Yebo for Limpopo's Goggas
Some eat them raw, straight off the mound. Or they boil, grill, roast or dry them out in the sun.
But the most popular way to eat termites in Limpopo is to fry them, mix them with tomatoes and onions and devour them with maize meal.
That's what a team of researchers from Wits University and Venda University unearthed in their novel,year-long study in the Vhembe district municipality to identify edible termite species.
Between April 2015 and 2015, they surveyed residents in 48 villages in Thulamela, Makhado and Mutale to find out how edible termites were harvested, prepared, graded, packaged and marketed.
"These areas were selected because termites are an important food supplement for people living in the district."
The researchers discovered that the income derived from selling termites was estimated to range from R2040 to R17 680 per year.
While studies have been conducted on edible termites in many African countries, little is known about edible termites in SA.
Yet they are a nutritious food source, packed with protein. "Termites are rich in proteins, vitamins and mineral nutrients. Termites can therefore provide food security in many poor African countries as they contain essential nutrients, which are often lacking in the diets of people in those countries."
The authors, Shandukani Netshifhefhe and Frances Duncan from Wits University's school of animal, plant and environmental sciences and Ednah Kunjeku from the University of Venda, say that their results show that edible termites contribute significantly to the livelihoods of many rural families and this indigenous knowledge should be passed onto younger generations.
Their paper, Human uses and indigenous knowledge of edible termites in Vhembe district, Limpopo, South Africa, was published on Tuesday in the latest edition of the South African Journal of Science.
The researchers interviewed 104 people: harvesters, marketers and consumers. Most of the harvesters were over 60 years old but "termites are consumed by the whole family".
They found the price per kilogram of termites was estimated at R100/kg, higher than the price of fresh chicken, beef and pork.
"The retail prices obtained from two local butchers for dried beef meat, sausages and pork were R329kg, R320/kg/and R430/kg, respectively ... This comparison indicates that the price per kilogram for termites was more than the price of fresh chicken, beef and pork, but less than that of lamb chops and dried meats.
"However, 1kg of termites can feed at least 14 people - far more than 1kg of fresh chicken, beef or pork and dried meats. In addition, termites can be harvested in the district by anyone at no cost."
In the region, only three termite species are consumed with the soldiers of Macrotermes falciger being the most popular.
Most of those surveyed grew up eating termites. "It was observed that most of the respondents in the district consumed termites as frequently as possible."
The average daily intake of solider termites per person was 22.27g with a maximum of 38g.
"Termite consumers in the study area indicated one steel cup of soldier termites can feed an average of three members of a household daily".
Most of the respondents rated health benefits or nutrition as the main reason for their termite consumption, as termites were reported to enhance health and ease digestion.
"Of interest, one of the marketers, a qualified retired nurse, stated termites are high in proteins compared to beef, fish and poultry and are good for breastfeeding mothers as they contain iron.
"She also stated that termites were used by many households to combat malnutrition in the district," the researchers state.
The harvesting of termites was mostly performed by women, who in some cases, were assisted by their children. Harvesting took place all year around in all three municipalities, with most of the termites collected in the morning and late afternoon.
Alternative sources of income for sellers of termites were the sales of other edible insects, such as mopane worms and edible stinkbugs and vegetables.
"The harvesters indicated the knowledge about which termite species to harvest was indigenous knowledge passed onto them by their parents or grandparents at a very young age or from other harvesters ... Indigenous knowledge used during harvesting and processing needs to be prioritised," say the researchers.