Villagers eat roots

Drought hit the villages of Mt Darwin so hard this year that families have been left with no option but to eat tree roots to survive.

In Karanda village, 160km northeast of Harare, the soil is generally poor and subsistence farming is the main economic activity. Maize, groundnuts, cotton, sorghum and millet are the staple crops, but this year everything failed. “Every day I join other women to go to the river to look for manyanya, (roots) for supper as we have nothing to eat,” said Tonganai Chiboiwa, a 26-year-old mother of three. With a 20l bucket of maize being sold for between $7 and $10, unscrupulous traders have been taking advantage of the villagers’ desperation.

A snap survey carried out by The Zimbabwean revealed that most people in ward 12 and 14 of Karanda village have bartered their cattle for food at a very unfair exchange rate of one beast for three 50kg bags of maize. Under normal circumstances a beast is worth $350. In Buhera’s Mutiusinazita area, many are bartering their livestock for grain and gathering wild fruit for their own consumption and for sale.

“The situation is not getting better. I lost three cows today and I don’t know where this will get us,” said Chiboiwa.

Calvin Chimwanzure, another villager, said food aid was needed urgently. “There is no future at all in this area, there is nothing to keep us going and if the situation remains like this many will die,” he said. Chimwanzure also noted that most people had pinned their hopes on cotton but due to poor prices offered by the cotton companies, the situation was dire.

“People hoped that their situation would be improved by their cotton sales but unfortuna-tely things seem to be getting worse. The current price of $0,35c per kg is no good. Right now we are struggling to clear our input loans from Cottco,” he said. Isaac Mtetwa , an Agricultural Extension Services Department officer who supervises farming activities in Wards 26, 27 and 28 in Buhera South, said most households were left with less than a month of food supplies, describing the situation in the area as ‘‘critical’’.

The Ward 27 councillor, Charles Mukanwa, said some families were offering themselves as casual labourers to generate money to buy food.

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