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The following report has been received from David Nightingale
Three-quarters of Malawians are short of food.
I have just returned from a month in Malawi. Every year a great many people in Malawi and other African countries have very little food to eat for about three to four months - the time interval between the food from one harvest running out and the next harvest coming on stream. This year the harvests have been poor and the food has run out much quicker.
In the south of Malawi, because of erratic rains - sometimes no rain, sometimes too much all at once, which washes away the newly planted seed - there is a real food crisis. In fact it has been so bad that some have not even bothered trying to plant, or have not been able to buy the seed to plant.
The sad fact is that the crisis could largely have been prevented by sensible farming methods. Government organisations, especially in the central and northern areas, have made a great difference to helping people secure their food supply by encouraging them to use natural farming methods, conserving trees, planting grasses to stop errosion, and so on. They really do make an amazing difference. Hopefully their work will gradually spread throughout the country.
Malawi's maize crop has been damaged by floods and drought.
In the meantime, where there has been a harvest, it has been gathered in early because people were hungry. This means that it will have to be eaten straightaway, because it was gathered before it was reallly ripe and will not keep. We anticipate therefore that the interval between the end of the food from this harvest and the beginning of the next will stretch to six or seven months. I anticipate that our members will need more food aid from about September onwards.
In Malawi now you can see a great deal of food in the wayside markets, but many people are so impoverished that they cannot afford to buy it. By September, this food will be gone and very few will have the resources to support themselves through the months before the new harvest comes in April 2003. The situation gets worse because people will tend to eat all the food they have grown (it was immature anyway), so there will be no seed for a new harvest.
We have about 5,000 members in Malawi and 900 in Mozambique, most of whom will have been affected by the crisis. So far we have sent £17,000 and this is being distributed in areas of particular need. but we anticipate needing to send out more during the year in an effort to help with immediate food aid and provide seed for the next harvest.
David Nightingale, May 2002
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