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Need for Food in Survival Situations



For a civilised human being to be left in the veld and be expected to thrive on rugged veldfood he is not used to requires the utmost in adaptation. It must be remembered, however, that the veld is a reservoir of life and almost anything that lives can be eaten. To snub your nose at what is offered to you in this way, will certainly lessen your chances of survival.

It is important when eating veldfood, not to eat too much, for your stomach, not used to these foods, could develop diarrhoea with the subsequent loss of important electrolytes.

When experiencing a water shortage, limit your food intake.

In the bush you can eat plant food or animal food.

Read other tips on how to get more comfortable in the bush.




On discovering plant food in large quantities, don't eat all at once but store it as a reserve. To know what is edible is important. You can't always rely on what animals eat; for instance birds are not reliable indicators of what might be edible for human beings. Watching baboons is a better method, although they too sometimes make mistakes.

Make sure you have identified the plant correctly before eating. If not sure try the following: Eat a little of the unknown plant and wait for an hour. Eat a little more again and wait another hour. Continue this until three hours have passed. If no side-effects have developed, you can presume the plant is edible. This method is also recommended in order to let your stomach adapt to the foreign food.

The following plants are included because they cannot easily be confused with poisonous plants, are common in Africa and have a high nutritive value.

Buffalo thorn: Ripe fruit, toasted seeds, cooked leaves.

Mobola Plum: Ripe fruit.

Jacket Plum: Seeds

Monkey Orange: Ripe fruit (don't eat the green fruit).

Large sourplum: Ripe fruit, cooked leaves.

Jackal berry: Fruit.

Karee: Seed (raw, cooked or dried).

Baobab: Leaves (cooked) fruit, ripe seeds (extract coffee), and young roots

Wild fig: Fruit


  1. Avoid plants, which release a milky latex, except those known to you like

stemfruit, wild fig, num - num and others.

2. Don't eat unripe fruit.

3. Avoid plants, which taste bitter. Don't eat climbers.

4. Avoid plants with fruit looking like a tomato or cucumber.

5. Except for those known to you, avoid bulbs and tubers.

6. Be alert, be careful and remember those plants that would be of use to you.




Animals are an excellent source of protein to man and very few are inedible. Animals though are difficult to catch, especially if hiker is unarmed. However there are many animals which are fairly easy to come by:

FISH: All freshwater fish are edible. Carry hook and line in your backpack or improvise line from fibrous plants and hook can be carved from wood. To preserve fish it can be smoked or dried like biltong. Watch out for the pens of barber and kurper.

FRESHWATER MUSSELS: Mussels are easy to dig out of the sand, just follow the small tracks. Eat them raw or cooked.

FROGS: Don't eat scrab or bullfrogs. Remove the intestine and skin before eating your frog.

SNAKES: Be careful and treat all snakes as venomous. Cut the head plus 10cm off and bury it. Remove the skin and intestines. Roast the remaining part.

TORTOISES: Water as well as land tortoise is edible. Cut off the head, turn upside down and roast in the coals.

LEGUANS AND CROCODILES: Difficult to catch and only for the ambitious! If you succeed, remove the skin, head and intestines before roasting.

BIRDS: All birds are edible but are often difficult to catch. It is easier to try for the eggs and young ones. Find the nests on the ground in dense grass, in trees or in hollow trees. Be careful before putting your hand into the trees as snakes could be living there.

SCORPIONS: Look for scorpions under rocks and the bark on dead trees. Twist off the scorpion's head and pull the intestines out at the same time. Cut off the last three segments of the tail containing the poison glands and roast the rest.

MOPANE BEES: Abundant in the mopane bush. Look for the wax-like little pipe indicating the entrance to the nest. Everything in the nest is edible.

MOPANE AND OTHER WORMS: Mopane worms are found on mopane trees from December until March. Twist off the head, pulling out the intestines and roast or eat raw. Avoid worms with long hair, as there are some poisonous species.

MOPANE BRED: It is secretion of small insect found on mopane leaves and looks like white gum. Scrape it from the leaves with your fingers and eat.

INSECTS: Rice ants, scaleless snails and grasshoppers are a good source of food. Don’t eat the intestines. Avoid those insects with bright or contrasting colours. Most of them are poisonous.

GAME: A popular dish! Unarmed, the only way to get hold of game is by improvising. If you managed to get a buck, cut the throat and hold it upside down as soon as possible to let it bleed. Remove the bones as soon as possible. Preserve the meat by treating it with the powder from the Shepherds tree's roots; or cut it up in thin pieces and hang it up to dry. Meat can also be cooked, but this must be repeated every 24 hours.




The Pole from North to South, running through the centre of the earth, is magnetised, whether you knew it before or not. And in like manner the human body is a magnet. There are many ways in which you can exploit this magnetism. One is to see that you sleep with your head pointing to North, so that you are parallel with the magnetic Pole running through the earth, and not lying across it. This is very important, for in this way the magnetic currents move from the head to the feet and you get full capacity.



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Last modified: December 30, 1998