Food Crisis in Swaziland


According to the IRIN article below, Swaziland is experiencing its worst ever harvest, due mostly to drought, as well as erratic rainfall patterns and overgrazing.

“Swaziland: More than a third of Swazis in need of food aid”

Swazi people in the rural area where Cabrini Ministries is located traditionally made their livelihood as subsistence farmers, and the primary crop was maize (corn).

Corn, however, does not fare well in drought. In addition, the HIV/AIDS crisis affects the success of a family’s agricultural endeavors. The disease affects the adult generation that is in the prime of their working years. Children whose parents are sick or dead from AIDS often do not have the skills to successfully farm by themselves.

Our Farm

We have five hectares (10 acres) of land that we are cultivating at St. Philip’s Mission. We use the harvest from our farm to supplement the diets of the children at our hostel, the people we serve with our healthcare outreach program, and other children and families on homesteads. Our farm is a powerful symbol of life and hope for the community, and the children also help out on and learn valuable agricultural skills from the staff.

Our Dedicated Staff

You can see the red dusty earth in the background… but our crops are green because our sprinklers are working great!

We are proud to report that our irrigation system is working well and is the key to our farm being productive amidst the drought. As the heat ends and we go into the winter months, the crops are more abundant and the HIV patients we serve are receiving more fresh vegetables each week. Our butternut squash has been a real winner this year, and we think it is the best in Swaziland.

Our Food Supplies

We also receive food from the World Food Programme (cooking oil and a nutrient-enhanced corn-soya blend) and buy our food from the markets (thanks to our donors). We are seeing a great need for more food supplies in the area, especially for our HIV and TB patients. People taking HIV medications (ARVs) need to take those medications with food, or they will get sick. Unfortunately, one meal of mealie (ground corn) a day does not provide the sustenance they need to absorb and use well the medicines they are receiving. Our agriculture department is looking into what crops that grow well are particularly beneficial to people, and will help the most people.

Food Distribution: the Corn-Soya Blend from World Food Programme

Food Distribution: Greens from Our Farm

Many of the children, when they first came to live at the hostel, had been malnourished, and took a while to adjust to understanding that they would have regular food. They would often gorge instinctually, and we would have to tell them to slow down, and eat calmly and slowly and just enough. From not knowing when food would come again, the kids learned that when it did come to eat as much as fast as possible. Experiencing the pain of hunger so young, you don’t forget it easily.

Younger Children Having a School Meal

Medications must be taken with food

Older children at the hostel eating dinner

Blessings and thanks to all of our friends and supporters out there! Together we form a circle of love which brings the living water of love to this dry area.

Srs. Barbara & Diane

3 thoughts on “Food Crisis in Swaziland

  1. This photo essay really provides a good view of your agriculture work.

    What can your readers do to help you with food? Other than donations is there any way we can encourage WFP or others to provide more farm support?

  2. The World Food Programme is very stretched all over Southern Africa this year, because the drought throughout the countries is so extensive. They get their donations from nations and big private concerns. We work with them and they do know our particular problems here in the Lubombo lowveld, but are unable to meet all the needs.

    The best way to help is to give a donation through the Foundation and specify it for agriculture. It will help us buy seeds, pay for irrigation costs, etc.

    Any money given will go to helping us give nutritional supplements to the HIV positive people and orphans from the area. The nutritional supplements program is a big one and in need of as much funding as possible. Sometime in the future we hope that some form of irrigation will be brought to the homes so people can do their own subsistence farming again, but that looks to be some years off. Meanwhile, this is the best way we know to sustain a small part of the population here.

  3. These are good questions. Our hostel does get food supplements from WFP- the corn meal, and sometimes oil and sugar beans. Our patients on ARVs (about 200 of them) get a supplement once a month or so. But there are parameters around their donations.

    We are grateful for what we do get from WFP. But who doesn’t get supplements are the elderly, and HIV+ patients (about 500 that we are currently serving) who are not on treatment.

    Healthy eating really, really prolongs the time that an HIV+ person stays healthy, and we think it is more economical to feed people now than to pay for ARVs sooner in their lives. (This might be something that WFP could consider on a policy level.) We are still working with the Swaziland Ministry of Agriculture who help us with expertise and may help us with seeds.

    Beyond nutritional and immediate health benefits, our agriculture project provides employment, economic development and capacity building for local people. And on the transcendental level (who can measure these benefits?), it really does serve as a deep symbol of new life and hope to the people of the area- who are pleased beyond words to see our crops growing, knowing that the food is for them, their family, and their neighbors.

    Direct financial donations are what help Cabrini Ministries run the agriculture program, which we believe has a very valid cost/benefit ratio.

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