The challenge of hunger in Kwanjana

10 May 2024

This year’s harvest in Kwanjana has been devastating. As we look at the families we support, it is clear that their harvests have plummeted by more than 50%. Many households, which previously yielded around twelve 50-kilogram bags of maize, have barely managed to harvest one. Considering that an adult requires approximately 300 kilos of maize annually, the implications are severe. Widespread hunger is imminent, potentially starting as early as June.

Typically, from this time of the year until November, families would still be consuming their maize harvest. However, this year, people have already begun purchasing maize in May. The necessity to buy maize in small quantities, rather than in bulk, is seen as deeply shameful. It reflects the parents’ struggle and their desperation to avoid the stigma of being unable to feed their families.

Despite these hardships, the resilience and hard work of the Kwanjana people are remarkable. As previously noted, the community’s dedication is unwavering. Once the maize-growing season ends, a dry period follows, usually lasting around seven months. Yet, those with fields near rivers or streams persist, growing vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and leafy vegetables. I have seen women waking up as early as 2 AM to head to the market for business. Similarly, one of our volunteers wakes at 3 AM to irrigate his vegetable field by hand before joining our organization’s activities by 7:30 AM. These examples only scratch the surface of the community's relentless effort and determination.

This year, we made the difficult decision not to distribute food to needy families during the lean period. Our intention was to convey that our support is not indefinite, and we cannot distribute maize every year. However, the drought has made it challenging for these families to combat hunger with their limited resources. To effectively reduce hunger, multiple factors need consideration, and it requires a collective effort. I passionately believe that hunger in Malawi can be mitigated, but it demands a united approach.

Personally, I advocate for a strategic shift away from handouts. Over-reliance on aid can stifle self-sufficiency and long-term growth. However, the past decade has shown us the harsh realities of climate change in our country. Floods, droughts, and erratic rainfall patterns have significantly hindered our efforts to reduce dependency on handouts.

Considering these challenges, it is crucial for us to rethink our strategies. We need to focus on sustainable solutions that empower the community. This could involve investing in irrigation systems, promoting drought-resistant crops, and providing training for alternative farming techniques. Additionally, creating platforms for local businesses to thrive can help build a more resilient economy.

The situation in Kwanjana is dire, but not without hope. By working together, adopting sustainable practices, and supporting the incredible resilience of the Kwanjana people, we can move towards a future where hunger is no longer a looming threat. It is time for all of us to join hands and make a concerted effort to create lasting change.