The Bittersweet Harvest

Cellina’s Experience with Drought and Perseverance

Author: Praises Padambo

Cellina shows some of her maize crop in her small field.

The Bittersweet Harvest: Cellina’s experience with drought and perseverance

As the harvest season approaches, Cellina is happy to finally have food to feed her family of eight. On the other hand, Cellina is afraid of facing the future as she knows that the 15 bags of maize that she is expecting from her two acre field will not last long. 

Amidst this reality of life she says “Kaya tiona momwe zizikhalira m’tsogolomu,” to mean “We will cross the bridge when we get there.”  “For now, I am grateful for the small harvest I have realized because we finished our last year’s harvest on January 10th and we have been depending on piece works to buy food,” says Cellina.

The maize crop was damaged by severe drought from El Niño

Drought takes its toll on Malawi

It is harvest season in Malawi. Normally, this season would bring so much joy and a sense of fulfillment to farmers as they  celebrate their long days of toil. However, the situation is different this year due to the droughts that Malawi faced in the 2023/2024 farming season. 

On March 23, 2024, Malawi declared a state of disaster in 23 out of the country’s 28 districts by  President Chakwera. 2 million farming households were said to have been affected by the El Nino-induced dry spells which left farmers with less or no hope at all.

Cellina does her best to get by with her small harvest.

This season’s planting was damaged by El Niño

“I planted high quality seed on my two-acre field on 27 November and I was happy to see the seeds sprouting until the rains started the hide and seek game. Four weeks  went by without rain and the sun scorched most of my field,” says Cellina.

Cellina explains that despite her field being scorched by the sun,  when rains came back on 3rd January she replanted her field, however, with low quality seed.

Tinangokadzala ya m’nthumba. I planted low quality seeds; I just took maize from one of the bags that I had spared for food as I did not have money to buy high quality seed,” narrates Cellina.

She  explains that the second planting did not yield much as weeks could go by without rains, and this affected her overall yield.

“With good rains I normally harvest up to 50 bags of 50 kilograms of maize from my 2 acre field. This is enough to take us to the next harvest and we usually have excess to sell,” she says.

The Bittersweet Harvest

What breaks Cellina’s heart the most is that last year she did not get enough harvest as well, since she could only afford planting high quality seed on one acre and she planted low quality seed on the other acre. 

Although Cellina has no clue of how her family will survive the coming months, she only hopes for the best for the future she is not certain of. She remains grateful for the small harvest she has realized. Cellina’s story is a testament to the struggles farmers face and their determination to thrive despite adversity.

The Orant Journal