Zimbabwean villager Connie Garandemo considers it an unusual day when she and her family can scrape together a third meal.
They grow runinga, a grain resembling sesame seed, on a small plot at their homestead in Garisanai village. But after erratic rains last year, their harvest filled only three buckets.
"We only eat two meals a day, once in the morning and then in the evening," said Garandemo, a 43-year-old mother of two from the southeastern district of Buhera, one of the districts now facing acute food shortages.
The people of Buhera are among the 1.6 million of Zimbabwe's 13 million population that will require food aid during the lean season, according to the United Nations World Food Programme.
Formerly a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe's food production has slumped in recent years, a situation critics blame on veteran President Robert Mugabe's land reforms which saw the forced redistribution of white-owned farmland to new black farmers, some of whom lacked the means, skills and experience to farm.
But the government blames the poor harvests on erratic rainfall patterns brought on by climate change.
The Garandemo family's morning meal is made up of slightly-ripe pawpaws peeled and sliced into strips that they boil after sprinkling with salt.
Their normal evening meal is the staple sadza, a thick cornmeal porridge, served with boiled pumpkin plant leaves or kale.
Both Connie Garandemo and her husband Kennedy are living with HIV and on antiretroviral therapy -- a powerful regimen of medication whose outcome is improved by decent nutrition.
The Garandemos were forced to barter three turkeys from their brood of six for bags of corn. Kennedy does odd jobs when he can, like mending garden fences and thatching houses, and gets paid in grain or second-hand clothes.
"He too is living with HIV but he has no choice but to go away for weeks at times to look for small jobs to get food," Connie said.
"Sometimes, I can't sleep at night thinking about my husband wherever he will be and wondering whether he is safe and in good health."
In the toughest of times, the family can only afford a single meal and the children have been forced to miss school, she said.
-- 'The wells are dry' --
Village head Jaison Zinanga said food shortages were a perennial problem and villagers often came to beg for food, even when he was battling to provide for his own family.
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