By: Sizakele Nduli
Many people from rural communities consume indigenous food such as edible insects because they are a good source of protein. However, when they move to urban areas these delicacies are in short supply. Phuti Kabasa who resides in Pretoria identified a gap in the market and established Mopani Queens in 2018. She said that during this time, her husband was out of work and their family was facing financial difficulties. “Initially the business was an additional income source and grew into a business that finds its passion in providing [an] environmentally sustainable and alternative protein source,” Kabasa told Vutivi News.
The owner of Mopani Queens did not want to only sell plain mopane worms, so she decided to add flavours to them. Following numerous online searches on food flavoring techniques and ways to enhance taste, she started experimenting in her home. “My kitchen was such a mess and the spices were literally all over the place,” said Kabasa. The 38-year-old, who describes herself as a pioneer in this industry, said that she had a full-time job and did not rely on any funding to get her business off the ground.
Getting their products into retail stores presented obstacles. “Certification is a problem. There is no legislation in South Africa to monitor edible insects,” she said, adding that stores have their own requirements. “We had to start EIFASA, that is Edible Insects Farming Association of Southern Africa.” Her range of products which cost between R20.50 and R210 include mopane bites which come in various flavours, mopane worms infused tortillas (Mopillaz), Mopane Umami seasoning well as Sprinkels Spice. “For now, people associate eating mopane with poverty or uncultured acts… [they are] all very ill-informed considering the nutritional value of edible insects,” said Kabasa.
On the future of her business, Kabasa hopes to be accepted in the mainstream market. “This is not just about Mopani Queens, our staff, our suppliers. The entire edible insect industry needs to be embraced better by society,” concluded Kabasa. Kabasa currently has five employees, with her business premises located in Pretoria and Johannesburg. Mopani Queens can be reached at 063-802-4194.