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Starvation to hit Zimbabwe

02 Sep 2019 at 08:42hrs | Views
Food security is a matter of strategic national importance. Issues of food security affect us all regardless of colour, Creed and political affiliation.  The issue of food security caused migration from the days of our forefathers and many a government have been over thrown because of food security. The old English adage does say a hungry man is an angry man. Zimbabwe has been hard by drought and other factors beyond human control,  this has left the Nation vulnerable and unable to feed itself. We now rely mostly on imports to mitigate the shortages and in a country where foreign currency is unavailable the question becomes do we have what it takes to import and feed ourselves,  are we food secure as a nation?

The numbers

Ninety-two percent of Zimbabwean rural households practice agriculture as their primary livelihood, and food crop
production and casual labor are the most important sources of income this is according to the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee report of 2017. The most commonly cultivated  food crops in Zimbabwe  are maize, small grains, groundnuts, and cowpeas. Almost half of rural households raise cattle (45 percent)
and/or goats (46 percent), however livestock mortality is high with 10 percent of cattle and 17 percent of goats  succumbing primarily to disease and drought (ZimVAC 2017). Recent agricultural seasons suffered from drought-
reduced harvests, but agricultural production increased in 2017 (USAID 2017). Rural households are vulnerable to  multiple shocks including cash shortages (faced by 46 percent of households), water-logging (43 percent), drought (32 percent), crop pests (30 percent), as well as price changes, health issues, livestock disease and death, and sometime
floods. In 2017, about 40 percent of rural households reported being unable to cope with shocks in the coming year,  while 45 percent could cope, but with difficulties (ZimVAC 2017). The peak hunger season is January to March and
households are most food secure from April to June. It was estimated that 1.1 million people will be food insecure in the  2018 hunger season (ZimVAC 2017). One wonders how many will be food insecure in 2019-2020.

The general observation has been that things are not easy in Zimbabwe at the moment. We have bread for a few weeks and shortages for the coming few weeks,  it seems the supply of wheat is erratic. Cereal at one time was totally unavailable on the shelves only to resurface when prices were changed.

The Supply side  

Zimbabweans value bread and sadza, take that away from them and you will have a crisis.  The importance of bread was demonstrated in the Lupane  by election when ZANU PF introduced simple bread making techniques which became an instant hit  with the community resulting in a win for the party.

Government had done well to allow industry the leeway to mobilise Grain and ensure that it is sourced,  processed and distributed profitably. Grain players reciprocated and introduced a self monitoring and regulatory framework which kept prices within the reach of the masses. This move allowed government to focus on feeding vulnerable groups and the poorest of the poor. Sadly that did not last long.

The Ministry of Agriculture introduced a statutory instrument meant to regulate the buying and selling of Grain. It was left to the Grain  Marketing Board. Technically that would be a sound and viable move but  practically it was a blunder.

GMB is broke,  how will GMB source enough Grain for the nation as well as the vulnerable groups? GMB does not have enough goodwill internationally to be able to create financing structures that will facilitate the supply of millions of metric tonnes be it of wheat,  maize or other grains. Logistically speaking GMB is a long way from being able to feed the Nation.

The statutory instrument is putting the cart before the horse. GMB needs to be fixed first just like most state owned Enterprises in Zimbabwe. GMB needs to build an international profile and reputation for it to attract favorable financing deals to allow it to feed the Nation.

Sadly the legislators from both sides of the house are quiet on the issue and profess ignorance.  Yet they are the ones who have to deal with cases of poverty on a daily basis in their constituencies.

Food Aid

The hunger situation in Zimbabwe is real. The solutions do not seem to be making sense or bearing fruit. A number of people are affected by poverty and drought. The most affected households are those with minimal or depleted cereal stocks, making them more dependent on market for food purchase, as well as those relying on labour opportunities linked to the preparation of the cropping season. The most severely affected areas (Emergency) are Binga (36,912, 25%), Mudzi (28,290, 20%), and Buhera (65,251, 25%), and Kariba . 50 districts are classified as  Crisis areas and 8 districts are classified as Stressed.

The current food insecurity is driven by multiple shocks, including climate and economic shocks. During the lean season, households deplete their cereal stock and usually depend on the market. Food prices are currently 50 to 150% above the five-year average and are expected to keep increasing throughout the lean season, with extremely negative effects on households' financial access to food. The current cropping season (2018/19) was marked with late onset of rains, which resulted in abnormally dry conditions, affecting agriculture activities, thereby reducing the income of the most vulnerable households relying on occasional agriculture labour. Dry conditions have also resulted in high livestock deaths, likely affecting the quality and capacity of beef and milk production.

The need is real and the causative factors are really apolitical. One cannot blame ZANU PF nor the MDC for bad weather conditions,  climate change and other factors,  though they could have been managed and mitigated better.

The world is playing it's part to source funds and help us feed ourselves. However the political situation is not helping anyone. War Veterans are out insulting the EU and would be Western donors. President Emmerson Mnangagwa is sending a plea for help to the very same community, the government is restricting free trade in Grain and creating a monopoly of sorts, the inconsistencies are glaring and disturbing.

Cry for help

We are in a global village and at times we need to put aside individualism and self righteousness for the greater good. Zimbabwe needs all the help she can get,  our people need a better quality of life. Political players,  policy makers and industry players need to come together and help feed our people. Donors will do what they can for the poor and the vulnerable but will we have enough supplies for those in the cities and will the supplies be affordable? Minister Perence Shiri needs to rethink the Grain terrain in Zimbabwe,  the war against poverty is a war that must be won,  as Minister Agriculture Minister Shiri is the commanding officer in the war against poverty,  he is the one who issues marching orders and direction.  

While Chamisa and his MDC Alliance are up and about, they also need to find ways to make a meaningful and positive contribution towards our food security as a nation. Ensuring that the Nation has enough food is everyone's mandate,  sanctions or not people have to eat. The MDC A does have a mandate from those who voted for them and ignoring the food situation,  the Grain situation will not help them. When people are hungry they knock on the MPs door the MP is also broke with limited resources though the MP has legislative authority to ensure that we put laws in place and systems that ensure that our people do not go hungry. Zimbabwe needs help and everyone has to do something. Diaspora community let's chip in and play our part,  corporate community,  non state actors everybody can do something to ensure that our people do not die of hunger or starvation. Food and Nutrition Council needs to stand up and talk to us.  ZimVAC declassify  the numbers so that we all understand the need and what role we can play to make the situation better.

We are in this together as a nation and we need to act and ensure that our relatives,  friends and loved ones are food secure as the Nation goes through these labour pains.

Nicholas Ncube is a Writer, Blogger and lover of things and can be contacted on

Source - Nicholas Ncube
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