The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. —THOMAS JEFFERSON, 1788

Thousands survive on water lily bulbs after their country floods

Thousands survive on water lily bulbs after their country floods
Flooded field in central Africa

In South Sudan, parts of the country have been flooded for several years. Residents of flooded regions are surviving on water lily bulbs, because they have no other food (South Sudan’s government is one of the most corrupt and oppressive on Earth). The Washington Post reports:

It was 1 p.m., her children still hadn’t eaten, and every item on Nyaguey Dak Kieth’s “long to-do list” pertained to surviving another day. So Nyaguey grabbed a plastic bucket and an empty sack and set off from her village surrounded by floodwater. Those waters had upended her life, but also provided a food option — not a desirable one, but one of the few left.

Water lilies. They’d been keeping her family alive for two years.

They were bitter. Hard to digest. They required hours of manual labor — cutting, pounding, drying, sifting — just to be made edible. Nyaguey could still remember her initial shock at eating them, figuring they’d be a short-term measure. And now, with the floodwaters holding their ground, she could trace a two-year arc of distress in what the lilies had become: sustenance so vital that people were slogging farther and farther into the waters to find them, before someone else did.

“I can see some lilies here,” another woman told Nyaguey after a group of four had walked 20 minutes out of town, reaching the edge of the waters.

“Not enough,” Nyaguey said, and the group kept moving. “It looks like somebody already collected most of these.”…

In South Sudan, parts of the country have been underwater now for four years. Other areas, two or three. Some 15 percent of the country is submerged year-round, as opposed to 5 percent several years ago….Subsistence farmers are bracing for the possibility that their land has changed for good — giving way to a new water mass the size of Lake Michigan, with 1 million people displaced because of flooding, their crops destroyed, their cattle now scattered bones….Nyaguey, and hundreds of thousands around her, are in the same emergency mode of two years ago. Only weaker, sicker, more tired, more stressed.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “When will this ever end? I am just so, so tired.”

Nyaguey, 43, had been poor, but not desperately poor, before central South Sudan’s inundation. She had been a maize farmer. She had a small disposable income. She bought sugar, coffee, shoes for her 10 children…But her old home is now submerged, and her new home is a makeshift mud hut in one of her county’s only two villages still poking out of the water….

Her entire days are “devoted to the lilies,” she said, and collecting them has proven so punishing — two-hour walks, hours more in the water, lugging them back home — that she’s developed chronic coughs, regular fevers, and found herself many mornings asking if she could bear to return to the water. “As long as my children are alive,” she’s told herself, “I’ll keep going.”

Nyaguey and the other women trekked farther away from their village, deeper into an eerie landscape of dragonflies and sickly brittle trees twisting halfway out the floodwaters. For as long as possible, the women tried to keep themselves dry, laboring through a slightly elevated but muddy path. Time in the water meant exposure to poisonous snakes, untold bacteria, and run-ins with submerged thorns. But then there was no choice. After 40 minutes, they saw a patch of lilies, blooming in abundance, in deeper nearby waters. Nyaguey waded in first….

LU Staff

LU Staff

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