Mozambique: Priority Is Saving Lives, Says Agriculture Minister

Maputo – The top priority at a time of natural disasters is to save human lives, declared Mozambique’s Minister of Agriculture, Jose Pacheco, in the western city of Tete on Saturday.

Pacheco was monitoring the drought situation in the southern districts of Tete province, which is now affecting about 120,000 people. He visited Cahora Bassa and Marara districts, where peasant farmers told him that their food reserves are exhausted and there is nothing in their fields to harvest. They feared that, under these conditions, many people in the province may starve to death.

Pacheco chaired extraordinary sessions of the Cahora Bassa and Marara district governments at which he declared that all measures must be set in motion to avoid deaths from hunger.

“Drought is the enemy of everything and everyone”, he said. “With drought, there is no agriculture.

Drought affects people’s health because they have no food. Drought limits access to water. So we have to take concrete measures to save human lives, by promoting, for example, agricultural and livestock fairs where people can find the goods they lack in their houses”.

Pacheco praised the efforts of the district governments to organize agricultural fairs, where households affected by drought can obtain the goods they need to overcome their food deficit.

“We should explain to the public that we are facing a drought due to lack of rainfall, but we can acquire the goods in the fairs that are being organized, so that we do not die of hunger”, he said. “We must always be in contact with our population so that they do not feel abandoned, when it seems that we are not doing anything for them”.

Pacheco was informed that traders from Guro district in the neighbouring province of Manica are bringing maize to sell in Marara.

“They bring large amounts of maize. They sell each tin of maize for 380 meticais (about eight US dollars)”, the Marara district administrator, Titos Sitoe, told the Minister. “The price is regarded as normal, particularly if we compare it with places where the same tin is sold for 450 meticais. Because of the great demand, the maize is all sold. We think it’s a good initiative for our population, who have exhausted their food reserves”.

The Cahora Bassa administrator, Ana Maria Beressone, reported that “hunger is spreading, because the food reserves are running out. But we are organizing the fairs. We are also encouraging cattle farmers to sell some of their livestock, so that they can buy food”.