The demand for exotic foods overseas has helped to turn a small Mopani worm processing project in rural Limpopo into a commercial success.
The Dzumeri Processing centre, in Dzumeri village outside Giyani, is producing a variety of Mopani worm-based flavoured snacks that are even sold in Europe.
"We have given the worms a modern, sizzling taste," said the project's production manager, Bertha Mhlongo.
Some 120 rural women, grouped into 12 cooperatives, harvest the worms from the Xanatse trees in the Giyani and Phalaborwa areas around December.
"The worms are delivered to the processing factory, where they are washed and dried. After that, they are deep-fried and coated with spicy flavours like Mexican chilli, barbecue and jungle spice.
"We then pack them into 100 gram sachets which we sell at the centre for R8. They are very delicious," said Mhlongo.
The spiced worms are also sold to a London-based company called Edible, which specialises in importing exotic foods from all over the world.
The overseas company sells the deep-fried worms online for about R150 for a 40 g pack.
The project's marketing director, Pork Mkharhi, said the processing factory is now being expanded to include a warehouse, which will enable the enterprise to sell its products all year round.
Other Mopani worm-based products that will soon be added include canned stew, sausage, polony and a Marmite-like bread spread.
"Our ancestors used to harvest the worms just for food, we are now doing it to make money and create much-needed jobs," said Mkharhi.
The Dzumeri Mopani-worm processing project was started in 2006, and is financially supported by the European Union-funded Limpopo Local Economic Development (LED) Programme, which aims to link poor rural communities with the mainstream economy.
The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research provides training and research on packaging and product development