Monday, January 16, 2017

Households resort to a meal a day as dry spell prolongs

A farmer from Kanemwa Village in Kishili Ward,

A farmer from Kanemwa Village in Kishili Ward, Nyamagana District, Mr Pastory Makoye, 73, looks on in dismay at his withered maize at the weekend. The district has been hit by drought causing crop failure.PHOTO|GEOFREY KIMANI  

By Geofrey Kimani @thecitizen news@tz.nationmedia.com

Mwanza. A number of families in Kishili Ward in Nyamagana District are faced with famine, The Citizen has learnt.

The condition is a result of a prolonged dry spell.

When The Citizen visited Kanemwa Village on Saturday, some residents said they have resorted to one meal of porridge a day.

At around 2pm, when people are ordinarily expected to have lunch, one resident, Ms Laurencia Rutenya, was found with her four grandchildren, namely, Rebecca Juma, 4, Tutenya Malila, 4, Nestory Yohana, 2, and Kulwa Juma, 2, each taking porridge.

Ms Rutenya says the maize, sweet potatoes and cassava she had planted last September have been ravaged by the long dry spell.

“All the crops I planted have dried up leaving me with nothing to feed my family, I buy a quarter of a kilogramme of maize flour at Sh400 with which I prepare porridge for lunch and partake with my grandchildren,” she said.

Ms Rutenya said that in the past there were hardly any difficulties in irrigating crops, as rainfall was in plenty and water was easily obtained from rivers and streams.

She believes that overgrazing, deforestation and an increased population has affected the environment.

She also lives with her three daughters, Pili, Jennifer and Anne Bahati whom she claims are victims of teenage pregnancies.

“My daughters crush stones at a nearby quarry where they hardly earn Sh20,000 per week from their combined effort and the money earned is spent on the maize flour used for making porridge,” she said.

One of the daughter’s, Pili, says they sometimes fetch water for construction sites at Sh1,500 for every 100 litres of water.

Another resident, Ms Joyce Charles, had not prepared an elaborate meal for lunch, was found pounding dried cassava leaves.

The 34-year-old mother of four told The Citizen that she had harvested nothing this season, and the cassava her children were having for lunch was obtained from the garden where she works as a casual labourer.

She said her husband, Lucas Shija, sells straw for thatching houses from which he hardly fetches Sh2,000 for a load enough to thatch 10 square metres of a roof.

With the mango season over, a number of pupils who hadn’t had lunch at the nearby Fumagila Primary School were found under guava trees eating the unripe fruits.

“We have not taken porridge at school and we are hungry,” said Moses Mwanaminza, a Primary Five pupil.

The chairman for Kanemwa Street, James Buduba says that, maize, beans, potatoes, cassava have perished with the lack of rainfall and prices of food commodities have escalated.

He says price for staple food like maize flour has shot up from Sh1,000 to Sh2,000 while the price of cassava flour has doubled from Sh1, 500. “We appeal to government to come to our rescue as the elderly cannot afford to buy food,” he said.

Mr India Mathias, said he was forced hack his half acre maize farm after the crop failed whereas last year he harvested five sacks of maize.

Another farmer, Pastory Makoye, 73, says that over past years, the area has experienced less rains and water sources are slowly drying up. According to him, he has not harvested anything this season and his family of seven survive on a meal of porridge each day.

Councillor for Kishili Musa Magabe said that they have started identifying households that completely have no food so that they submit a report to relevant authorities including the office of the district commissioner.

“Village chairmen are verifying households that have no food as most of the families did not harvest crops following the long dry spell,” he said.

The MP for Nyamagana Stanslaus Mabula told The Citizen over a telephone interview that if there is a famine a team from the regional commissioner’s office should be deployed to verify the numbers.

He said that it was not the responsibility of lawmakers to announce famines although he did not suggest any solution towards the food crisis.

Meanwhile scores of regional governments across the country have signalled stress arising from the drought and the loss of livestock.

The central government is yet to issue a directive on how to respond to the growing threat of famine.

Addressing rallies President John Magufuli has on more than one occasion categorically denied that the problem exists.

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