10 April 2012
It’s been a dry summer. The river came down only once whilst it should flow about three times during an average season. The lack of water has helped to keep the mozzies down but it spells hardship for the locals, most of whom are subsistence farmers. Their annual summer crop of mealies, planted by hand after preparing the fields with ox-drawn ploughs, is what has to fill their cooking pots for a whole year.
Along the Limpopo the crop has failed entirely, I’m told. Locally, in the handful of villages in the Shingwedzi river basin, things look a little better. The harvest is coming in. Although it’s not a big one, after so little rain and some destructive raids by elephant, it’s still a busy time for the bush folk. The cobs have to be picked and gathered, hauled in with wooden sleds pulled by oxen, and then stored on high platforms out of reach of pesky rodents. The women then draw corn from this larder as it is needed and mill it by pounding it with wooden pestles. Only after all this effort can they finally bring the pots to the boil to feed their waiting families.
No wonder I haven’t seen a single overweight person around these parts!