Severe drought conditions extend across South Africa and beyond during the southern hemisphere summer of 2016. Graphic: Reuters

By Bobby Bascomb
12 March 2016

(PRI) – In my little garden here in Pretoria, sprinklers automatically go off every morning at 8. They’re doing a good job. My cucumbers have outgrown their trellis, I can’t keep up with all the spinach, and, as usual, mint and morning glories are trying to take over.

Without the irrigation system, my garden would look very different. It would look more like my friend Mavis’ garden — a dusty patch of seedlings.

Mavis lives in the township of Mamelodi. She’s a domestic worker who cleans homes in neighborhoods like mine to support her five children and seven grandchildren. As usual, she’s put in cucumbers, spinach and green beans in her garden next to her small cement house.

But this year, she says, “it’s not working.”

It’s not working because South Africa is suffering through its worst drought in more than 35 years. And Mavis doesn’t have sprinklers like I do.

Normally this time of year it rains every afternoon — you can practically set your watch to the 4 o’clock downpour. But this year, there’s just more sun. The first of the seasonal rains should have come in October, but it didn’t start raining this year until December, and then only sporadically.

That’s bad news for Mavis, who really counts on her garden.

“I have a budget for every month,” she says as she feeds cracked corn to her baby chicks. “When it didn’t rain and nothing grow up, then I use my budget more. (And) the children are crying, hungry.” […]

Other countries in the region are even worse off, especially Zimbabwe.

“The harvest [in Zimbabwe] in April is likely to be extremely poor,” says David Orr of the World Food Program in Johannesburg. In at least one province there, Orr says, three-quarters of the crop may be written off.

Orr says almost 2.5 million people are living with food insecurity in Zimbabwe, and that the number is expected to rise. Zimbabwe’s government has declared a state of disaster and hopes international donors will step in to help.

Nearby Malawi and Zambia have also been hard hit, and in Mozambique the price of corn has nearly doubled. All told, roughly 16 million people across the region are affected. [more]

For one South African house cleaner, this year's big drought means crying, hungry children



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