Plumtree Women Hit Hard by El Niño as Mopane Worms Disappear

Written by on May 20, 2024

El Niño’s grip on Matabeleland South province has tightened the economic screws on Plumtree women as the drought has devastated the harvest of mopane worms, a critical source of income for many.

For them, mopane worms, or amacimbi, are more than dietary supplements as they fuel the local economy.

Women in Plumtree communities traditionally harvest, resell, or barter amacimbi for essential goods.

Speaking in an interview with Skyz Metro FM, Climate Change Management Director Washington Zhakata compared the drought’s impact on the ecosystem to the devastating 1991-1992 dry spell, explaining the scarcity of amacimbi

“The 2023 drought was extremely bad and comparable to the 1991-1992 drought, and this has resulted in the drying of the atmosphere and the lowering of the water table. Further resulting in the disruption of all the ecosystem services across the environmental divide.

“Issues to do with the mopane worms are also part of biodiversity. Even rivers are dry, and the atmosphere was also dry during the rainy season. So, interactions between various components of the environment were disrupted by the lack of rainfall, which was supposed to be there during the rainy season. Issues to do with Amacimbi in Plumtree is a situation that may actually be seen across various areas in Matabeleland South, “said Mr Zhakata.

Tjokula Moyo, a 31’year-old mother of six, and Rosewiter Ngwenya (53) from Tshitshi and Mbakwe villages respectively, are among those facing hardships as the lack of amacimbi, combined with failed crops has left their families distraught.

“I was used to harvesting Amacimbi and selling them at our local growth point at Tshitshi. With the proceeds, I would manage to furnish my kitchen and buy my children uniforms, clothes, and other basic necessities. This year has been the hardest due to a lack of adequate rainfall. I failed to harvest enough to sell. The worms dried up, “said Moyo.

“We used to harvest amacimbi for various reasons. We would supplement our meals, sell for money to cover necessities at home, and in some instances, we use amacimbi to buy basics from our local shops. You can go with a 5litre bucket to buy what you want in the shop, especially mealie meal,cooking oil and sugar, “said Ngwenya.

Reports from the Plumtree communities have indicated that the mopane worms abundance is declining due to a number of factors, toping the list being climate change.

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