Towards diverse bites

What crop gives you food as rainy seasons become shorter, firewood as trees vanish and relish when the pockets run dry?

If you cannot figure it out, just think about a root crop good enough for breakfast, lunch and supper—even as a snack.

Cassava?  Precisely.

As the rains are becoming scanty, the drought-resistant crop is part of a diversity of crops maize farmers are growing to beat chronic hunger.

 “Many Malawians grow up believing food is maize alone, but we need to change this mindset and grow a number of crops on the same plot as maize yields keep dwindling due to unpredictable rainfall pattern. When maize fails, the other may yield something,” says Raymond Chimsale, Catholic Development Commission (Cadecom) desk officer in Chikwawa Diocese.

Cadecom is expanding the adoption of drought-resistant crops in Chapananga, Chikwawa, along the southwestern border between Malawi and Mozambique.

The locals in group village head Gaga have isolated plots at the foot of Chinkhwalala Mountain where they multiply cassava and orange-fresh nutritious potatoes.

The plot personifies a steady switch to high-yielding crops that are resilient to drought and other extreme weather events attributable to climate change.

“Most villages are turning to cassava and orange-fresh potatoes for bumper harvests during dry spells. It’s all food. After all, potatoes and fresh cassava fetch more money than maize,” says GVH Gaga.

Gaga communities have suffered persistent food shortage, transitioning from devastating floods in 2015 to two years of back-to-back drought before March 2019 hailstorms destroyed houses, crops and property.

Says the traditional leader: “When the rainy season starts late and ends too early for traditional crops, many families cannot eat all six food groups.

“If we adopt nutritious crops that are resilient and high-yielding in tough times, people will be healthier and stunting among children will drop.”

The  Malawi Demographic and Health Survey shows that nearly two in every five children in the country are stunted. The orange-fresh potato presents a nutritious alternative that averts the low height-for-age indicator of poor nutrition.

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