Minister of Youth and Sports, Uchizi Mkandawire has said the people of Karonga need urgent food relief support following a prolonged dry spell that has destroyed significant hectares of assorted crops, especially maize in the district.
He made the call on Saturday after visiting some maize fields in his Karonga South Constituency under Vinthukutu Area Extension Planning Area which is the area of Traditional Authority (TA) Wasambo in Karonga.
Mkandawire said the situation in his constituency was dire and that the whole district was experiencing a similar state of affairs, hence the need for urgent relief assistance.
“I came to appreciate this scary situation. I hope and believe that some will be done rescue people from hunger.
Otherwise, what I have witnessed is very pathetic as almost each and every field has been affected. Farmers are likely to realize nothing despite their investment into farming in the current season,” he explained.
The Minister suggested that as a long-term solution, the Department of Disaster Management Affairs (DoDMA) and other stakeholders need to come in and provide farmers with farm inputs for winter cropping and support them to embrace irrigation farming.
One of the affected farmers, Elina Msiska, 32, a mother of eight said that her maize and cassava fields are dried up and that she has already started feeling the impact of the dry spell.
“Normally by now, I should have started cooking fresh maize for my family. Apart from that with normal rains, I would have my cassava field blossoming and use its leaves for relish. But all that is not possible due to the dry spell,” she said.
Msiska added that the dry spell has affected her source of income as during such times in previous years, she used to work in other people’s fields on a piecework basis.
“It is quite worrying because, with the dry spell, no one can hire anyone to work in their field as almost every field is dry,” she said.
Agriculture Extension Development Coordinator (AEDC) for Vinthukutu EPA, Stywell Chirwa said that 10,700 out of 14,531 farming families have been affected.
He said the dry spell has so far destroyed an estimated 1,754 hectares of maize and 67 hectares of rice including groundnuts have also been affected.
“Most of the areas in February did not receive rain. On average in February, we had two rainy days and the amount we received was less than 20mm.
Karonga is a hot district area, so we have been experiencing very hot dry spells and the crops could not withstand the heat,” Chirwa said.
He projected that if the rains do not resume as soon as possible, more hectares of crops would be destroyed.