The Night of the Locust Hunters, Ugandan Green Gold

There is the locust (or caelifère), with short and thick antennae, herbivorous. It descends on the grain fields and, every ten or fifteen years, sows desolation in the crops, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo to India, via Iran and Pakistan. Climate change is beneficial to it: the current warming of the Indian Ocean triggers heavy rains that water the Arabian Peninsula, as in winter 2020, promoting its reproduction in maddening proportions.

The consumption of insects is a response to the scarcity of natural resources: we need 8 kilos of feed to produce 1 kilo of beef, only 2 kilos to produce 1 kilo of insects.

Then there is the grasshopper (or ensifère), with long and thin antennae. Like the cricket, it is omnivorous, carnivorous tendency, as in Uganda, where it finds its sustenance in puddles and rivers. Climate change is a calamity for it: seasonal rains, increasingly unpredictable, disrupt its life cycle, while deforestation by humans reduces its habitat and makes migration difficult.

The grasshopper is considered in Africa as a delicacy and its consumption, boiled or roasted alive with oil and salt, like its hunting, an important source of income for those who practice it, are old traditions. In Uganda, one of the countries of the black continent that Michele Sibiloni has been traveling for ten years, it is called “nsenene”. “It migrates en masse twice a year, as soon as the rainy season has passed, flooding the sky before dawn”, says the 40-year-old Italian photographer.

Fascinated by the insect with the green dress, he has just devoted a book to it (Nsenene, Edition Patrick Frey), whose text is by Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu, on stage Bobi Wine, famous Ugandan musician and unsuccessful candidate for the presidential election in January, facing the omnipotent Yoweri Museveni, in power since 1986.

Armed with two cameras, one digital and one flash film, Sibiloni says he works “As in a fiction”, scientists not knowing “Not much yet” of this famous grasshopper. He started hunting her down in 2015 at night around Masaka, a town very close to the equator, west of Lake Victoria. “To grasp hunting techniques, I prefer to stay away from the frenzy of the capital, Kampala”, he said. In the countryside, the stalking of the insect “Significantly changes the landscape”, he says, because of the campfires and the lights that the inhabitants use to disorient their prey and trap it.

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