Malawi faces hunger crisis due to dry spells and flush floods that affected 15 out of the 28 districts last year. There are 2.8 million people in dire off aid, according to Malawi authorities. With no rains in sight in others parts, Malawi is destined for yet another hunger crisis. George Mhango writes from Chikwawa, Southern Region of Malawi.
It is hot and crops are wilting. Pots and plates are also abandoned in different homes as there is nothing to cook and eat. Long queues are seen in public maize selling points. Some sleep and stay in such points hoping maize would be available.
In this mess, children have become desperate as their parents are unable to provide them food never mind balanced or not. Malnutrition is likely, according to health experts.
Esther Mang’anjala (53) from Tomali Eliya Village Head in Paramount Chief Lundu Chikwawa is not spared as it stands.
During the last growing season, she did not harvest anything because floods had washed all her maize and bean fields.
This is why she has nothing to feed her family, yet it is 12 noon. Children pester her, but nothing is in sight on the table.
Mang’anjala has no kind words because even her husband fails to provide the much needed food. Her husband has failed to secure piece works despite queuing in sugar plantations.
Travels to her field show that crops have not germinated and the field looks like bare land, enough a sign that hunger would strike her family again during the next financial year.
“I planted my crops (both maize and cotton) in December, but nothing has emerged due to poor rainfall pattern. The last time we experienced rains was on January 29. It is pathetic because, the food crisis will continue to haunt my children,” she says.
Before Mang’anjala continues explaining her plight, Kadenga Peterson—a father of two—shares the same challenge. He lives a miserable life as a result of drought and dry spells experienced during the last growing season.
“We have no food and with no money in circulation, we cannot make ends meet. Life is terrible. I must admit that I fear for my children if heavens will not open so we plant even early maturing crops,” he says.
Elita Banton—a widow and mother of four—shares the same story. “I don’t see myself harvesting. Just look at my maize field. Nothing has come out,” she laments.
With the hunger crisis, she has gone back to her pottery business to make ends meet, which has over the years helped education her children and feed the family.
However, the business is not giving her the desirable results.
“People have no money to buy products. To some extent, other prioritise buying maize to feed their families unlike the clay pottery products,” she says.
She says: “Even when I want to buy maize in public depots, I am only allowed a five-kilogramme bucket. With nine children what will I feed them with?” wonders Mang’anjala.
Surveys show that at this time, last year, farmers, whose crops were not washed away could have started eating fresh maize thereby avoid the hunger crisis at household level.
Such stories are a tip of the iceberg in various districts that were affected by drought and floods. Besides damaging crops, the floods rendered half a million homeless and killed close to 106 across the country.
Realising such challenges, World Food Programmes (WFP), World Vision and other partners decided to introduce cash transfer and food distribution programmes in October 2015 to target such needy people.
The project—which started in October last year—is taking place in 11 traditional leaders within Chikwawa District. It is expected to end in April this year, despite calls that it has to be extended looking at the gravity of hunger on the ground.
WV and WFP have jointly distributed maize and done cash transfer in Kalulu, Lundu and St Matthews following the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee (MVAC) report.
But Mang’anjala and other claim the money from the cash transfer and food distribution World Food Programme (WFP) and World Vision (WV) are not enough.
“What I get from WFP and WV is too little such that it ends up repaying debts I incur to either buy food rations or use for other incidentals,” wonders Mang’anjala.
To counter drought and food crisis calamities, communities through World Vision and World Food Programme have established Tomali Club in Village Head (VH) Elia.
The logic according to the two organisations is that such members despite benefiting from the food and cash transfer, they should to replace the environment by planting trees.
The group now has five woodlots within the area. Some trees have been planted along Mwanza River banks to avoid floods as was the case last year and bring back rains.
In an interview, chairperson of the club Spencer Soko says the group has so far planted 4 275 trees that will provide club members with financial backing through timber production
“These drought and rainfall challenges are due to deforestation, hence, formation of the club to restore the environment. Secondly, we want to do Comprehensive Agriculture (CA) in which members should avoid rain-fed agriculture,” he says.
Soko further states that communities are also encouraged to do dambo farming to avert perennial food. Both WFP and WV think Conservation Agriculture would help communities deal with some emerging challenges in the agricultural production.
Nepad through Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is also advocating for CA and Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) to avoid effects that have come with climate change.