At least 1000 farming families in the northern parts of Mzimba are in dire need of seeds after heavy rains washed away their fields early this year.
According to Inkosana Isaac Jere of Embombeni, about 800 households need to replant sooner than later because they lost their maize crop resulting from the government-subsidized seeds and fertilizers.
The loss also led to the loss of tobacco nurseries and fields of tobacco which have left the growers with hefty farm-input loans for no gain.
Jere, however, acknowledged the communities are prone to water-related disasters because they practise rain-fed agriculture too close to waterways, including flood-prone rivers such as Chamono and Lukonkholwe which flow into Kasitu River.
“It was slightly over a week when overflows of water from the streams wreaked havoc in the fields. In some areas, you can play football where maize, soya or tobacco once-stood. However, we couldn’t do anything apart from blaming ourselves for inheriting a culture of growing crops on the river banks because they comprise fertile soils. Most upland fields are bleached.”
The catastrophe has struck just when the communities are grappling with food shortage typical of the countdown to the next harvesting season.
Presenting 1500 bags of relief maize from President Joyce Banda to ease the plight of the worst hit households during the lean period, Health Minister Catherine Gotani-Hara warned the community against cultivating near water paths.
“The disasters in Mzimba North and Mzimba North East constituencies are a clear signs that the effects of growing crops and cutting trees near rivers can be devastating, but sometimes the people are forced by circumstances. I will ask the Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Climate Change to enlighten us how we can get over this problem,” said Hara.
Likewise, People’s Party (PP) parliamentary candidate Agnes Nyalonje, who markets herself as a champion for farmers, women and the youth, thanked the president for the relief haul, saying: “There is also a need for seeds so that the farmers can replant fast-maturing crops such as maize. If we don’t intervene in time, there will be total disaster, double the starvation, this time next year.”
Interestingly, even the beneficiaries seemed to agree that their predicament is a timely call for deeper meditation as to how they ended in it and their role to avoid a repeat next year.