By Rashidah Matandika
In Chiradzulu District, climate challenge have resulted in people experiencing hunger earlier than anticipated. Women are the most affected as they are now forced into walking for long distances to secure food for the families as most of them are single mothers while others have stay home husbands who have no employment and have no businesses.
In Mapesi Section under Thumbwe Extension Planning Area, women have started going out to other areas exchanging mats with maize, Malawi’s staple food so that they can provide for their families.
Margret Julius who is aged 37 from Matope Village under Mapesi E.P.A has five children and an unemployed husband. She and her friend Elesi Kaselema travel for over 10 kilometres carrying at least three mats each which are ordered at a cheap price from her area to exchange with maize from the areas where they have at least harvested enough. However, what she gets is barely enough to feed her family of seven and as she said most of her customers are always saying things are tough and cannot exchange quality grains that they end up collecting the bad grains that are Left behind when sorting out the grains.
“I harvested only 25kgs this season and you cannot expect anyone to survive on that. After the business most of the times we only get half a bag as well because everyone is now cautious about selling their maize and we just accept because we have no option,” said Julius.
Elesi Kaselema aged 35 said for her the hunger is costing her her children’s future as the money that she is using to trade for maize is the one that she was supposed to pay fees for her secondary school child. The trips are even hard as she has sight challenges but she forces herself to take the long journeys to provide for her family of six.
“My husband is a drunkard and has no job or business so am the bread winner, no matter how hard and challenging these trips are, i have to do this business to provide for my family,”said Kaselema.
Acknowledging the problem, Agriculture Extension Development Officer for the area Francis Msamu attributed the problem to several factors.
“Firstly it was the cyclone Ana that destroyed houses in the area and to rebuild their homes most people diverted the money that was supposed to be used for farm inputs hence they had no resources for this season. Secondly soon after the storms were over the area was hit by a dry spell for almost a month in February affecting the surviving crops and lastly there came a disease that affected most of the maize and legumes known as down mildew so the farmers were left helpless,” he said.
Msamu went to disclose that the situation has drove most women into illegal businesses including prostitution.
However, there is a solution as the area is rich in water bodies which can serve for irrigation farming but the only challenge is equipment which he said if well-wishers could help the people could be saved.
Malawians usually start to experience hunger in the months of August or September but this year things are different.