Edible insects are an important source of food to many African populations. The longhorn grasshopper, Ruspolia differens (Serville 1838), commonly known as senene in Tanzania is one of the most appreciated edible insects by societies around Lake Victoria crescent. Senene is primarily an essential treat for the tribes around the lake, e.g., the Haya of Tanzania, Luo of Kenya and Baganda of Uganda. Despite its importance as a food item and appreciation as a delicacy, there are few studies dealing with culture, beliefs and indigenous technology in connection with the senene. The main objective of this study was to survey indigenous technologies, processing methods and traditions in relation to senene consumption among the Haya tribe in Kagera region of Tanzania.
Our ethnographic study was conducted through semi-structured interviews. A total of 51 locals, 26 females and 25 males aged 21 to 60 years were interviewed (with 3 female and 7 male key informants among them). Questions focused on cultures, beliefs and traditions towards senene consumption. Processing, preservation and shelf-life as well as nutritional knowledge were also investigated.
Harvesting for household consumption was mainly done through wild collection. Traditionally made traps were mostly used for commercial harvesting. Deep frying was the most preferred processing method while smoking was the most preferred preservation method, with shelf-life of up to 12 months. Interesting traditions and taboos associated with senene consumption were identified, with men monopolising the insects as food by declaring the insects taboo for women and children. Deep fried senene in locally packed containers were mostly sold by street vendors, but also available from a variety of stores and supermarkets.
Beyond being just an important traditional delicacy, senene is becoming increasingly popular, providing opportunity for local businesses. Indigenous technologies for harvesting, processing and preserving senene exist, but must be improved to meet food processing standards, thereby promoting commercialization. This carries economic potential essential for improving incomes and livelihoods of women and smallholder farmers, improving household level food security.