economical value due to its market demand in towns and cities. Some people, especially the women and children, have already established temporary shelters in the forests in search of this worm.
In cities like Gaborone and Francistown, vendors are already making profits by selling it. A small cup of Phane would cost a customer between P5.00 and P10.
┬áOne of the Phane harvesters and vendor who is based in Borolong village, Keletso Meshack, told the Sunday Standard in an interview last week that she has been a Phane harvester for almost two decades, saying that it helps her supplement her income in the family as she sells it.
“This is the season that I have been eagerly waiting for because I eat Phane and sell it for a living. During this season, I know that my family members will never sleep with empty stomachs because we eat it and sell it as well,” she says.
Tebogo Gaefhele of Serowe, who is a teacher by profession, also expressed her passion for Phane, saying that she loves it and prefers to eat with soft porridge.
“I love Phane because it is very delicious when it is well cooked. My only problem with Phane is that at time it gives me a running stomach. All in all, though, I believe that Phane is just fine,” she said.
However, Modiegi Bura of Tutume held a different view towards Phane harvesters saying that it is important that its harvesting is regulated so that it does not become extinct.
“I do not have a problem with people harvesting and selling Phane, but my only issue is that people are just abusing its harvest. They should bear in mind that if this harvesting is not regulated and monitored, the worm might end up extinct,” he said.
He said that Phane should be safeguarded and protected for the upcoming generations.