Se­vere hunger stalks drought-stricken south­ern Africa

The Citizen (KZN) - - News -

The spec­tre of want is haunt­ing Zimbabwe, Zam­bia and South Africa as they grap­ple with a long and dev­as­tat­ing drought.

Re­porters who trav­elled across the three coun­tries saw wide­spread suf­fer­ing in ru­ral ar­eas where suc­ces­sive har­vests have been hit by lack of rain or short­ened rain­fall sea­sons.

Across the 16-na­tion south­ern African re­gion, 45 mil­lion peo­ple are “gravely food inse­cure”, the World Food Pro­gramme (WFP) said on 16 Jan­uary. In some re­gions, the drought is three years old; in oth­ers, five.

In the Zam­bian vil­lage of Si­mumbwe, hun­dreds waited for food to be distribute­d by the NGO World Vi­sion and the United Na­tions.

“The chil­dren ask me: ‘What are we go­ing to eat?’” said Love­ness Ha­neumba, a mother of five.

“I an­swer: ‘Just wait. Let me look around’.”

A teacher, Teddy Si­afweba, said about 15 chil­dren in his class were ab­sent that day be­cause of hunger.

In the class­room next door, about 30 were miss­ing – nearly half of the roll­call of 70.

In South Africa’s North­ern Cape, at the gate­way of the Kala­hari desert, the wild an­i­mals are used to ex­treme tem­per­a­tures but even they are suc­cumb­ing to the con­di­tions.

Ac­cord­ing to Wildlife Ranch­ing South Africa, two-thirds of wild an­i­mals in the prov­ince have died in the last three years.

In two years, half of the 4 500 buf­faloes, hip­popota­muses and kudus at the Thuru Lodge game farm near Grob­ler­shoop have dis­ap­peared.

The av­er­age rain­fall here is 250mm a year.

“But 250mm, that’s what we have had in five years,” said its man­ager, Burger Schoe­man.

At the top of a hill that over­looked the 22 000-hectare pri­vate re­serve, two huge holes served as mass graves.

The drought rep­re­sents a fi­nan­cial black hole for the lodge, which spends R200 000 a month to feed the an­i­mals, while can­celling the reser­va­tions of tourists on the look­out for “tro­phies”.

“We need to of­fer a fair hunt.

Hunters can’t shoot weak an­i­mals,” said Schoe­man.

Jo­han Steenkamp, a 52-yearold farmer with a spread of 6 000 hectares, said he had lost up to 70% of his stock.

Sheep still give birth, but they aban­don their new­born lambs.

“They have no milk,” Steenkamp said. “They leave them there.”

Hand-in-hand with the des­per­a­tion are signs of hope as some farm­ers adapt to cli­mate shock.

Three years ago, Imelda Hi­coom­bolwa, a sin­gle Zam­bian mother and small farmer, gam­bled on agri­cul­tural di­ver­si­fi­ca­tion, opt­ing for nu­tri­tious veg­eta­bles and us­ing tech­niques adapted to cli­mate change.

“Food is not a prob­lem. I have it,” she beamed.

Be­fore 2017, Hi­coom­bolwa cul­ti­vated al­most only maize. To­day, she har­vests cow­peas, which need very lit­tle wa­ter, as well as peanuts, pump­kins and sun­flow­ers.

“I can make 18 000 kwacha (about R17 700) a year. Be­fore, I was mak­ing 8 000 kwacha a year,” she said.

“Be­fore, the chil­dren were miss­ing school be­cause I could not al­ways pay the tu­ition fees. Not any more.”

Pic­ture: AFP

DES­O­LATE. A view of a dry plain in the north­ern Kala­hari re­gion. In the North­ern Cape, at the gate­way to the Kala­hari Desert, wild an­i­mals are used to ex­treme tem­per­a­tures and harsh con­di­tions.

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