Sustainable production of mopane worms: a scoping study in Zambia
About the project
UK-registered Partner: CABI – Norbert Maczey
Africa-registered Partner: Zambia Agriculture Research Institute (ZARI) – Patrick Chikoti
The aim of the project was to scope out the potential to develop the existing women-led mopane worm supply chain, to improve food and nutritional security and economic opportunities for rural communities, in Zambia.
The results of the study show that currently collecting mopane worms, which in Zambia comprises a complex of caterpillar species, including the on-Mopane trees feeding Gonimbrasia belina, is done in a highly unsustainable way linked to a long-term decline of the caterpillar populations and in some cases to deforestation. In addition, the value chain includes insufficient post-harvest treatments resulting in high levels of contamination with pathogens posing a health hazard to consumers. Collectors are also losing out on trading opportunities which are often limited by transport links.
Initial surveys and rearing experiments demonstrate that there is a high level of opportunity to improve sustainability of production in the short to mid-term. However, the potential for this varies and depends largely on the ecology of individual species. It includes better regulated and sustainable collecting practices and semiartificial or artificial farming. Strategies should also be embedded into the framework of other ongoing forest conservation initiatives in Zambia. There is also significant potential to improve post-harvest processing and marketing.
All aspects with the potential for improvement have the support of local communities and stakeholders but still require additional research on a larger scale before adequate measures can be implemented.