In a Malawi in lockdown, mice eat each other ~ #AFP:

Along the 320 km of road that separate Blantyre and Lilongwe, the two main cities of the country, there are now dozens of rodent meat skewers selling to travelers.

Halfway, in the district of Ntcheu (center), Bernard Simeon became one of these informal restaurateurs.

“We hunt mice for a living. We use it as a supplement to our daily diet and sell it to travelers for an income,” explains the farmer. “We were already struggling before the coronavirus, it has become even more difficult now”.

Landlocked in southern Africa, Malawi is considered one of the poorest countries on the planet. More than half of its approximately 18 million inhabitants survive below the extreme poverty line.

As on the rest of the continent, the health measures taken to stem the spread of Covid-19 – more than 5,400 cases and nearly 170 officially dead to date – have severely affected its largely informal and rural economy, as well as its population.

The World Bank is forecasting a 3.5% drop in its gross domestic product (GDP) this year.

The survey of a local employers’ organization (ECAM) identified an average of 1,500 jobs destroyed each day and estimates that this cumulative figure could reach 680,000 at the end of 2020.

The government of former President Peter Mutharika, defeated in the election last May, had promised an emergency aid program for the poorest that was never implemented. That of his successor Lazarus Chakwera is still working on his own aid plan.

Meanwhile, the health and economic crisis has increased food insecurity for many Malawians, forced to scramble to eat their fill.

– Grilled on a skewer –

“Usually, we rely on my husband and his work,” says Bernard Simeon’s wife, Yankho Chalera. “But when times are tough, we rely on mice because we can no longer afford meat.”

Grilled on a skewer and salted, the mouse has long been eaten in the countryside of the center of the country as a delicacy, between meals.

“When I was a kid, we learned to hunt mice from the age of three,” recalls former MP and successful musician Lucius Banda. “In the village, this activity is not considered as a chore but as entertainment, by boys and girls alike”.

The most popular variety in the area is gray, with a short tail, and known to foodies as “kapuku”.

“I keep eating it, more in memory of my childhood than anything else,” says Lucius Banda.

In recent months, their consumption, an alternative to meat that has become inaccessible, has been strongly recommended by health authorities. “It is a valuable source of protein,” argues Sylvester Kathumba, chief nutritionist at the Ministry of Health.

And the epidemic striking in particular “people with weak immune resistance, we encourage a rich diet”, professes Francis Nthalika, in charge of food at the health branch of the district of Balaka.

This renewed interest in small rodents, however, is causing concern among conservationists, who are offended by the methods used to track them.

Fed on grain, fruit or grass, the mice are flushed out with large flames of bush fires which allow them to locate their burrows.

“By doing this, the hunters destroy the ecosystem,” complains Duncan Maphwesesa, director of an NGO in Balaka district, Azitona Development Services.

“We understand that these poor people need to live”, he says, “but they do not realize that they are impacting the environment and thus participating in global warming …”.

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Source: VOA-AFP.

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AGENCE PRANCE-PRESSE (AFP): is an international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Agence Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency. AFP has regional headquarters in Nicosia, Montevideo, Hong Kong, and Washington, D.C., and news bureaux in 151 countries in 201 locations.

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