Commercial Farmers Union of Zimbabwe

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One million receive food aid

One million receive food aid
WFP food distribution centre in this file photo. In Zimbabwe WFP is providing food assistance to individuals affected by the 2015 -2016 El Niño-induced drought through a Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme

WFP food distribution centre in this file photo. In Zimbabwe WFP is providing food assistance to individuals affected by the 2015 -2016 El Niño-induced drought through a Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme

Sifelani Tsiko
More than one million people affected by hunger have been reached with food in the on-going food relief programme currently underway in the country, the UN food aid agency, World Food Programme, has said.

WFP Zimbabwe spokesperson Mr Fiona Guy told Zimpapers Syndication that his organisation reached more than one million people in December 2016 in the country while the food aid agency was targeting to reach 13 million people through all programming in six other drought-hit priority countries in southern Africa.

The six other worst affected Sadc countries are Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zambia.

In Zimbabwe, WFP is providing food assistance to individuals affected by the 2015 -2016 El Niño-induced drought through a Lean Season Assistance (LSA) programme.

More than one million people received either direct food support, cash-based support (either direct cash, mobile money, electronic vouchers), or a combination of cash and in-kind assistance.

Mr Guy said the WFP’s cash transfers now represent 39 percent of beneficiary recipients under the LSA programme.

Last year, Government declared hunger as a national disaster and appealed to the international community for assistance to feed over four million people who were likely to face serious starvation.

Zimbabwe estimated that it would need $1,5 billion to feed starving people mainly in the dry and arid regions in the country.

Over the past three decades, Zimbabwe has experienced recurring droughts followed by food shortages and inadequate pasture for livestock.

Last year’s droughts scorched harvests and left more than four million people in need of food assistance.

More than 16 million people in Southern Africa faced hunger due to poor harvests in 2015, caused by El Nino weather conditions.

The impact of the drought that swept across the Sadc region in the past two years has been felt across all sectors including agriculture, food and nutrition security, tourism, energy, health, water and sanitation and education.

A majority of small-scale farmers struggled to produce enough food to feed their families owing to the drought that ravaged most parts of Zimbabwe.

Dam levels have dropped to their worst levels in decades while pasture and water scarcity decimated 643 000 livestock with an estimated value of up to $1,9 billion.

But good rains have brought cheer to most people across the entire region despite floods killing people and destroying crops, livestock and assets running into thousands of dollars.

Forecasters say there will be greater likelihood of normal to above normal rainfall over southern parts of Zimbabwe and Mozambique, northern South Africa, eastern Botswana and Swaziland and Lesotho until March this year.

The UN food aid agency said it was still too early to say rains had improved the food availability situation in Zimbabwe and across the region.

“In Zimbabwe, it is still too early to determine to what extent the current rain will impact food availability, as the harvest for most crops are still a few months away,” said Mr Guy.

“We anticipate receiving the first account of the agricultural produce of the upcoming harvest by April, 2017. The same applies to the region, in which information on the agriculture produce should be available by April.”

Following the drought in Zimbabwe and in the region, food insecurity tightened its grip as Southern Africa entered the peak of the lean season, the period before the next harvest in March/April when food stocks become increasingly depleted.

And, despite the improved rainfall outlook, humanitarian agencies say millions still face hunger in southern Africa as the hunger crisis enters its peak.

They say millions still need food assistance to avert starvation.

“We have warned for months that this food crisis deteriorates by the day. We are now approaching the peak of hunger, but international funding still doesn’t match the enormous needs,” said Ms Michelle Carter, CARE’s deputy regional director for Southern Africa recently.

The humanitarian agency said there was a funding gap of $550 million to reach people in desperate need of assistance. The next harvest is not expected until April and after the failure of two consecutive rainy seasons, farmers have little to survive on.

Good rains in the 2016/17 crop season have slightly improved drought conditions, resulting in many crop farmers recording better crop germination that could yield improved crop harvests.

Grazing conditions have also made significant recovery and the situation is now much better than last season.

Provisional crop estimates indicate that the crop situation is good despite problems related to leaching, shortage of fertiliser and pest and disease attacks.

Zimbabwe Commercial Farmers’ Union president Mr Wonder Chabikwa said the bulk of the country’s crop was in good condition.

“The bulk of the crops are looking good, especially in heavy soils. Crops in sandy soils and vleis are showing signs of water logging and leaching,” said Mr Chabikwa.

“Farmers can apply ammonium nitrate, and those in sandy soils can apply urea for top dressing. Ammonium nitrate is easily leached in sandy soils.”

Household food security continues to improve in various parts of the regions as most households are reported to now have better access to indigenous vegetables.

However, requirements for grain are still high and most people still depend on the market and government’s drought relief food programme for grain access.

Good grazing conditions were reported in most parts of the country while in a few other drier regions it was reported to range between fair and good.

According to the Rural Livelihoods Assessment conducted in July 2016, about 4,1 million people in the rural areas of Zimbabwe were projected to be food insecure by January 2017.

A ZimVAC rapid assessment is currently being conducted to update these findings and identify recovery needs.

The government has reacted robustly by embarking on a nationwide $500 million Command Agriculture programme to boost the country’s food security position.

The scheme has taken shape across the country with most crops being reported to be in good condition despite logistical challenges faced during the distribution of inputs.

Under the scheme, government provided farmers with seeds, basal fertiliser and herbicides.

The initiative aims to produce two million tonnes of maize on 400 000 hectares of mostly irrigated land.

Agriculture ministry officials say that 479 000 hectares have been allocated to maize under the scheme surpassing a government target of 400 000 hectares.

Prospects of good yields and improved food security at both household and national level look bright.

However, threats of outbreaks of disease and pests, floods and poor access to critical farming inputs, have put a damper on the prospects, forcing government and agro-processing firms to work round the clock to try and address input shortages. — Zimpapers Syndication

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