Phane threatened with extinction

Phane season was so minimal that some fear it might go extinct if proper precautions are not taken. For many people especially in some northern parts of the country, mophane worm is a vital source of livelihood. It is in most cases gathered and sold as a commercial item, and it is unfortunately because of this reason that many people are now going against the book, harvesting the worm before its time in a rush to make a quick buck.

Masego Mmipi, Coordinator of Kgetsi ya Tsie Women Trust, whose mandate is to harvest and market natural resource products in the Tswapong area said unlike in the past seasons, there was a shortage of mophane worm in the Tswapong area this season. She said this was mostly because harvesters ignore Phane harvesting regulations and harvest everything even that which should be left to lay eggs.  “We are currently experiencing a serious shortage of Phane this season and it is especially sad because it would seem some of these harvesters are not even aware of the consequences of their actions. This is something that could have been avoided by adhering to the rules,” she said.

Lerala Chief, Kgosi Sello Moroka said the situation will only get worse if Phane harvesters continue to be reckless.  “There has to be a period when harvesting should be stopped to let the Phane worm go underground and transform into a butterfly, which will then lay eggs on the mophane tree next season. What happens now is that people harvest all of it while it is not yet fully grown. This is why Mophane worm is extinct in some areas.” She said some go to the extent of camping for the mophane worm weeks before it is ready to be harvested, driving those who are impatient to harvest it before the right time.

He said their efforts to control and regulate phane harvesting as village elders proved futile due to lack of resources and manpower in the area. “A lot of people do not realize this but it might just go extinct altogether. It has already happened in some areas so it is just a matter of time before there is no phane anywhere in the country. We have shortage of resources to regulate it properly and the little process we tried to do by giving people permits so we could know who is harvesting where and when but it is always undone by those who harvest illegally without permits because it is not easy to catch and bring  them to book with our limited resources,” he said

One of the people who rely on the mophane worm for subsistence, Semakaleng Kesebonye confirmed that there was shortage in some areas well known for phane adding that it led to conflict in areas where a little was available. “We are currently experiencing shortage of the mophane worm in some areas, mostly because of over harvesting and less rains in some areas. The shortage was bad in the Tswapong area so many of us went to harvest in the Bobirwa area,” she said, adding that it is going to be a huge challenge for a lot of people who rely on the worm as both relish and for commercial purposes.