Torit: Hunger pushes families to eat expired, disposed seeds

Hundreds of people surrounding the Abalwa block of Torit municipality in Eastern Equatoria state are seen collecting expired and disposed seeds as food.

On 17 April 2023, the Eastern Equatoria government, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), disposed and burnt over 90 metric tons of expired seeds in Torit municipal town. The expired seeds include cowpeas, maize, okra and sorghum, among others.

The exercise of disposing of all expired seeds was necessary because 61,000 households were to receive new seeds and other farm inputs as they prepare for the new planting season. The new distribution would target Torit, Lafon, Magwi and Ikotos counties.

The Food and Agriculture Organization in the Torit field office told the media that the burial and burning of expired seeds occurred because of their low production quality.

However, the locals who went and collected the expired seeds said they had no option but to consume the expired seeds. They also confirmed that they knew the health consequences of consuming expired seeds as food.

Allam William James, a resident of the Ifwanyak residential area in Torit municipality, is urging the government to help hungry and desperate people in the community instead of allowing food items, including seeds, to expire in the store.

Speaking to Radio Tamazuj in his Otuho native language, James called on the government to distribute food to the locals if it is still available in the store.

“What made us go and collect those expired items is hunger. There is a lot of starvation in the community. Those things are good but to the government they said is bad but for us, they help, that is why we went to collect, they have helped us a lot even if they are expired according to the government, now these things are helping orphans who are suffering,” said James.

He says people are suffering and don’t have anything to feed on in a day leading to this risk.

Otifo Adaha, who was also spotted ferrying the expired seeds, says food is very expensive in the market and the majority cannot afford it because of the unfavourable US dollar rate.

Adaha says if the US dollar rate continues to increase, many people will die of starvation.

 “We went to collect these seeds because the government has forgotten us. These people want to tie our stomachs. How can you bury food when people are hungry? We went there because we were desperate and with this hunger which is very bad for us and we see them burying food –according to Otuho culture, this is a sign of witchcraft. How can you bury food when children and elders are hungry? How will people even produce without food,” Adaha explained.

He narrated: “Almost half of the population of Torit town went with us to collect that food. Ifwanyak, Ilangi, and Odikolong collected the food. We eat while praying even if we know that these things are expired. We went there with elderly people who got tired of digging three meters into the ground to get those seeds. The elderly people became very tired and thirsty.”

Andrew Oful, the chief of the Ifwanyak residential area, has confirmed his community has gone to collect the expired seeds for consumption.

Chief Oful explained: “Those things are not good for consumption because they were made using chemicals, and you know that if you eat foods that have chemicals, maybe you will have side effects another day. As a chief, I am informing everyone to pour those seeds out and that they should not be eaten. It is poisonous and will affect people any day”.

“I am also urging the government to help people because what prompted people to go and take those expired seeds is that they are hungry. My message to government or NGOs is that they should really come to rescue people so that these people don’t eat something which is already disposed of,” Chief Oful added.

Torit Mayor Mustaffa Albino Zacharia has also confirmed the incident and said that all the disposed expired seeds have been removed.

Mayor Zacharia has warned the community against the risks of cancer that people may expose themselves to when they eat seeds that have been declared expired.

“These seeds have chemicals, a lot of them that were sprayed on them to avoid pests and fertilizers which are not fit for food both humans and animals. In the long run, it will cause different types of diseases; people should not take this if they know the effects. We even did not give these things to animals. People should not eat expired seeds,” he concluded.

Source: Radio Tamazuj

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