For Sale: One Cooking Pot

For Vola Soanameny, a mother of five in drought-hit Madagascar, the decision to sell her plates, cutlery and best cooking pot was the last straw.

“The pot was my most important utensil,” the 26-year-old recalls of that awful time a few months ago when she looked around her hut and saw the metal pot, her last remaining object of value.

She was forced to sell it so she could buy food to feed her young family in the south-east of the island, where drought has caused successive poor harvests.

Since selling her best cooking pot several months ago, Vola has recently been able to borrow a smaller pot from her neighbours. She uses it to cook cornmeal for her five young children. Photo: WFP/Riana Ravoala

With no pot for cooking, Vola and the children had little to eat but leaves from the tamarind trees growing around the small town of Analapatsy. The cassava plants that Vola had been nurturing in a small plot beside her hut had all withered and died.

“I would drink water to fill my stomach to no longer feel hungry,” she said. Vola had to send one of her children to her ex-husband’s family because she could no longer care for them all.

Since then, Vola was registered to receive regular food support from the World Food Programme, along with other drought-affected, vulnerable families in the worst-affected areas of the island’s south.

Left: Vola receives cornmeal from the World Food Programme as part of support to drought-affected families. Right: Using a borrowed bowl and spoons, Vola and her family share a meal together. Photos: WFP/Riana Ravoala

With the daily struggle to find enough food resolved for now, Vola is able to start thinking about the future. She hopes she and her neighbours will be among the 170,000 farming families in the south to participate in a new seed protection programme due to be launched by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in partnership with WFP, in December.

The timing is crucial — this is the planting season and a real window of opportunity if people are to recover from the three years of drought which have plagued this part of the island. Above-average rains have been forecast and everyone is hoping for the best.

In addition to drought-tolerant and fast-maturing seeds, FAO is supporting families with sweet potato and cassava cuttings and hand tools. Support will be offered to farmers who still have some livestock. By distributing food at the same time to the same families, the seeds can be planted rather than eaten.

WFP and FAO are appealing for urgent funds — US$67 million — to sustain their joint programme until the time of the next harvest in April/May next year.

In all, 850,000 people — about half the population of the south — are facing hunger and need urgent humanitarian assistance. This is according to the latest food security survey which indicates that the situation could deteriorate even further unless humanitarian action is increased.

by WFP’s Riana Ravoala and David Orr.

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Insight by The World Food Programme

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The United Nations World Food Programme works towards a world of Zero Hunger.

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