Vanda Kujbus

Monday, April 17, 2017

Tracing mopane worms - part 1: Swakopmund

Written by Vanda

Although well hidden from the tourists, there are locations even in such a tourist paradise as Swakopmund. One of them is called Mondesa, and that’s exactly where we need to go to find my mopane worms research material – we learn from Penda, our boat cruise "deliverer".

He comes and picks us up from the camping in his own taxi – which makes me wonder how much a tourguide earns here if he needs to have his own business afterwards – and drives us directly to Mondesa street market. The NGO girl’s words before sandboarding about Namibia being developed already echo in my ears, while I’m thinking that she should be thrown just into the middle of this place. What would you say now? Looks quite different than the city centre, doesn’t it?

Swakop luxury buildings
Mondesa location

The market consists of a food department, which is, similarly to Katutura market, governed by ladies; and a non-food department, taken care of by men behind the ladies.

Mondesa - ladies
Mondesa - men

Their age ranges from youngsters to elderly, and after I express interst in buying a few worms from them, and they ... would gladly answer a few questions – if they spoke English.
Fortunately, Penda is there and helps us out with the translation, so we learn that all these ladies are collectors themselves from the North, unlike their counterparts in Windhoek, who are just sellers.

Penda translating
buying mopane worms

The touristiness of Swakopmund seems to affect prices, here a bagful of worms costs 20 NAD (420 HUF/ 1,5 EUR), but it’s not entirely true, as the portions are bigger. Some of also make their life easier, and selling them prepacked, avoiding extra conversations of „come on, put a little bit more, just a little bit!” Although negotiation is also common.

packaged mopane worms
worms selling lady
unpacked mopane worms

The common ground though is, similarly to Katutura, that all worms are coming from the far North. I wonder why is there a difference, since Swakopmund is not closer than Windhoek, how come these ladies take the extra mile and courage to travel that far to sell their products along mopane worms. Penda tells me that they all stay with family members, so apparently picking a selling point doesn’t really happen by chosing the city of highest demand, but by where the rest of the family lives.

Chatting with a lady

The main lesson of the day is, that if they manage to arrange transport from remore northern areas, then there must be hope for those San communities, Donkerbos and Skoonheid I’m trying to work together with. Now I feel we have done something useful, we can go home in peace, and mentally prepared for the 8 hour long drive squeezed into a car with a handful of other passengers around in the car.