Hunger-stricken Zim turns to Malawi, Zambia

Despite indications that the demand for maize will double by 2050, the country’s farmers have gradually abandoned growing the staple crop to concentrate on cash crops like tobacco, leaving the country vulnerable to serious food shortages.

Report by Michelle Chifamba

Over the years, Zimbabwe’s fortunes have shifted from being the proud breadbasket of Southern Africa, to becoming a basket case as the country now relies on food aid and maize imports from its erstwhile beneficiaries like Malawi and Zambia.

According to recent research, this year alone, an estimated 1,6 million people are said to be in urgent need of food aid following a poor rainy season.

Effects of the erratic rainfall patterns experienced during the 2012/2013 farming season have plunged peasant farmers in Hwange District into serious problems as food shortages loom.

Since most of the crops were affected by the late rainfall, floods, hailstorms and a dry spell that followed the erratic rains, most of the subsistence farmers could only harvest a little grain which would not stretch to the next season.

“We have now resorted to eating wild fruits like the baobab which we eat during the day and save the little mealie meal we have for supper. The situation here is really bad and it is our hope that government intervenes as early as possible to curb the hunger which has become prevalent in this region,” said Chief Mungoshi of Mabale Village in Hwange.

Villagers in Wedza have also been reported to have resorted to trading their small herds of cattle for grain.

Ziyambe South Ward Councillor Godfrey Chitsaka confirmed that villagers had become so desperate that they were now engaging in barter trade to survive.

“In desperate plight to arrest the hunger problem in this region, villagers have fallen prey to maize dealers who come from various parts of the country especially Harare to exchange their beasts for the much-needed staple grain. Every beast is exchanged for 20 bags of maize,” said Councillor Chitsaka.

Statistics show that while tobacco farming is boosting export earnings and rewarding proponents of the chaotic land reform, food production has on the other hand plunged.

In  its aim to attain the Millennium Development Goals, the  government recently renewed its commitment to food security by launching the Food and Nutrition Policy document which is aimed at addressing challenges brought about by the recurrent droughts that have turned the economy upside  down and the aim of the policy is to redress the situation.

The 2006 Food Security in Africa Abuja Summit of African governments identified maize as a strategic and poverty reduction crop. The summit implored the continent to promote maize production in order to achieve self- sufficiency by 2015.

However, Africa is a net importer of maize and according to the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa, it is costing Zimbabwe.
“Despite its vast tracts of land, Zimbabwe has become a net importer of maize from neighbouring countries.

Instead of encouraging farmers to produce maize, it appears Zimbabwe is going the opposite direction. Most farmers are taking up tobacco production on a large scale crippling food security in the country,” read part of the Agriculture Research in Africa report.

Economists regard the current food insecurity as a threat to the nation especially during this time when most of the country’s population is living way below the poverty datum line. They urged government to take the plight of the people seriously.

“The case of Zimbabwe is a tragedy. Although most developing are at risk of food shortages largely as a result of a declining investment in agriculture, climate change and lack of technology to predict weather patterns, for a country which was once the breadbasket of the region it is embarrassing, to go to neighboring countries with a begging bowl in the early periods of the harvesting season. Since the Food and Nutrition policy document has been launched, government must be taken to task to turn theory into practice and make sure that food security is restored,” said Lisbon Mhondiwa, a Harare-based economist.

Commercial Farmers’ Union president Charles Taffs is on record saying that much of the problem which has led to the decline in maize production can be linked to lack of funding for most of the farmers.

“There has been a serious decline in food security at the household level. We have to re-establish property rights so as to re-establish proper funding in agriculture because once tobacco prices fall, all the farmers will be stranded,” said Taffs.

According to agricultural analysts, though there are numerous reasons which have led to the shrinking of the maize production per hector, the absence of a clear policy as to how the country is supposed to ensure food security is the chief contributor to the tobacco production euphoria.

