While we’re all used to trying unique snacks when boarding an international airline, Uganda Airlines caused quite a stir with a recent addition to their onboard menu. Very recently, a private trader from Uganda named Paul Mubiru opened up a classic Ugandan snack of grasshoppers. Better known as Nsenene in Uganda, he thought nothing of eating one of his favourite snacks in the air. Little did he know what a commotion it would cause onboard.
Nsesene on board
Nsenene is one of the country’s national dishes. Grasshoppers are deep-fried in oil before they are seasoned with tomato sauce and onions. Especially in December, there’s a huge swarm of grasshoppers from East Africa. Locals munch on this protein-rich snack like we would potato chips, and it’s a tradition that dates back thousands of years. At this time of year, they eat grasshoppers while watching TV and drinking a beer in the same way as we would with candy or chips.
On the Uganda Airlines flight 446, excitement grew about this snack, and fellow travellers traded 2.50 euros for a try of Nsenene from Mubiru. The scene was quickly caught on camera and spread around the world on social media. People applauded the airline as they believed they were offering this snack online, however, neighbours from Kenya and Rwanda were soon to mock this situation.
All seemed well until Mubiru returned to Uganda a few days later. He was travelling to Dubai for his work to obtain various goods, but all didn’t end so well when he returned home. One thing to keep in mind is that the current grasshopper season started late this year as a result of the ongoing climate change crisis. The swarms are much smaller than in previous years. Newspapers reported that they are on the verge of extinction, and as you can imagine, demand is huge now for this delicacy, and prices are rising.
Landing Back in Uganda
Transport Minister for Uganda, Katumba Wamala, soon learned about the video which was circulating online. He had been working hard for months to help Uganda Airlines as corruption and mismanagement had been an issue for years within the company. With safety concerns mounting, the airline had been on the ground for years. However, since 2019, the places were once again in the air thanks to the investment from the state. This was another huge embarrassment for the company and Wamala, after all the work that had been done to improve their reputation.
When trader Mubiru arrived back in Uganda, he was immediately taken away by officials on the runway. He was put in a car which took him to a cell in the airport police station. Eventually, he paid a fine for his release, but the Transport Minister had already called the airline. The flight crew and ground staff were in huge trouble for letting the grasshoppers on the plane and for this event taking place in the first place. The airline has since apologized for what happened, stating that this violated their COVID-19 regulations. Passengers are now all checked for unpackaged food before boarding.
Since this incident, Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture has laid down new rules about air travel and food. This has caused a huge amount of backlash online, as often people travel with their favourite snacks over the holidays when visiting relatives abroad. Sadly, the tradition of travelling with grasshoppers won’t be continuing anytime soon. However, Uganda Airlines has now announced they’ll be adding deep-friend grasshoppers to their in-flight menu as part of sharing this tradition with the world. It’s another exciting development and opportunity to try insects as a protein source. We hope to fly with them one day in the future to try this delicacy in the sky.