Chin Food Crisis Worsened By locusts and Unusual Wind
15 November, 2009: The ongoing food crisis initially caused by a plague of rats has gone from bad to worse due to the unexpected outbreak of crop-devouring swarms of locusts and sparrows in Burma’s Chin State.
And this year’s crop yields have plunged to a record low as a result of the unusual ‘warm wind’ in September that made the crops parched and unproductive in the mautam-affected areas.
Some villages with farmers predicting for this year a total crop yield of 400 buckets (1 bucket = 10.5kg) from their paddy fields have now got about 50 buckets or less, according to a recent survey by cross-border relief aids groups.
Making another fact-finding trip to Indian-Burma border, Victor Biak Lian of CHRO (Chin Human Rights Organisation) said: “I would like to repeat the existence of food crisis in our land and now it is not only the rats that cause problems to our people but also grain-eating birds and crop-destroying wind that make the situation worse. Let’s make our mind clear and work together to help our brothers and sisters fight against starvation.”
Recently, another new wave of an estimated 2,000 Khumi-Chins in Southern Chin State have fled into Mizoram State of India in search of food, he added.
Reports confirmed that this crisis has not only divided families but also torn communities and villages apart, pushing children to drop out of schools in order to help find edible foods in the jungles.
In some bamboo-covered areas of Southern Chin State, the bamboo seeds begin to grow flowering and bearing fruits just after germination.
General Secretary of Zomi Baptist Convention, Rev. M. Thawng Kam, said: “Mautam has not for sure ended in Chin State. People in some areas have gradually seen a positve change but their sufferings have not ended immediately as the effects of mautam still continue.”
“There are some new areas that are worst hit by mautam in Southern Chin State such as Paletwa township. And there are still some mautam-hit victims who have not received any relief aids till today due to difficult communication and transport. Our people need a collaborative and collective support.”
As part of global campaign against starvation in Chin State, a series of concerts has since late 2008 been organised by Chin communities in Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, Germany, Denmark, Norway, UK and USA, with aims of raising awareness and fund for mautam-hit victims in Chin State.
Food assistance has been delivered to some areas by both international and local NGOs as well as cross-border aid groups. But there are many mautam-affected villages in the remote region of Chin State that have not been reached until today due to difficult access.
Locally known as mautam, the ongoing food crisis has been ravaging Chin State since 2007 after a once-every-fifty-year natural phenomenon in which bamboos flower and bear fruits started in late 2006. The rats, after eating the flowers and fruits, start to make a dramatic increase in their population and subsequently turn to forage on crops, stored grains and barns. This results in the birth of the so-called mautam food crisis.