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18 Comments

  1. Pasadza ndokuti muvhote zvakangwara. Muchadya zanu nembavha dzayo. Mazimbo ngwaraiwo

    1. Zvekuti farmer asarudza kurima Fodya panzvimbo yechibage hazvinei nepolitics…

  2. Mr Editor I note with concern that they are very few mobile voter registration centres in Harare and Bulawayo. The district based voter registration exercise has resulted in Harare province having only 44 mobile centres compared to other provinces that have more than 400 centres. The 2012 census reveal that Harare is the most populous province. It would have made sense if the process is a constituency based mobile registration exercise. The fact of the matter is that urbanites are being denied the right to exercise their constitutional right. In Mabvuku, a constituency with more than 20k registered voters (based on 2008 stats) has only one centre at Mwanandishe Primary school.This is nothing short of a smart voting rigging mission by ZEC. We are going to approach the constitutional court for a redress.NB Mr Editor, kindly publish statistics with regards to mobile centres in tomorrow’s paper.Thank You!!

    1. dhodha rekanyi

      well said, the situation is not gud at all. Is this the first step of rigging? Please help us here in Chitungwiza.

  3. Land reform

  4. Hondo yeminda!!

  5. What is the correlation between Zambia becoming an exporter of food in the last 10 years and Zimbabwe becoming an importer of food. And it is not the climatic conditions, we both have similar conditions, maybe it has something to do with all the ex Zim farmers now in Zambia. As Homer Simpson would say DOH! Please please please will someone try to explain this one away!

    1. IT’S ECONOMIC WISE TO GROW A PROFITABLE CROP….

      1. So when commercial farmers grow maize, wheat and other such crops we all eat, it is not profitable? Hmmmm. strange and here I thought it was, in a free and fair economy. Why is it not profitable for a small scale or communal farmer to grow maize or wheat, please explain.

  6. What happened to the system where farmers were designated to produce certain crops according to regions? How about the incentives which went with production of food crops? And the farmers? It has been thirteen years since the ‘Hondo yeminda’. Surely progress should be showing now. Its not so much that we are importing maize, but the countries supplying us used to come with a begging bowl to us not so long ago. Surely we will climb back to our former position; and higher since our mineral wealth has multiplied.

  7. observer Marshal

    @too late you got the point. Remember Zambia & Malawi gobbled our harassed farmers like hungry alligators. They were wise enough to spot manna falling from heaven & now its paying off for them. They now lounge in their hammocks on full stomachs while their bank accounts are full of US dollars from grain exports to a stupid, arrogant neighbour Zimba-renhamo. SOVEREIGNTY !! MY FOOT !

  8. When you do CORRECTIONS at school you make right what was wrong. As such we expect when a gvt says they are carrying out a land restructuring exercise we expect the result to be more impressive than the preceding status-quo , BUT ALAS ……

    Its like a kid saying 1+1= 11 & you tell him no its wrong ,try again. Then he says 1+1= V . 11 was even better- @ least it was a compatible number.

  9. It was a fast track land reform that destroyed our agriculture and this Zimbo syndrom of putting all their eggs in one basket. By rushing to tobacco all of them is another time bomb that is waiting to explode. I aggree with you @observer Marshal Zimba-renhamo zvechokwadi, nhamo yacho yekuzvitsvagira

  10. zimboz are idiots

    we are sovereign yet u cant fund elections and dont have maize but have land

    u are morons indeed and u have a president that is what 90 years

    u are scum bags

  11. spangasenkunzi

    amadetete athi siyabusa

  12. Dont talk of funding as one of the problems.Farmers were getting funding from gono each and every year which they never repaid.They got farming implements for free from gono plus the equipment and infrastructure that was left by the white farmers.Noone was paying electricity as shown by zesa sometime ago.So where ws the problem?This was just incompetence on part of the new farmers.Is it only Zimbabwe that had bad climate for the past decade?

    1. Anditi takadzizda kupfura vanhu vese. Show it to the world and live your words. Has the sewage stinck in Chitungwza gone, what about that of Mabvuku? I suppose school is dangerous if it makes us live live as paupers in a land of plenty.

  13. william mills

    The most prosperous country in Africa has a white population of greater than 10%. Zimbabwe has lost most of its white population by destroying their property rights. This suggests to me that the policies of the recent past must be reversed if Zim is ever to recover. The past prosperity was fueled by those people who were robbed of their land and driven off. What Africa needs is white people with full rights of citizenship. Without it Africa will starve as they are starting to in Zimbabwe.

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