Leroy Dzenga Features Writer
For Berita Dube (56) of Embakwe Village in Mangwe District in the southern part of Zimbabwe, her community has been mocked by the rains. Her village has been hit by a string of droughts over the last three seasons.
For Dube who suffers from anaemia, coping with drought has not been easy.
Her crops wilted and she had no food for herself and her family.
She had no choice but survive by scrounging for food around the community.
Her life was enveloped in humiliating poverty.
A prolonged dry spell in the 2017-2018 cropping season also spelt disaster for her.
They still had to eke a living from begging food in the neighbourhood.
“In 2016 I was diagnosed with anaemia, during the time we were supposed to be planting,” she said.
“I went into hospital and the season was wasted. However, there was no difference between me and most of my peers as their crops were affected by flooding.”
Again in this cropping season a prolonged dry spell also hit her and the rest of the community badly.
She tried to grow some crops, but they wilted again.
Even the usually resistant small grains failed to survive the harsh conditions in this area which often receives little rainfall.
“Since 2014, we have not had any crops in our fields. The situation has been difficult. We experienced three years of bad weather and we have not been able to grow any food,” said Dube.
“2015 was dry, 2016 the rains exceeded required amounts and in 2017 we had a lengthy dry spell which also affected our crops. We are losing hope about any prospects of a good harvest.”
Since Dube’s husband left her she has had to fend for her two daughters Pephelapi (33) and Yvonne (27) who have special needs and her four-year-old granddaughter.
“Their condition requires that they eat consistent balanced meals on a daily basis. I have not been able to do that and have been surviving on well-wishers who donate food to us,” she said.
Dube is not the only one who has been hit hardest by drought. Drought and food shortages are a headache to most households in her community.
Faced with serious food shortages, Dube and other villagers now look to the Government and other NGOs for food assistance.
Oxfam has come in handy for her as the international NGO started rolling out a food relief programme in October 2017.
Civil society and non-governmental organisations have been keeping the community afloat in the face of a crisis.
Oxfam International and a number of like-minded organisations have been parcelling food rations to the community.
They have been giving beneficiaries of their programme, $10 per head to allow them to buy food basics needed for survival.
A family of four people receives $40 and if there is a child below the age of five, they also get nutritious porridge.
An Oxfam programme officer in Bulilima and Mangwe, Edward Hungwe gave an outline of how they have been helping avert the food crisis in the two districts.
“The Government and other non-governmental organisations engaged in a ZimVac survey which was to measure the level of vulnerability in Mangwe and Bulilima,” he said.
“Using results from ZimVac we are targeting those that are very vulnerable, in Mangwe we are targeting six wards and Bulilima we are helping in eight wards.”
To ensure that recipients of the assistance money channel it to good use, they have introduced electronic methods of payment which also eases transfers in the era of cash shortages.
“The modality is food assistance but in Mangwe we are doing the e-voucher where we give retailers point of sale machines where community members can come acquire goods using the cards we gave them,” said Hungwe.
Rations being parcelled are enough to cover nutritious basics.
“In all the wards there is a food basket which costs about $10 consisting of carbohydrates which is maize meal 10 kilogrammes, and 750 millilitres vegetable oil and 250 grams sugar beans.
“Our assumption is that the $10 we are giving per individual is going to buy their food basket. So if it is a family of five then they get $50,” Hungwe said.
They also give out fortified porridge where each child gets 6 kilograms of porridge every month in an effort correct malnutrition in communities, targeting with those between two and five years of age.
“As distribution of food is our main thrust, we are teaching them on income generating activities, nutrition as well as internal savings and lending schemes (mukando) so that they can fend for themselves even beyond our project cycle,” Hungwe added.
Mr Pius Nkomo the Embakwe headman told The Herald that most households in his area have been struggling to have adequate meals.
“There is no food here, we are surviving on non-governmental organisations who sometimes bring us food otherwise, things are looking bad,” he said.
Most families in the area used to survive on market gardening where they sell their produce in Plumtree, Bulawayo and at the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
“People used to grow vegetables to sell but lately it has been difficult for them to do so. We have not received good rains in years, its either they are excessive (rains) or they don’t come at all,” said Nkomo.
Even livestock which is known to thrive in their area has been hit hardest as pastures and water sources have dried up.
“Our cattle are under threat, there is no water and the grazing lands are becoming lifeless by the day. If the situation doesn’t change more cattle will die here in Embakwe,” the headman said.
Moses Moyo, the ward 13 Embakwe councillor suggested that to save themselves from starvation people in his constituency should consider methods like sand abstraction in silted rivers.
“The future is now uncertain due to the way the weather has been.
“Now could be the time for our people to start looking into ways they can access water in the sand filled rivers which are in this area,” he said.
According to the 2017 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) 2017 Rural Livelihoods Report, families in Matabeleland North and South got 240 kilograms as well as 175 kilograms of cereals respectively.
This is an average of not more than three bags of maize, sorghum and millet.
Families interviewed by The Herald, said they had run out of food by June 2017 and have been scratching the surface to get by.
With the rains showing signs of evasion this rainy season, it will take intervention from the Government and aid organisations to keep this community fed.
There are signs of waning hope in a community mocked by the rains.
Feedback: [email protected]