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Humanitarian response, Food security and nutrition, Agriculture, Climate Change and Resilience
Department of Home Affairs, Australia
Drought, Food, Food Insecurtiy, Hunger, Rural Community, Termites, Rudo (13)
© John Hewat/CARE
© John Hewat/CARE
15 January 20
Canon EOS 5D Mark IV
61-year-old Esther is a married grandmother of two young grandchildren (Rudo and Munashe), and also looks after two nieces (Faith and Nicole). She struggles to feed her family and worries a great deal about where she will find food to feed them all. She has very little food supplies left, and her granddaughter Rudo needs to go out and collect termites for their family to eat. She makes a living supervising other farmers’ livestock, and is usual-ly paid in food.
Esther’s story in her own words:.I was born in 1959. I live at my homestead with my husband, two grandchildren and two nieces.
I have eight children. I used to have nine but one of them passed away. One of my children helped me construct the latrine. Two of my children are still in school – they are 20 and 23 years old. Rudo is 13 years old and her name means Love in Shona.
My two grandchildren who live with me are 10 and 13 years old. My two nieces are four and eight years old. My nieces recently lost their father (my brother-in-law) after a long illness. My sister-in-law abandoned her children. Faith is 8 years old and Nicole is 4 years old.
When I wake up, I clean the yard and then work on our land. I make a living looking after my neigh-bour’s livestock but I don’t get paid in money - I get paid in milled maize and cooking oil.
Food is a really big challenge. I don’t want to talk about it, I just want to show you what I have. (She showed us everything she has left in her kitchen: a jar of pumpkin seeds, some leftover sadza, beans, cooking oil, and maize).
We eat roasted pumpkin seeds. We eat termites and okra with the roasted pumpkin seeds and eggs.
We only have one main meal a day. Today we have only had one meal which was sadza and maize. I won’t finish off what is left and I am worried about food for tomorrow.
I would like to be able to provide the children with tea and biscuits as well as rice, chicken and pota-toes.
We used to eat well when my husband worked but he lost his job several years ago. Now we are struggling. If we had money we wouldn’t have to work in the fields.
Cleaning is hard when you are hungry. I don’t know how to start and how to finish.
My grandson Munashe who is 10 years old always gets nosebleeds and suffers from bilharzia.
I have a pain in my side and pain in my feet. My husband also suffers the same.
I work from 9am to 5pm and it is very painful but I have to soldier on. I walk and sit and have to take breaks. I look after goats which is very hard work.
When I am hungry, it is harder to work. It is hard to run after goats when I am dizzy and have pain in my feet.
There are times when tears flow down my face because I cannot afford what my grandchildren need
Their school fees are all debts. It used to cost ZWD $35 (USD $2) per term per child but now it is ZWD $125 (USD $7.35) per term and there are three terms a year. I am not able to pay for this. Even if you don’t pay the school fees, the children can still go to school but the debt accumulates. If I got any money, I would have to pay for the school fees. I hope that my grandchildren will have uniforms and school shoes. They currently wear plastic sandals. I want their books to have covers. I hope that my grandchildren will grow up well and attend university.
It’s painful to look at my hungry grandchildren. They used to eat mangoes to comfort them but now it is off season and we try to get mangoes from other people.
I get support from my brothers but they live far away - about 30km away. To walk there, I leave at 4am in the morning and reach them at 9am. It takes five hours. I can’t afford to use public transport as it costs ZWD $20 (USD $1.18).
I believe that the change in the weather has really impacted our crops. In 2019, I harvested one bucket, around 20kg, of maize. Before, at this time of the year, our crops would have been taller, at least at knee height. I have heard about climate change - the change in the weather but there are still some areas that receive rain. It is hard for me to understand. I can’t think of any solution to cli-mate change. I look to God for intervention.
There are times that I do not eat a full meal - instead I take a small morsel from the meal. The pain in my side is worse if I don’t eat but I eat less than I need so that the children can eat.
My most urgent need is 50kg of milled maize. If I received that, I could relax.
I am struggling and worry about where the next meal will come from.
The storm blew the roof off of one of my buildings. We cannot afford to repair the roof. Our house is currently too small for all of us.
I am registered with CARE.
Rudo:.When I catch termites, they sometimes bite me. I usually use a glove so I don’t get bitten. I wish I didn’t have to catch termites anymore because they bite. I would like to eat chicken and rice instead.
My favourite subject is General Paper (a mix of history, science and religion). I want to be a teacher when I grow up so I can help other people become teachers and doctors. It is hard to concentrate at school when I am hungry. I am worried that I might not be able to become a teacher. I want pens, books and pencils.
When I am hungry it is very hard as I feel dizzy and I feel heat from the inside, and my lips are dry.
Interviewed by Lucy Beck, John Hewat, Emily McGuinness in Zaka on 14 January 2020.
Scene-setting information: .Zaka District is enduring the worst drought Zimbabwe has seen in a decade, with nearly 8 million people (rough-ly half the country’s population) suffering food insecurity. Climate change has led to a lack of rain, which has led to many failed crops and families struggling to feed themselves. Compounded with high inflation leading to impossibly priced food and seeds, sourcing food is a challenge. It is anticipated that the conditions for families will get worse over the coming year, as their next harvest will be untenable for so many.
Project information and major issues: .Lean Season Assistance is helping highly vulnerable families by providing:.Maize Cereal - 7.5kg per person per month.Cooking Oil - 0.75 ml per person per month .Peas/Beans - 1.5 kg per person per month .Porridge - for under 5s (which they estimate will be 13% of the caseload) at 3kg per person per month.