A 51-year-old woman of Nkeyema district in Western Province has died after being
beaten bitten by a snake as she was picking caterpillars in the bush while three others have survived.
Nkeyema Ward Councilor Kent Mukonda confirmed that Jennipher Ngebe met her fate when she and four others, who included two men and two women, ventured into the bush to pick caterpillars.
Mr Mukonda said that the incidence happened on Wednesday in Kaulembi area which is located in Nkeyema district’s Lombelombe Resettlement Scheme north-east of the district administrative centre.
He said that Ms Ngebe died after being beaten by a snake locally known as ngongola because she did not immediately receive medical attention as the villagers had gone deep in the thicket in search of caterpillars.
In separate incidences, three other caterpillar pickers survived the snake bite with the intervention of traditional medicines which were quickly administered on them.
Mr Mukonda warned those picking caterpillars, which are a delicacy amongst most Zambians, to be wary of the dangers involved in harvesting the larva locally known as maungu.
Hordes of caterpillar traders, mainly from Lusaka and the Copperbelt, have swarmed Nkeyema district where they are exchanging the dried larva with goods ranging from second-hand clothes to sugar and salt.
And Nkeyema district administrative officer, Patrick Mweemba, has warned people in the district to concentrate on farming instead of picking caterpillars.
Mr Mweemba said that the low rainfall experienced in the last farming season should have been a lesson for people in the district and urged them to start preparing their fields early in case of a repeat of a poor rain pattern.
He said that very soon caterpillars will varnish and people will have nothing to feed on for the rest of the year which will result in perpetual hunger as the little money they are getting from the business will not sustain them.
Mr Mweemba, who regretted the death of the woman, said the current hunger situation in the district should be a wake-up call that people need to engage in more sustainable businesses other than picking caterpillars.