By Michael Gwarisa in Kariba, Siakobvu
A 350 kilometer drive through the woods and dense forest from Kariba town through a meandering dusty and partially gravel road leads one to an almost invisible settlement called Siakobvu in Nyaminyami rural district.
Every year, the people in the area have to contend with little food hand-outs they get from well-wishers and non-governmental organisations owing to the perennial hunger and critical food shortages the community experiences annually.
Even though some farmers in the area have already commenced land preparations for the 2017/18 cropping season, most villagers have given up hope of sowing any seed following a series of tragic events from previous years which have resulted in them losing their hard earned crop to various catastrophes.
Due to persistent erratic rains, famers are forced to migrate almost after every three to five years to search for alternative fertile soils. Zimbabwe is divided into five natural regions that is 1,2,3,4 and 5 and unfortunately, Siakobvu has more characteristics of both regions 4 and 5, which are undeniably the hottest regions in the country.
In an interview with HealthTimes in Siyakobvu recently, Village Headman Manyepa bemoaned the persistent food shortages in the area as a result of the extreme weather conditions and huge presence of wildlife.
“It is difficult to harvest anything meaningful in these soils, as you have seen, most our fields are rocky and if it becomes hot, the crops are burnt beyond normal wilting point. The wildlife issue is also an issue around here considering we are living in an area where wildlife roams freely without any restrictions.
“Baboons, elephants, Warthogs among a host of others just make our lives a living hell around here as a result, the malnutrition cases in our children and some adults is shocking,” said Headman Manyepa.
He added that his village has more than 70 families but getting a decent meal on any of those tables was a nightmare of double proportion.
“In my area, the food situation is dire, many a times we end up digging out wild tuber roots (Nyenya) for food but those ones can only be on a temporal bases, you can’t live on roots, you need proper food in your tummy.”
Another Villager who is also a Village Health worker in Siakobvu, Tinarwo Muchimba said most villagers had relocated or taken their agricultural activities close to river banks is it presents them with better harvest prospects.
Siakobvu Village Health Worker Tinarwo Maimba speaking to HealthTimes’s Michael Gwarisa
“It is difficult to stay in one place here in Siakobvu, its either you continue staying in an infertile land or you move to better soils. Both the choices do not present us with any opportunities that we could say is permanent.
“The starvation and hunger this side is massive, we survive on food hand-outs from NGOs and other well wishers, that is why even our children are highly malnourished and need serious attention,” said Maimba.
Siakobvu falls under Kariba district which according to statistics has been one of the worst affected districts reporting high levels of malnutrition. In 2016 prevalence of global acute malnutrition among children under five years was 17.3%, a figure noted as excessively high.
Siakobvu is in Ward 8, under Mashonaland West province. However, a plethora of factors seem to be exacerbating the malnutrition scourge despite massive efforts by NOGs like Save the Children through their partnership with the ministry of health and child care.
Speaking to HealthTimes,Nyaminyami Rural district council Social Services Executive Officer Karikoga Mutashu said cases of malnutrition in the area are very high and the community had the highest cases of both Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) and Moderate Acute Malnutrition (MAM).
“There are a lot of prohibitive factors to the fight against malnutrition here in Siakobvu, we have the issue of roads and inaccessibility of the areas around here. We also have the aspect of ignorance by villagers to most critical information since receiving radio signal in the area is more of a challenge.
“The communities around here are highly nomadic as they try to escape from the poor soils. They rarely get normal yields and they are always having food problems. The other issue is that of pricing of nutritious foods here, it’s a bit on the high and most people around here cannot afford high prices,” said Mutashu.
Save the Children has engaged Village health workers to help drive the nutrition and Water and Sanitation Project in the area. The project is being funded by the Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA).