I have spent the past week investigating the drought conditions of southern Malawi in areas where our churches are. In the Zomba/Blantyre area things are not too bad and the drought will mostly mean higher prices. But in other areas, the situation is much worse. Here are my findings.
The Lake Chirwa region is the most severely impacted area of our churches near Zomba. I saw that most of the crops are already dying before producing a crop of corn or rice, their primary source of food. As one pastor said: “It is now just a matter of survival.” Instead of their normal crops, they are eating grass in this area. Here is a picture of the wild grass seed gathered from the fields that are usually full of corn. The seeds are dried and ground into flour and cooked into a paste. It is enough only to survive as long as the grass lasts.
I was in the Lower Shire where it is totally dry; I saw field after field that was dead. They usually have millet, sorghum, and corn in these fields. Brother Jasi, one of our church leaders, showed me his dried fields. He then showed me what they are eating. It is a root taken from the Shire River. It is boiled and then peeled and eaten by itself. It is very sour and not very tasty, but it will keep hungry people alive.
I did not have time to go up the mountain in the Lower Shire where we have 11 churches, but I did meet with some of our pastors from that region. I asked about the crops and the story was the same: no crop this year. They are surviving by eating a poisonous root that looks like a small sweet potato: if they boil it three times it is eatable. Sometimes people die eating this root when not prepared properly, but there is nothing else to eat on the mountain.
This is not the first time Malawi has been through hunger, so they know some resources available for survival. What makes this year so hard is that last year there was flooding that destroyed many crops. So for many, this is the second year in a row that hunger is a major concern.
I much prefer to preach the Gospel, teach the pastors and run camps; however, how can I turn a blind eye to such a need. Without help many of our Malawi Christian brothers and sisters will die; their children and elderly will die first. As soon as we have funds, we plan to start distributing food to our church communities with the most extreme needs.
Thank you for taking the time to read this,
Dr. Eric Chapman