Wednesday, 26 February 2014


Chiswa chisisi

Scientific name – Termitoidae

Local name - Chiswa chisisi

Swahili name - kumbekumbe

For many people in Western Province, the termite season always brings with it smiles over the hope of uninterrupted supply of natural delicacy. For most of them, they have to wake up as early as 2am to fetch the insects that are mostly found on ant hills or form up in holes that are scratched with a stick before you find more than two termites in a hole or sometimes one.

Termite business has turned out to be a success for many as a small cup of termites goes for more than twenty shillings depending on the size of the cup. Most parents and children consume the insects and are supplemented with free proteins that would cost them if they were to go for meat, chicken or any other form of protein.
Western Province residents who know the importance of the insects would do anything to get them at any cost of sacrificing their sleep in exchange of the insects and some would consume raw while others would fry and munch them with ugali or plain.

There are different types of termites with each type having its own name among Bamasaaba people of Western and Eastern Uganda. To start with we have chiswa chisisi which are blackish in colour and the smallest in size. These ones are mostly seen during the rainy season from about 2pm to 4pm in the months of September to December. Early in the morning women and children collect three short sticks which are used to invite the termites. Sticks are beaten, this is to sound like rain and because termites emerge when it begins to rain, they all come trooping out during the day.

Normally, Bamasaaba people erect a small tent (siswa) which they cover with blankets leaving an opening that leads to a special hole dug at the opening where termites will slide into then they are collected. The special hole is called efubo which has banana leaves inside and at the entrance where termites slide and fall into the hole.

Another group of termites is called Chinunda which are brownish in colour and mostly comes out from 5 pm in the evening common in the months of December to February. There is also a group called Kamabuli that are common in the months of December to February that appear late in the evening from 6pm to 7pm. They are blackish in colour and usually take a very short time after they start coming out. 

Kamakhubwe are brownish in colour and appear after the season for kamabuli although they are not eaten. 

Chimome are blackish in colour and normally come out when it is raining, commonly in the months of June to October. Chindawa termites are blackish in colour and also appear when it is raining, are common in the months of April-May

Kamaresi are dark brown in colour, the biggest in size and normally appear at night. This season as from April to June is for kamaresi that people capture at night.  They are attracted to the light and that is how Bamasaaba people get them using light. Kamaswakhe are blackish in colour and also appear at night.

Chingalabuwe termite species are common in the months of September to November and are Brownish in colour. Kamaachichi are common in April to May and their appearance resembles wasps and they are blackish in colour. They appear mostly at around nine to eleven in the morning.

Bikeke are blackish in colour and are associated with some species of termites. Bisiabubu usually appear in the month of April and are usually small, black and whitish in colour. They are not eaten among Bamasaaba people because it is believed one would become deaf if he eats them.

Prepared By:
Emmy Makokha
Librarian, Kitale Museum

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