Villagers appeal for more food aid
March 3, 2013 in Community News
BEITBRIDGE — Hunger-stricken villagers here have appealed for continued food
aid this year, amid indications that a joint government and World Food
Programme (WFP) food distribution scheme currently operational in the
district might be stopped this month.
BY JENNIFER DUBE
The food aid programme is set to be stopped at the end of this month when
people start harvesting from their fields.
But villagers who spoke to Standardcommunity last week said they had not had
any good harvest for the past three years and would starve if the aid was
Tatulani Muleya (62) from the Mtetengwe area was at a loss as to how she
would survive with her four children if the aid was withdrawn.
“I sell brooms for R5 each and reed baskets for between R10 to R20 and the
money I get is not enough to save us from hunger,” said Muleya. “In the past
two years, we would sell goats once in a while but they were all swept away
by floods. We have nothing in the fields and no one in the family is
working. We need help.”
Eshar Ndlovu (44) from the Malala area said her family only ate one full
meal a day in order for the food rations to last.
“I am a widow and none of my children are working,” said the mother of five.
“‘I have nothing in my garden and the crops in my fields are wilting because
of poor rains. We ask for help from across the world.”
At least 41 504 people in Beitbridge district have been receiving food
rations from Care International with help from WFP since November last year.
The aid, including maize provided by government through the Grain Marketing
Board, has covered the gap in the drought-prone district.
Each household receives a 50kg bag of maize, while each family member is
entitled to 1,8kg of peas and 650ml of cooking oil per month under the
scheme, known as the targeted food assistance programme.
WFP and Care last week distributed food rations to 989 beneficiaries in
Beitbridge’s Mtetengwe area in Ward 6.
WFP’s public information officer, Victoria Cavanagh said over 1,4 million
people countrywide were currently benefiting under the programme.
“The number is the highest in three years, meaning this year’s food
insecurity is the worst in the last three years,” Cavanagh said. “WFP is
about to undertake the next round of food assessment monitoring which will
determine if more food assistance is required.”
She added that 250 000 of the 1,4 million food insecure Zimbabweans were
receiving cash transfers which they used to purchase foodstuffs under a
government-WFP joint relief programme.
All beneficiaries in Beitbridge are however receiving foodstuffs because of
logistical challenges, including the high cost of food in the district.
The villagers said withdrawal of the aid would be a big blow to them as they
had not received any good yields in three consecutive seasons.
This year a prolonged dry spell forced the villagers to delay planting and
this was worsened when floods washed away the crops, exposing most of them
Malala village head, Manda Jaka said it was high time donors moved away from
giving people temporary relief through food handouts and seek alternatives
to crop farming.
“May somebody please help villagers here to drill boreholes at their
homesteads so they can pursue other means of farming,” Jaka said.
“While it has been proven beyond doubt that this area can hardly benefit
much from the rains, we have a lot of groundwater here which we could use to
mitigate hunger in our district through nutritional gardens which we could
run all year round.”
Jaka has a garden, which is like an oasis in the desert, which boasts of
green vegetables when other villagers’ vegetables are wilting.
He also has fish ponds from which he said he “grows relish” for his family.
Jaka also grows sorghum on one part of the garden. In the previous season
that portion had beans and wheat.
Beitbridge district administrator, Simon Muleya however, said nutritional
gardens were not the solution to the region’s problems.
He said bigger irrigation schemes were more suitable for the district.
Muleya said feasibility studies to start more schemes and expand existing
ones had been done, but the process had been held back by lack of funds.