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I leave my house for work and get called over by two village women awaiting their chance to do business with the chief. The first smiles...

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Small Blessings in a Hungry World

Lesotho and Southern Africa continue to face a drought. (If this is news to you check out Dust in the Wind and Drought Update) Now that harvest time has come a gone, the impact of not growing food for this year is becoming more apparent.

Maizemeal with a sticker denoting its subsidized price. 
The Lesotho government, with help from some outside nations, has done two big things to alleviate the struggle of rising food costs in the country. For the next year, they are subsidizing peas, beans, and maizemeal grown and produced in Lesotho by thirty percent.

As my host family prepared to harvest their maize a few weeks ago, my brother gleefully told me that this year the government was not “taxing” their crops. Typically, the Ministry of Agriculture provides manure and pesticides to the villagers. Instead of paying in advance for these important tools, villagers “pay” the government with a certain amount of their crops. From my understanding, this varies depending on the yield and the number of people in the family, so that, in theory at least; each family comes away from harvest with enough maize and/or sorghum to feed themselves until the next harvest.

Because so few people were able to grow crops and the crops that did grow started months later than usual, the government is not taking its usual percentage.

Typically, my villagers harvest in blocks, working together to harvest each field in the block as a group. This community effort makes harvesting easier, especially determining the government’s portion. This year, however, each family is harvesting for themselves. For families with their own wagon and cows, that is not necessarily a hardship, however, for those without large numbers or livestock, it is definitely harder to accomplish without hiring other people to help.

The first load of maize coming in from my family's field.
The lack of tax on the crops combined with good field locations near the Caledonspoort River means that my host family’s harvest yielded almost as much maize as they brought home last year. I consider this to be a huge blessing as I have been worried about their ability to buy maize throughout the coming year. Even my brother Thabo had been wondering if they would be able to afford food for the year. When he told me we would get to keep all our maize, he was equally excited to relate that perhaps that means they would still be able to buy flour this year.

I am thrilled that my family has been blessed in this way even though such a feeling also yield guilt knowing thousands of families that are not mine are facing a year without any crops to celebrate. Still, I cannot help but celebrate that the family that has generously shared a home and love will have food to eat. 

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