You see that woman on the right? She’s got a great big smile on her face. But I can assure you that smile won’t be as big in about 3 months.
She’s a farmer in a village outside of Kafue town in Zambia. We had visited her cooperative as part of our screening and selection process.
She asked me for money. Her friend next to her spoke English so I asked her why she wanted money. They both looked at me a bit aghast and surprised at the same time. Slowly, her friend said “Money is good.” I asked why. She said that they need money to buy food. Again, I asked what she meant though, deep down inside, I knew what she meant. She told me that their harvested maize (the maize that they had cultivated around May 2018) had run out in January 2019, nine months ago. Typically, their next harvest would occur in May or June 2019 and they would replenish their maize stores and make a bit of money on the side. However, the drought was so severe last season that they had absolutely no maize to harvest. The cobs didn’t mature enough and there was nothing to pick.
This drought situation has affected nearly all of southern Africa, hitting some communities more severely than others. This means that the supply of maize for a whole half of a continent has drastically decreased. Can you imagine what that has done to the price? It creeps up and up as more and more maize reserves become depleted. Can you imagine how a poor, smallscale farmer is affected? Can you imagine how little they live on? They likely have less than $10 in their home. Their neighbors are probably in the same situation.
I asked the woman if she only has one meal of nsima (boiled water and maize meal) and tea each day. She laughed. Tea? That was a luxury. They said they eat one lump of nsima in the morning and a serving of porridge (watered down nsima) at 1 PM. That is it. And this is when they can still afford to buy maize meal. She likely won’t be able to afford it in about 1 or 2 months. Her smile will quickly disappear as she and her family starve.
"In the morning, I have nsima. Then, around 13:00 hours, a serving of porridge. Nothing else."
For such a widespread food security situation, national governments will have to make major decisions to provide emergency food to their populations or to request international food aid.
However, this situation happens more frequently than we’d like. Our core mission is to invest in smallscale farmer populations with financing, innovative instruction, resilient seed, and technological innovations so that this situation happens less often and eventually never again.