Ghosts of hunger bother Cyclone Freddy survivors
Robson Makotha from Traditioanl Authority Mthiramanja in Mulanje district has no hope for the year in terms of food security after floods triggered by Cyclone Freddy harvested the whole of his maize field.
“I am not a beneficiary of the Affordable Input Programme [AIP]. I struggled to source fertiliser for my maize crop.
“But with the cyclone, my maize was washed away and all I have right now is what we were receiving at the camp. I have no idea how my household will survive throughout the year,” he said.
Leston Nansongole from Traditional Authority Bokosi in Phalombe is in a similar situation. Apart from his home, his field of soybeans and maize was also washed away.
“All I have now are the clothes I am wearing since we fled for our lives to this camp in March. My field was washed away and now I have no idea what I will do so that I feed my household when I return home,” he said.
These stories could be shared by many in the Southern region as, according to reports from the Department of Disaster Management Affairs and World Food Programme,
Cyclone Freddy led to the damage of about 202,095.5 hectares of cropped area.
Dodma’s Tropical Cyclone Freddy Response Plan indicates that 467,958 farming households lost their crops such as maize, ground nuts, soybeans, tobacco, Sesame, rice and cotton.
On food security, the response plan discloses that a total of 1,637,351 people (842,952 females and 794,399 males), translating to 363,856 households, were affected.
“Some of the food insecure people have been displaced from their homes while others, who have not been displaced, have lost their food stocks including maize grain, flour and different types of pulses,” reads the report.
According to the plan, the situation is critical for people who are living in camps as they lost almost all their items, especially food.
“Some households who are hosting their displaced neighbours and relatives are under high pressure to provide the essential items, especially food,” reads part of the report.
Bernard Mphepo of the Centre for Social Concern said the fears of looming hunger are valid.
“The fears are valid that there will be hunger. Even at a national level there is a projection that we may have food shortage.
“Unfortunately, the rainy season is gone. The best right now is to go into irrigation farming but this has been a topic among us for a long time and it is times like this that irrigation farming becomes a viable option,” he said.
In separate interviews, agriculture expert Tamani Nkhono Mvula and Chairperson of the Parliamentary Committee Sameer Suleman said all indicators are projecting food insecurity in the country this year.
Nkhono Mvula said right from the beginning of the year when AIP was a mess, government should have picked up the threat and act accordingly.
“These two things [AIP mess and Freddy], when put together, are all pointing to one thing: a reduction of maize harvest this year. So there is need for a quick investment in winter cropping. In other areas there is still some moisture where crops like cassava and sweet potato can grow,” he said.
Suleman also called on the government to swiftly come up with a plan.
“From the look of things, we are just watching. Government will start acting when people start dying. Those people whose fields have been washed away by the floods and can replant need to be supported. We need to start now and not wait until we feel the impact of the hunger,” he said.
In a Whatsapp response, Minister of Agriculture Sam Kawale said the ministry will release a draft report on the matter.
“We have a draft report which will be released on Monday,” he said.
According to the Dodma response plan, a total of K147.8 billion is required to implement the plan, K37.3 billion of which is available, leaving a gap of K110.6 billion.