Rob Pfeiffer Blog 2/8/2015 Malawian Food Shortage
Watching people procure their daily nourishment is both fascinating and heart breaking. The work starts early and ends late and has a repetitiveness that few of us in the western world could tolerate. Right now, the food issue is complicated (or, in fact, simplified) by the fact that everyone is hoping and praying for a good harvest while still eating last year’s harvest. The main crop is corn or maize as it is called here and most corn is now three to five feet tall. Please remember that we are in the southern hemisphere and warm rain has been plentiful at least for the last two weeks. The corn outside my door has grown a foot in that time. The mature kernels are ground into cornmeal which is then mixed with water and heated to create a form of Elmer’s Glue without the taste. This dreadful concoction is called nsima (pronounced seema) and is used with every meal. You see repetition coming in now. Other crops include soy beans, tobacco, and Irish potatoes (not sure of the origin of this name but I have put in a good word for “our” version). People not only eat all of these crops (except tobacco) but also market them. A large part of the valuation of the kwacha (Malawi’s currency) is based on how much tobacco is sold internationally. Bartering and selling have already started as people run out of last year’s food. There is a sense of desperation as this all unfolds. And, the repetition of meals goes on every day, all year. All the villagers squat around charcoal fires cooking and then eating nsima with whatever else they have procured–occasionally a goat or a chicken. But, money is basically nonexistent in the hills where I am, so people find ways to make ends meet and, stay happy.
The other day, my English students showed up with plastic bags full of live insects. They wanted me to try one. They were (and are) one inch long flying ants. They happily snacked on these delicacies while I worked my way through another conjugation. You might get the impression from all my whining and complaining about the food that I am a picky eater. The opposite is actually the truth as I pretty much devour anything on my plate. However, I have found there are limits to my gastrointestinal intake. And, by the way, this staple corn crop is what we call “cow corn.” That is some of the news from Malawi.