Dorcus Ndhlovu from Khubvi village.

A mug full of termites keeps Dorcas in business

News - Date: 23 October 2022


Dorcus Ndhlovu (53) from Khubvi village, north of Thohoyandou, believes that indigenous knowledge on harvesting traditional food should be preserved and passed on to the future generations. Ndhlovu, who is unemployed, keeps herself afloat by harvesting and selling edible termites (madzhulu) to customers from her village and the surrounding area.

Although catching termites can be an arduous job on its own, this is the only way for Dorcus to put food on the table.  

According to a research article, titled Human uses and indigenous knowledge of edible termites in Vhembe District, Limpopo Province, South Africa, authored by Shandukani R. Netshifhefhe and published in the South African Journal of Science in 2018, termites are a very good food source - rich in proteins, fats, vitamins, and essential mineral nutrients. They provide a useful alternative for poor families to get the nutrients needed to survive.

Dorcus showed this newspaper’s correspondent how catching termites is done. “First, I dig an opening in the termitary (tshiulu) until I see the termite tunnels beneath the ground. Then I use a special stick made of thick grass weed (mufhembo) to provoke them. I stick it into the termite tunnels, and they bite into the stick, thinking that they are protecting themselves against the enemy. Then I carefully take out the stick and harvest the termites. It needs special care to do this, because their bites are very painful,” she said, showing the bites on her fingers.

Dorcus sells a coffee mug full of edible termites for R20.  “On good days, I can sell a whole 5-litre bucket, whereas on bad days, I can go home completely empty-handed. Most of my customers are elderly people, but it will make me happy if we can also encourage the young ones to enjoy this delicious meal of termites.”

She says that, although she does not have her own transport, she can deliver to those who live nearby if they call her directly on 079 132 4054.


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