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Tuesday, 21 November, 2000, 15:17 GMT
Ugandan food on the hop
Grasshopper on a windscreen
Grasshoppers: A small and valuable delicacy
By Abraham Odeke in Jinja in eastern Uganda

As the season in Uganda for harvesting grasshoppers gets into full swing, the police have issued a warning to the public to be on their guard.


The annual swarming of the grasshoppers is not so much a plague as a big blessing to some Ugandans

The hopping insects are something of a delicacy, but there are fears that in their efforts to catch them, people could be putting themselves and their families at risk.

Children and their parents arm themselves with saucepans, baskets and polythene bags, which they fill with thousands of the insects, which swarm around streetlights every evening.

It is a popular pastime in the capital, Kampala, and surrounding districts - which are some of the favourite habitats of the creatures.

Delicious

Those who eat the grasshoppers claim they are more delicious and appetizing than boiled chicken or fried fish, especially when cooked with onions and hot pepper.

Bug vendor
Bugs are a popular delicacy in Thailand
The annual swarming of the grasshoppers is not so much a plague as a big blessing to some Ugandans.

They have managed to buy cars and build houses from the money they have made from catching and selling the insects.

Hawkers sell a spoonful of cooked grasshoppers for 500 shillings (27 cents) and there are only five of the hot hoppers to a spoon.

Fears

But there are fears that in the scramble to catch the insects, people could get hurt.

Locusts on bush
Locusts - members of the grasshopper family - wreak havoc on crops
In Jinja, children and their parents competing to catch the grasshoppers are jamming the busy Kampala Road, Madhvani Avenue and Iganga Street where street lighting attracts the creatures.

Jinja District Police Commander Elizabeth Kutesa says nobody is banned from going out to hunt for grasshoppers.

But she has warned residents to keep off busy streets to avoid being hit by passing vehicles.

There is another danger too, according to the police.

In the less well lit parts of town, despite the fact that people have brought out their own lamps onto the streets to help harvest the insects, parents are being warned not to let children out of their sight.

Police fear that with most people concentrating on collecting grasshoppers, children could be at risk from strangers.

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