Hunger in the Gwembe valley: A case study of Mweemba chieftaincy, 1905-1987
Siamwiza, Bennett Siamwiinde
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This dissertation reconstructs a history of hunger in the Gwembe Valley Chieftaincy of Mweemba. It covers the period between 19O5 and 1987. Since 1991 - 92, the period in which the study was being worked on, was a drought and hunger year a postscript was written to append to the main text.The first chapter examines the causes of food shortages in the Chieftaincy. The chapter investigates the reasons why the people of Mweemba were not able to produce enough grain to keep in reserve so that a single season's agricultural shortfall would not cause them a subsistence crisis. We point out that the people of Mweemba were unable to produce a surplus because of ecological constraints of land shortage which resulted into loss of soil fertility due to continuous cultivation, poor and erratic rainfall, high summer temperatures, irregular flood pattern and crop ravaging animals and insects. The chapter has shown that of these agricultural production obstacles, erratic and poor distribution of rainfall has been the direct and immediate cause of food shortages. Chapter two discusses the Mweemba people's various coping mechanisms that helped to insulate them against a subsistence crisis. The main theme of this chapter is to demonstrate that Bana Mweemba did not adopt a fatalistic attitude whenever they were faced with a subsistence crisis. It highlights many socio-cushion the impact of hunger.In the third chapter we examine the theme of emergency food relief operations. The main focus of the chapter is the relief policies of the British South Africa Company, British Colonial Office and of the Zambian Government. The chapter also looks at the problems of food relief each of these faced. The most interesting aspect between 19O8 and 1987.The last chapter examines the food security policies in the period between 191O and 1987. During this period various attempts were made by the successive governments of this country and also by some non-governmental organizations to build a sustainable food security system. The attempts involved the introduction of long term strategies that if successful would solve the problem of food shortages in the Valley once and for all.The postscript looks at the food situation in the Chieftaincy during the 1991-92 shortages. It examines the development of the drought situation, the people's responses and food relief operations. The section is written in relation to the main text. The postscript reveals that as hunger intensified the people of Mweemba resorted to the subsistence strategies they employed in the past to avert starvation. One interesting point revealed in the segment is the policy of food for work which was re-introduced by the World Food Programme (WFP). This policy was used by the Colonial Office during the subsistence crises of the period of its governance. The return to the policy suggests its usefulness as a relief practice. The postscript also highlights a unique policy of communal work parties as a strategy to help the hunger stricken people grow more food crops.