Rain of despair and hunger

LEAD FEATURE

>A shelter for guarding maize crops against wild animals which was destroyed by heavy rains.

> Sharon Kavhu 

ZIMBABWE-TRADITIONALLY, rains in Africa signify blessings of a good harvest for a specific period.  They are a symbol of life whose scarcity sometimes forces communities to seek divine intervention through rainmaking ceremonies.

However, instead of being a blessing, the recent heavy rains being experinced in a number of southern African countries, have become a nuisance, as crops have succumbed to water logging while homesteads have been destroyed.

According to information obtained from the SADC Climate Services Centre, the region has been receiving abnormal rainfall for the past 30 days amid fears of disease outbreaks that might affect the overall crop harvest this season.

Zimbabwe, northern-western parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), west and south of Namibia, Botswana and southern parts of Mozambique have been cited by the SADC Climate Services Centre as the most affected by the rains.

In Zimbabwe, Mbire District is one such area that has been hard hit by heavy rains.

A visit to Mbire by The Southern Times this week revealed a tale of flooded rivers rendering a number of roads impassable while many school children have been forced to stay home.

Livestock has also not been spared, as most low-lying pastures have virtually been submerged by the incessant rains.

Narrating his ordeal, Efinos Mbisvi of Sangojena village in

Mushumbi under Chief Chisunga, said the heavy rains destroyed his fowl run and swept away all his chickens during the night.

Mbisvi and his family escaped death by a whisker when the rains destroyed his house. He one day awoke to the horror of seeing his bedroom flooded with water. His minor children were almost swept away the same night.

“It was just around 3AM when I felt the rains falling directly on my face.  At first I thought I was dreaming and eventually reality slapped me when I saw water flooding my house.

“Immediately, I woke up and tried to open the door but, it could not open.  Normally, when you are in such a shock, you are prone to slow thinking so I didn’t know what to do next.  I stood for a while before I rescued my family and managed to get them up the roof.

“I saw my blankets being swept away. I stayed on the roof until the rain calmed down around 4PM.”

He said when the rains stopped he saw remains of his fowl run floating on water but there was nothing he could do to save his birds.

Mbisvi said he lost 10 cockerels and 23 hens, including five that were incubating, in the flood.

He also lost virtually all his crops that included maize, groundnuts and pumpkin that are source of relish.

Mbisvi is currently residing in a makeshift shelter close to the remnants of his crops to secure them against wild animals.

His family has since moved to another village and he is hoping that the remaining crops will bear a morsel of a harvest enough to last the next planting season.

“On an annual basis, I harvest four cut loads of shelled grains from this piece of land and it was always enough for me and my family to survive. In some cases, we even harvest more and we use the extra outputs for barter trading with meat at the growth point,” said Mbisvi.

“This year, the rain has disappointed us and I don’t know how we are going to survive without maize grains.  Our district has been greatly affected by the heavy rain and if there are no changes, we are all likely to live in hunger this year.”

The heavy rain has also over flooded tributaries that feed into Hunyani and Angwa Rivers.  Children from surrounding communities have not been attending school due to floods.

Chief Duster Chisunga of Mbire is appealing to the government for food relief for all flood victims.

“The floods have surely destroyed many crops across the community and we are saying there is a need for our government to assist us with maize seed for replanting,” said Chief Chisunga.

“In some areas, crops have been swept away while in others they died due to water logging; and it is a crisis.

“However, some of the people who were severely affected had planted their crops along river banks and marshal areas. Such practices are prohibited and these people have been given several warnings against farming along river banks but they are rebellious.”

According to the Civil Protection Unit (CPU), at least 70 people have died from severe flooding that has submerged much of Zimbabwe since last October.

By last week, more than 1,038 rural homes had been damaged and about 40 schools destroyed with 73 families rendered homeless, according to CPU.

> Hunger stalks Zimbabwe as floods hit food crops

February 2017
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