Regarding the Nov. 4 front-page story "Drought Magnifies Hunger, Suffering of Children in Malawi; Rural Village Tracks Malnutrition's Toll on Young": A picture with that story showed children being weighed under a mango tree in the village of Mbadzo. Before I moved from Maryland to Malawi, I might have missed the irony in that.

The mango is a common local tree and bears nutritious fruit.

As the world turns a compassionate eye on Africa, we must focus on the mango, as well as on the hungry faces. Millions of people in Malawi face hunger this year, and food aid is needed to save their lives. But the country's food crisis is mostly a corn crisis.

Since about 1900, Malawian rural families have grown and eaten mostly corn. Single-crop dependency is a key cause of local hunger.

This year, while the United Nations World Food Program in Malawi geared up to distribute food, it also supported a crop-diversity project, which emphasized indigenous, nutritious foods such as mango, papaya, millet, cassava and amaranth. These plants need less fertilizer and water than corn, and most were commonly eaten in Malawi 100 years ago. Such local crops are the only hope for defeating hunger.

MELISSA ABERLE-GRASSE

Lilongwe, Malawi