RE: “Why maize processors have resorted to importing grains” (The New Times, February 2).
This makes me sad, worried and frustrated to say the least. I spent this week in the village—harvest season is evident and maize is one of the bumper crops in plenty.
The rural electrification programme is catching up fast and my neighbours got connected before we did and therefore took my phone there for power charging. On entering the modest rural neighbour’s house, the floor was covered by maize cobs.
There were many children, who were engaged in threshing maize. I imagined they were members of the family.
The following day, I sent a domestic helper, a young boy, back to my neighbour for phone charging. I was told it wasn’t safe because of the many children in the small family’s living room doing the maize threshing for cash reward.
Disinterested and unconcerned, I overheard the boy who ran the phone charging errand narrate that the children labour for so many hours or a whole day only to make a few francs in payment and would prefer to be rewarded by owning the maize cob waste.
Maize cob is good cooking energy fuel in areas where firewood is scarce. I assume they sell those cobs for cash or take it to their own families to use for cooking fire/energy.
Why the children are employed to do the threshing with bare hands is to ensure the maize grains do not get damaged. The alternative would be to use heavy sticks to the separate maize grains from the maize ears, in the process damaging the grains.
Before getting worried about the bacterial infection and other fungal challenges, consider the ones outlined above.
In closing, how shall we be self-sufficient in food production, curtail famine, and ensure quality food supply chain with the rudimentary method described above? How can we save the scarce forex paid out to import maize? How can we root out the exploitative child labour menace?