But chiefs have still sent an SOS to government and well-wishers to do more to salvage the situation.
“Up to date, there is no sign of rains here in Chikwawa, our local projection is we may get another poor harvest, we are in danger zone as far as hunger – current and eminent – is concerned,” said in an interview a worried Senior Chief Ngabu, at his base.
“For instance, some of our livestock have started dying due to lack of food; the places we graze our animals are dry. In the past, during times of hunger like these, we survived because of livestock, so when they die, life is tough for people here,” he said.
Chief Ngabu, however, hailed government and other stakeholders for their timely intervention by providing food aid and relief items.
“We thank government for the maize that is being distributed and for sticking to its guns that there should be controlled purchase of maize by individuals at Admarc markets. The mere fact that an individual cannot buy a full bag has greatly assisted that vendors should not take advantage of the situation to purchase in bulk and resell at exorbitant prices to poor masses,” he said.
But Ngabu pleaded with government to ensure that maize is available in all Admarc markets until the next harvest to avoid starvation.
“I say so because people don’t have maize stocks in their houses, let alone granaries as was the case in the past. Our plea to government is that the maize should go to the remotest Admarc markets before rains come to ensure that no one starves because they can’t travel to faraway places where Admarc markets are accessible,” he said.
Chiefs in Chikwawa, he said, have made it a point that the masses should not be demotivated by the floods that wrecked the area and washed away their crop yields and livestock.
“We have encouraged people to cultivate their fields en masse to ensure we achieve a bumper yield and avert hunger. There is large expectation that if rains come appropriately, this hunger will be a tale of the past. The acute hunger here, all must understand, is not man made, but coming out of a disaster that we did not anticipate, hence our call for continued assistance in food relief until the next season,” said Ngabu.
Shire Valley ADD Programme Manager, Dr. Jerome Chim’gonda Nkhoma, says the hunger situation in Chikwawa district is slightly worse, but the worst case scenario is in Nsanje.
“Our records indicate that 13 percent have no food at all, in other words they face acute hunger, while in Nsanje hunger percentage is at 27 percent [people without food at-all], which is worse off,” he said.
Dr. Nkhoma, however, said: “There is consolation however in that farmers are harvesting a number of secondary crops (winter cropping harvest). We have done better on winter cropping than last year. Government supported farmers with fertilizer subsidy for winter cropping at K500 per bag [for both basal and top dressing], and this has yielded encouraging results.”
The other consolation, he said, was the fact that there are lots of potatoes and sorghum, which can serve as alternatives to the scarce staple food of maize.
“Yes, in terms of food we are worse off but our situation is not as worse as the picture being painted. When we look at the wider scope in terms of other food stuffs such as irish potatoes and sorghum, people will survive. The source of solace is that people don’t only rely on rain fed crops but also winter cropping,” said Dr. Nkhoma.
But the Programme Manager said the worrisome aspect is that people tend to over-sell whatever they harvest from winter cropping.
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