Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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Starvation Stalks 30 Districts

Starvation Stalks 30 Districts

Nelson Chenga 22 Oct 2015

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made

CLOSE to one million Zimbabweans are in desperate need of food assistance as government and the international donor community struggle to raise enough food rations to avert a looming crisis.
Thousands are already down to just two meals a day in most rural communities with just over a week before Zimbabwe enters its peak hunger period of November to January.
The United Nations has since sent out an SOS to the international donor community to urgently put together US$86 million to fight hunger in the worst affected areas.
“While the Government of Zimbabwe has not declared an emergency, a number of ministries have requested urgent assistance from humanitarian and development partners,” the UN has said.
A survey by the Financial Gazette indicated that Zimbabwe is headed for a major food crisis in 30 of the country’s 52 districts at a time when government neither has enough food nor the capacity to distribute the little food it has.
Government has since requested the World Food Programme (WFP) to help it distribute some 30 000 tonnes of maize in its stocks after failing to raise funds to transport the grain to hunger-stricken villagers owing to a tightening national cash squeeze.
WFP, in turn, has extended its own appeal to other donors to help move the grain, highlighting the magnitude of the crisis ahead.
“Government has pledged a contribution of 30 000 MT (metric tonnes) of maize grain towards the World Food Programme for a joint lean season assistance programme. WFP has approached donors for funds to provide logistical support to move the maize grain and for purchasing complementary commodities for the food basket,” Eddie Rowe, WFP representative in Zimbabwe, said.
Rowe added that the joint effort between government and WFP would reach 22 districts, out of 52 districts. Some 636 000 people were expected to benefit. This leaves out 30 other districts with more than 800 000 people requiring food assistance.
“Each beneficiary household will receive a 50kg of maize grain while each member of the household will get 2kg of sugar beans/peas and 0,75 kg of vegetable oil or an equivalent cash amount to purchase the last two commodities,” said Rowe.
With government appearing to have no response plan of its own in place, besides this joint effort, the administration is keeping everyone guessing as to how it hopes to avert starvation in rural communities.
This is despite the fact that the UN’s food security response plan paints a grim picture of what lies ahead for a country whose agro-based economy is offering very little hope of rescuing the situation.
Out of the 22 hardest hit districts that the UN, WFP and other partners have targeted for support, only eight districts would be adequately assisted.
Thousands of villagers in 10 of the 14 remaining districts face starvation after the WFP indicated that it would only be able to assist between five and 30 percent of the total number of people in need of food assistance in the 22 districts.
The situation is expected to be dire in Mberengwa, Tsholotsho, Gokwe North, Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe, Beitbridge, Gwanda, Mutasa and Mudzi where the UN would only reach less than 30 percent of those in need of food assistance.
In Mberengwa, where an estimated 45 817 people require food only 2 503 people, representing just five percent, would be assisted by the world organisation while in Buhera 29 534 would be assisted out of 99 504.
The UN, which has indicated that it was hoping to reach 767 000 of the country’s 1,5 million people said to be in need of food assistance, representing 51 percent by the end of this month is, however, worried how the food would be distributed in a country that has become heavily polarised along political affiliations.
“There is a need to ensure that there are policies and mechanisms for distributing the staple food with the aim being equitable distribution of grain,” the UN noted in its food security response plan.
The response plan is unable to cater for thousands of other desperate villagers in 34 districts, the majority of whose crops failed to mature owing to a poor 2014/15 rainfall season.
The UN response plan, amounting to US$132 million, would only cater for 44 percent of Zimbabwe’s Zero Hunger Strategic Review programme that noted in June that US$300 million would be required to avert starvation.
Apart from assurances by Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the Cabinet Committee on Food Security, that “no one would starve”, very little else is pointing to the situation being under control.
In fact, Mnangagwa’s statement during the June launch of the Zero Hunger Strategic Review was telling.
“I am therefore calling on all our partners from development agencies and the private sector to assist us in providing the necessary resources to ensure that not even one of our communities nationwide is exposed to hunger and starvation,” he said.
Government’s ability to import more grain to avert starvation has become even more doubtful as grain prices firm in response to a downward revision of the 2015 production forecasts both regionally and globally.
And with more than 26 million southern Africans facing hunger in the coming months, the little grain that the region harvested is in high demand as reports indicate that Zambia, which had a favourable harvest, may soon suspend grain exports as food prices back home rise.
Zimbabwe earlier this year indicated that it would be importing grain from neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Zambia but there is no sign yet as to how much has been secured so far.
Zambia’s Minister of Agriculture, Given Lubinda, refused to say what kind of bilateral agreement Zambia has entered into over its maize exports to Zimbabwe, which has in previous years struggled to pay for maize supplies from its northern neighbour.
Prospects are that this year’s rainfall season would most likely start late, according to weather forecasts, meaning that communal farmers would only start getting some food from their farmers such as green mealies in late February or early March.
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network has since warned that: Worsening economic conditions in Zimbabwe and the unstable labour market in South Africa are expected to decrease remittance levels by about 40 percent of normal, meaning that the ability buy food by those in need would be seriously compromised.

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