The rat meat is a coveted delicacy in Terego. Young boys and adult men alike set out with rudimentary traps made of a stick, thin rope and plastic rubber band to lay in winding paths of the brown rodents (Anabia).
Others use traps stuffed with baits such as cassava. Still, there are those who pick hoes to dig the delicacy out of their living burrows.
Mr Lawrence Drapari, a resident of Ilavu village in Alia parish, Aii-vu Sub County says the hunting is more pronounced in the months of December, January, February and March when the dry season reduces the hideouts for the rats to bear grounds.
The rudimentary rat trap is highly effective and a person who lays many of them has high chances of netting over thirty rats in a day.
“Eating rats is part of our culture and tradition. I have enjoyed it since childhood, and when properly cooked, it is a cheap source of animal protein,” the smiling 25-year old stated.
Concurring with those assertions, Ms Salome Viko from Edrayo village in Uriama Sub County says rat meat saved her from anaemia when she was a child and henceforth she fell in love with it.
Making rat barbecue
Viko says making rat barbecue is fun. To bring out the best taste, a cook must burn off the fur and remove the skin.
However, she adds that the pulsating aroma of the burning fur is so tempting that most cooks eat away the tail at this point of preparation rather than just swallow back the dripping saliva.
After removing the intestines, the meat is washed clean and grilled with salt on a charcoal fire or seasoned with red pepper before roasting.
There are those who prefer to have the rat meat dried and cooked with simsim paste.
“I want to assure you that the meat from rats is delicious, especially when dried and pasted,” says Viko.
The Terego people have had a historical craving for rat meat. Folk songs abound of how dearly the rat meal is regarded within the community.
Some of them such as “odro fa oo nda ana mu rua ceni," which means that the sound of gnawing the rat born prompts one to easily smash more bread lamps, are not only popular but also enticing.
At Ndrosi, a daily village market in Ajiraku parish, Bileafe Sub County the popularity of rat meat cannot be overstated.
Lydia Ajusoru, an area resident says roasted rat meat is an important accompaniment for elderly people when drinking enguli, the local alcohol. Each roasted rat is sold at sh1,000.
The Alegalega bar in Wandi trading centre in Katrini Sub County is a rocking hangout where the educated, working-class gather in the evening to munch rat meat while unwinding the day's fatigue with drinks.
They say the meat especially the rat’s head makes the one who consumes it to become intelligent.
The rats are also a sign of identity as slogans like “mba mi ce Tereonia?” (man, are you a Teregian?) are symbolised with signs of the rat.
Myths and stereotypes
Rat consumption in Terego comes along with pride, myths and stereotypes in equal proportion.
Mr Gerald Drabe, a teacher at Onzua primary school says most people who despise eating of rats wrongly presume it to be a meal for poor people who are unable to afford chicken, goat or cow meat.
While others are driven away by the filthy nature of the breeding grounds of the rodents. The rats are also dreaded for their ability to carry flea-related diseases but the consumers of rat meat dispel those assertions saying they do not eat all but select species of rats after proper cooking.
Drabe says he too is excited to see that stereotypes towards rat meat are going down with event organisers increasingly ignoring them.
“The scramble for rat meat at a recent wedding reception in Uriama Sub County was amazing. I was one of the few lucky ones to get a piece,” he said.
When Robert Okuyo, a P.4 pupil of Katrini primary school organised a fundraiser for buying scholastic materials in December last year, there was only one source on the menu- rats.
The orphaned boy who is living under the care of his ageing grandmother, Betty Candiru, following the untimely loss of his mother managed to raise sh50,000.
He used the money to buy his school uniform, books and a mathematical set and pens.
Candiru discloses that her grandson would have raised more money because many people had turned up but when the rats got finished, they felt disappointed and went back with their money.