New Pressures, Old Foodways: Governance and Access to Edible Mopane Caterpillars, Imbrasia (=Gonimbrasia) Belina, in the Context of Commercialization and Environmental Change in South Africa

Urbanization and scarce income-earning opportunities have led to increasing commercialization of non-timber forest products in southern Africa, including the nutritious mopane worm Imbrasia (=Gonimbrasia) belina. The mopane worm contributes substantially to incomes and food security in households across the region, but little research has addressed its use within South Africa. Using semi-structured interviews with harvesters and resource managers, this paper compares the management of mopane worm resources under public, private, and communal governance systems to explore the ability of each to provide users with sustainable access to the resource. Results show that governance is weaker in the communal property regime compared to the public and private property regimes. Weak control over access and high demand for mopane worms in urban and rural centres may be leading to a concentration of harvesting pressures in communally managed areas, increasing competition for a resource already scarce after years of drought and land-use change.