June 19, 2010, taken from http://www.baiganchoka.com
“We are dependent on agriculture, which is totally dependent on good weather”, says Nompumelelo Maluleke as she shades her eyes from the fierce glare of the mid-day sun.
As a rural woman, she says, the biggest challenge she faces is food insecurity caused by changing climatic conditions. Gazing over her dry and dusty fields, she adds: “If there was good weather, timely rain, and availability of water, energy and food security, our work as women would be much easier.”
Maluleke, a 66-year-old KwaZulu Natal small farmer, has seen many changes for the worse in weather and climatic conditions on her land in Ntshongweni, north of Durban. “Over the years I have seen floods and drought ravaging my village, which was once considered the provincial maize basket,” she says.
In good years her maize would be shoulder-high by the end of the growing season. Even in bad years, her crop would rustle around her waist. But this year only a few plants have survived to grow knee-high, withering in the heat. Maize production on her land has dropped from five tons per hectare to three. Experts now believe dry-land maize production could fail entirely in much of southern Africa by mid-century, forcing a switch to alternative crops.
“We have experienced droughts recently but this is the worst I can remember,” she said. “The sun is so hot, and there is little hope now that we are going to survive.” The negative effects of climate change are likely to hit the poorest people in the poorest countries hardest.
Maluleke is the primary care-giver for her family in times of disaster and environmental stress. “The existing shortfalls in water have been exacerbated and now, the time I take to fetch water or wood has certainly increased my workload, limiting my opportunities to branch out into other, non-traditional activities,” she said.
People hereabouts used to farm in keeping with a familiar seasonal pattern. The farmers would clear their land in October and November so they could spend December and January planting and working their fields. “But things have changed. When we think we should be planting, harvesting or resting, in fact it’s the opposite, because of the climate,” Maluleke explained. Read more.