Sep 7, 2016

Prostitution 'easiest way out' for Zambia's drought-stricken farmers

Whitney Mulobela

 Repeated failed crops caused by worsening drought have forced Christine Mwenda, a small-scale farmer in Zambia's central Mumbwa region, to do what was previously unthinkable.

Since 2014, the 37-year-old has been selling sex in Zambia's capital Lusaka. The pay is better than growing maize, she said, and gives her a proper chance to feed her four children.

"On average I make close to 500 kwacha ($0.70) on a good day," said Mwenda, who agreed to be interviewed on condition that her real name was not used.

"This is the kind of money I could only make (once) in a year from farming," she said, explaining that once the cost of fertilizer, labor, transport and seeds was deducted, she was left with very little money from her harvest.

Like millions of Zambians, Mwenda has been struggling with soaring food bills and power shortages caused by prolonged drought exacerbated this year by El Nino, a warming of the Pacific Ocean's surface leading to hot, dry conditions.

For many small-scale and subsistence farmers in the landlocked southern African country, longer spells of drought and increasingly erratic rains are becoming far more frequent.

The changing climate, combined with costly fertilizer and seeds, means agriculture is becoming less attractive for many.

"These days when you grow maize you are not sure about the yield. Most of the time you find that the crops end up drying and you only harvest just enough to eat as a family," Mwenda told the Thomson Reuters Foundation