Grasshoppers, "nsenene" in the local language, are both a delicacy and a source of income in Uganda. They migrate en masse twice a year, right after the rainy seasons, flooding the sky in huge flocks before daybreak. Every night, a large part of the population stays up til twilight to hunt and sell them. Traps made of barrels and metal sheets are placed everywhere, even on rooftops, and strong lightbulbs are used to attract the insects. Plastic bottles, nets and burlap sacks are also employed, and many people catch the hoppers with their bare hands. The ubiquitous presence of the crickets and the overall green shade dispersed by the night mist and the smoke of bonfires create a otherworldly scenario, enhanced by the oddness of the hunting techniques and self-made equipments. Moments of busy activity alternate with long pauses, where people try to get some rest or kill time.
Catching and eating grasshoppers is an old tradition in Uganda, and their high protein content makes them a potential food resource for the future: as stated by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation in 2013, introducing edible insects into more people’s diets could reduce world hunger and improve food safety. In recent years, though, deforestation has heavily reduced the amount of insects that migrate and climate change across Africa has made seasonal rains difficult to predict. Timing when to set the traps is crucial and doing it imprecisely can jeopardize the harvest and result in a serious loss.
Grasshoppers' hunting lies on a very precarious edge between past and future, tradition and innovation and can shed some light about Ugandans' identity as well as about new prospects for the whole planet.