WATCH: Food fears - Cyclone Idai wipes out crops, leaving farmers empty-handed

2019-03-28 15:34
Eliza Joao lost all of her crops in cyclone Idai. 90% of Beira and its surroundings areas were affected by the storm. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi/News24

Eliza Joao lost all of her crops in cyclone Idai. 90% of Beira and its surroundings areas were affected by the storm. Picture: Nokuthula Manyathi/News24 (Nokuthula Manyathi/News24)

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Eliza Joao doesn't know where her next meal will come from. Heavy rains and strong winds, ushered in by Cyclone Idai, wiped out all of her crops last week.

She is a subsistence farmer in the district of Ngunga. The rural region is about 40km away from central Beira in Mozambique. 

It's possible to drive for several minutes through parts of Ngunga without seeing a brick and mortar building. This isn't because of the cyclone, but rather a reflection of the development still required in many parts of the district. 

Before losing her livelihood, Joao had a sizeable crop. At 43 years old, she now has to start fresh. 

Beira, mozambique, Eliza Joao, farmer
Eliza Joao lost all of her crops in Cyclone Idai. Ninety percent of Beira and its surrounding areas were affected by the storm. (Nokuthula Manyathi, News24)

Food insecurity

Long-term food supply is now at risk because farmlands are ruined, leaving locals susceptible to starvation.

In the southern African region one of the major farming seasons usually starts in November.

During the summer season there is frequent rainfall and the soil is ready to grow produce. 

Farmers sow nutrition-heavy produce such as maize, beans, carrots and potatoes, with the intention to harvest around March or April.

When Cyclone Idai hit, the storms washed away crops that were almost ready for harvesting.

Short and medium term assistance

"The dimensions of the disaster are not fully apparent. Assessments are still going on. But it's very clear that it's an immense disaster," Gerald Bourke, spokesperson for the World Food Programme (WFP) in southern Africa told News24.

WFP was distributing food within 48 hours of Cyclone Idai hitting the port city. 

The organisation has been able to reach more than 150 000 people with emergency food assistance. 

The National Disasters Management Institute, the official disaster relief agency of Mozambique, estimates that more than 470 000 hectares of crops were washed away during the flooding.

Bourke said WFP would distribute about 86 000 metric tons of food in the next three months, and the organisation plans to "be here as long as it takes".  

Cyclone Idai, mozambique

The World Food Programme was distributing food within 48 hours of Cyclone Idai hitting the port city. (Supplied)

Surrounding provinces

"It's like a demon has come through and grabbed stuff and threw it across the road. Pulled trees out and turned power lines upside down," Claire Rogers, World Vision Australia CEO, told News24.

World Vision is a child-focused humanitarian organisation but it also runs programmes that help improve the lives of people in underdeveloped areas. 

Rogers and her team flew out to Chimoio, a city 200km from Beira. People living on the fringes of the city were hit the hardest.

Displaced families rushed to Cafumpe district, where the local government offered shelter in an old grain storage building. 

Augusto Roque, an elder in the community, told News24 that there were almost 400 people living in the building. 

They sleep on the concrete floor, many without blankets or mattresses. 

There isn't enough water or food. 

READ: Orphaned by Cyclone Idai: 'It's too difficult to talk about death to children'

Like subsistence farmer Joao, a lot of the families in Chimoio rely on farming to stay afloat. 

The local government donated flour, beans, sugar and oil but these items will run out in a day or two. 

Roque, the village elder, said the goal was to minimise hunger pains instead of filling people.   

They ration the food carefully so their stock lasts longer.  

The children are becoming restless. 

"If the community doesn't start farming now, there will be a hunger crisis of much bigger proportion than today because it will be sustained over the long term," said Rogers. 

cyclone idai, mozambique

In Chimoio displaced families rushed to Cafumpe district where the local government offered shelter in an old grain store. (Nokuthula Manyathi, News24)

Farmers like Joao have to wait until water levels subside before they start thinking about growing new crops, and this might take a while.

Realistically, most regions might only be able to sow their crops in October or November and harvest only in 2020. 

"We think that we are in control of this world as people, but actually the weather at some point is far stronger than us," Roger said.

All locals can do is wait and pray that another cyclone doesn't hit – further delaying their recovery process. 

cyclone idai, mozambique

Mozambique is sparsely populated in the rural areas. Many of the homes in the area are made of thatch and clay bricks or sand. (Nokuthula Manyathi, News24)

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Read more on:    mozambique  |  southern africa  |  cyclone idai
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