Saturday, February 27, 2010

Malawi adds more drought relief

Charles Mpaka in via IPS: Maize farmer Anita Yunus has lived near the Mulanje Mountain in southern Malawi for over 30 years. And she does not remember there ever being a drought in the area. While there have been four severe droughts in Malawi in the past 25 years, the Mulanje region was not affected by these. So this year's drought is the first Yunus has experienced and she is deeply worried. "I don't know what punishment this is," the 53-year-old tells IPS. "We have always enjoyed very good rains, maybe because of the mountain, but now I don't know how to explain what we have this time."

According to government records, last year the southern region produced a third of Malawi's total annual maize harvest of 3.5 million tonnes. Mulanje is one of the major maize-producing districts in Malawi. Here 81 percent of the 530,000 people survive on subsistence farming. During harvest, residents from Blantyre rush to Mulanje to buy cheap maize.

Apart from Mulanje, the dry spell has hit six other districts in the southern and central region. In Malawi, the rainy season often starts in early December and runs up to March. But in these districts rainfall has either not fallen or has been irregular since December. Unofficial figures estimate that over 30,000 hectares of crop fields have been affected and that up to 120,000 families (an average of 720,000 people) could need food assistance in the region…..

A corn field in Malawi, shot by Joachim Huber, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

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