Harvesting Flying Ants

Traditional Technique in Kikandwa, Uganda; Documented by Kiranda Steven Mwesige, Mohammed Bisaso and Family

The Story:

Traditional knowledge and inventions are agricultural techniques that farming communities have been developed, used, and built upon for generations. The Centre for Interdisciplinary Studies (CIS) offers a more detailed explanation: Unnamed, unknown farmer-scientists made most of the traditional inventions and discoveries many centuries ago. They never thought of keeping their innovations and wisdoms secret. Instead they shared all their innovations and discoveries with all members of the community for the common good. Thus, thousands of farmers have used these brilliant innovations. They continue to hand this knowledge down to younger generations. However, with the advent of modernity, many of these ancient useful innovations are slowly forgotten, as an increasing number of farmers are relying on external agencies for the provision of their materials of production (seeds, agrochemicals) and the new technology.

In Kikandwa, Uganda, community members supplement their diets during the rainy season with flying white ants. The technique for harvesting these ants is common knowledge among the locals; they share tips and tricks openly and pass knowledge down from one generation to the next. In September 2016, in an effort to safeguard this knowledge for centuries to come, AGC worked with InsightShare, Kikandwa Environmental Association, and the farmers in Kikandwa, Uganda, and documented the methods used for harvesting these delicious and nutritious insects.

The Technique:

Flying white ants are harvested in Uganda in September and October. After a heavy rain, once the sun shines, the farmers cover ant hills with a blanket or tarp (make sure to cover it by 6 PM because by 7 PM the ants will start to fly). Then they put banana leaves into holes in the ant hills and place small stick around the leaves to hold them in place and bring the ants to the hole, enabling farmers to collect them. Once the ants are in the leaves, they wrap them up and bring them home. The ants are eaten alive.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1a-iVk36AzI 

(This technique was documented as a joint project by A Growing Culture, InsightShare, and Kikandwa Environmental Association

The Impact:

The flying ants are locally available, culturally appropriate, and high in protein. When used to supplement diets, they improve nutrition, health, and food security at no cost to the community members. What’s more, the kids love them (just look how quickly they gobble them up in the video)!