Zimbabwe: Families go hungry as drought hits home (Trust)

| June 8, 2015

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Mejury Tererai will be lucky to harvest 50 kilograms of maize this year. This is barely enough to feed her family for a month. Her maize and cotton were ruined by the worst drought in nearly a decade.

Life is often harsh in Siyagijima, a village 400 kilometres southwest of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare. And the drought that ruined her crops will likely make Mrs. Tererai’s life even harsher. The 31-year-old will have nothing but a little maize and groundnuts to feed her children.

Mrs. Tererai owes $27 U.S. to the firm that provided her with chemicals for her failed cotton crop. She says she will have to sell her only goat, or her chickens, or even the corrugated iron roof from her two-roomed house in order to pay her debt.

According to the World Food Programme, or WFP, the drought is likely to damage harvests across southern Africa. In the past, Zimbabwe imported maize from neighbouring Zambia and South Africa. But these countries are also likely to suffer dramatically reduced harvests.

Sory Ouane is the director of WFP in Zimbabwe. His agency is seeking $60 million U.S. for local food aid. WFP says that, in some parts of South Africa’s maize belt, over 50% of the crop has failed.

Given Lubinda is Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture. He says that, although his country’s maize harvest will be down by 21%, 876,000 tonnes will still be available for export.

For five years, Zimbabwe’s economy has struggled to recover from hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. The current drought looks particularly serious. This year’s maize harvest is forecast at 950,000 tonnes, far less than the 1.8 million tonnes the country needs.

The government plans to import 700,000 tonnes of white maize. But it is already struggling to find money to pay the salaries of civil servants, and did not budget for maize imports.

The government estimates that in Gokwe South, the district where Mrs. Tererai lives, 60% of the maize crop has failed.

The drought hasn’t spared larger-scale farmers. Rosewitha Manjovha is a mother of three. She says, “We are expecting [only] six and a half tonnes [of maize]. Last year we had 15 and a half [tonnes]. This year’s crop was severely affected by heat.”

Zimbabwean farmers are reluctant to grow small grains such as sorghum and millet. While these crops are more resistant to drought, they are not widely eaten in Zimbabwe.

Mrs. Tererai says, “Last year we had a good harvest, but this year we got very little. It was too hot and we received little rain.”

She hopes the government will provide basic support. She says, “We need help with food so that our children are able to go to school and concentrate.”

To read the full article on which this story was based, Zimbabweans go hungry as drought hammers southern Africa, go to: http://www.trust.org/item/20150526060104-4rlni/

Photo: A woman fetches drinking water from a well along a dry Chemumvuri river near Gokwe, Zimbabwe, May 20, 2015. Credit: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo