“I’m not happy with my situation, but I don’t have any other choice”, Jestina Pellu says through a smile while both hands rest on her round belly. “A few oxen would be nice, so that I could plow my field”, she adds humbly. Jestina is 38 years old and six months pregnant with her fourth child, whom she has to care for on her own. Her three sons are named Lucky, Victor and Success, but their names are more a hope for their future than reality. Her first husband died of AIDS in 2010. Her second husband recently left her. Now she is fighting on her own for the survival of her family, which has become particularly difficult in the past years. Her small hut lies in the district of Chipinge, in the southeast of Zimbabwe, that has been suffering from severe drought since 2014. There has hardly been any rain, nothing can grow on the fields. Hunger has become a constant companion in Jestina’s home, too.
Jestina’s field is about a ten-minute walk from her hut in the dried-out valley. Just now, in November, she started sowing sorghum in anticipation of the rainy season. She saved the seeds from a bag of sorghum she had recently purchased at the market. She had gotten the money to do so from a cash program set up by the Johanniter that supports families particularly vulnerable to hunger during the dry season. Jestina receives about 24 US-dollars a month, which she can use to buy basic foodstuffs and allow herself and her children two meals a day. She also receives long-term support: soon she will be getting a latrine to improve her hygienic circumstances, along with farming advice on how to secure adequate nutrition.
Jestina’s 12-year-old son Victor wants to go to South Africa when he grows up. Behind the cover of his school notebook, he has proudly placed a picture of his stepfather, whom he misses, even though he left them from one day to the next. Apparently, he is a truck driver and now works in South Africa. “That’s what I want to be, too, and then I’ll go there to make money. Then I can send food home to my mother.”