Hunger looms in the Gwembe Valley.

imageBy Chimuka Moono Hanyama

Gwembe valley has a lot of hardships. Life in this part of Zambia is a gamble. Apart from a handful of government workers who are mostly teachers and health workers, the area has a vast majority of the rural poor. These depend on agriculture as their subsistence source of income.
Ingombe Ilede is one area found in the Gwembe valley, with predominance of poverty. This area, popularly known by the Ingombe Ilede historical site, has a lot of farmers who depend on peasant farming. When one visits the area, they are greeted by flocks of goats and sheep, which are the symbol of wealth for these rural poor. Instead of empowerment and income coming from the national monument and tourism, poverty and drought is what these people share because the same national monument is devoid of any meaningful attraction to local and foreign tourists.

Rains in this area are mostly erratic; the past farming season was worse. It was barely complete. People planted their Nkuyuma (Sorghum), but the heavens closed without warning them. Cotton, and Guar, which are the common cash crops of the area, could not withstand the heat and lack of water. They too dried and the harvest has been very poor. To add salt to the wound, Elephants also are a common phenomenon in the area, grazing out whatever hope the rural poor may have had. With poverty levels already high amongst these resettled people, one has no option but to notice the impact lack of rainfall has caused to their livelihoods. Families have turned to the already depleted trees for their charcoal to sell at the boarder town Chirundu; mothers are walking long distances selling Masau (a wild fruit found in the area) to make ends meet. Those families headed by the aged (who are quite a number in the area) go without food at times for days!

The office of the Vice president has given hope to these people in Gwembe that they will be provided with Relief Food. But the big question is, when will this be? If the promise delay further, the people will deplete the already absent trees thereby worsening the situation of poor rainfall. Lives may also be lost due to malnutrition and other hunger related illnesses. Those that are in charge of Disaster Management, time to act is now. It will serve a lot of purpose if the help is done early.