Giant Water Bugs  
Dear Family and Friends,
We are having a bountiful rainy season this year; the type that we haven't seen for many years. It's the kind of rainy season that I remember from when I was a teenager where I got wet on the way to school in the morning, again at lunchtime or on the way to sports in the afternoon, and yet again on the way home at dusk. This is the rainy season that Zimbabwe so
desperately needs to fill the rivers dams and lakes and replenish the ground water to revive springs, wells and boreholes. It's the kind of rainy season which reminds us that life in Africa is tough and dramatic - it's hot, humid, tropical and conditions can change in a very short space of time: a rising river, flooded bridge or tar that simply subsides into the

The rains have bought great infestations of insects and sand fleas; there are more slugs and snails than seem physically possible and then there are the insects with the unimposing title of Giant Water Bugs which really are the stuff of nightmares. These fearsome brown creatures are four inches long, have large shiny eyes, give off an absolutely foul smell if you touch or squash them and have a frightening pair of grasping front legs. Apparently the water bugs attack tadpoles and small fish and inflict a painful wound if you hold them - not that anyone would want to do that - surely!

This abundant rainy season is making the grass grow faster than you can cut it and making the weeds grow even faster still. The sedges are thick, shiny and lush; the khaki bush tall and distinctly aromatic; the black jacks prolific and covered with a myriad black seeds reaching out to stick on anything that comes too near. There are snakes in the thick undergrowth
this season too, prolific even in suburban gardens: green, black and brown ones and others that are distinctly identifiable: Egyptian cobras, burrowing adders and grass snakes.

This is the kind of rainy season where it seems the news from the farmers should be good. In fact every night on the State propaganda come the jingles and video clips bragging that this is: "The Mother Of All Seasons." The news starting to come from small farmers in the rural areas is not good though. They didn't have enough seed in the first place and negligible
amounts of fertilizer. One rural farmer I met spoke of the part of his crop on high ground being OK but desperately in need of fertilizer to feed the developing maize cobs. He said there was no fertilizer to be found - even if he had the money to buy it. He said that the maize lower down the slope was a complete write off. It was knee high and yellow and inundated with water. Water which bubbled up from underground, which poured down as rain and which rushed down the fields as run off, not even slowed by contours which are no longer built or maintained and no longer exist. When I asked the man what the outlook for his whole crop was, he said it was bleak. He doubted it would produce enough food for his family for even three months. He asked me if I thought international donors would be coming soon to help the people in rural areas with food; he said many people were already in need. He said that by March there would be a few cobs of green maize to eat straight from the field but by the winter months (June and July) for sure people would be starving. Is this the reason why Zanu PF are adamant that elections be held in March? Until next time, thanks for reading,
Copyright Cathy Buckle 19 January 2008
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