Hunger in the midst of plenty

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A GROUP of women burst into song and gyrate in front of delegates who had attended a programme to hand over food aid in Bondela area, Chiredzi, recently.

BY JAIROS SAUNYAMA

Japanese Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Toshiyuki Iwado, led the proceedings as he handed over the Chipire Weir Dam project as well as some food handouts to benefit more than 500 households in the dry lowveld area.

The food items that were donated through the World Food Programme (WFP)’s Food Assistance for Assets scheme to the people include 40 000 litres of cooking oil, 570 metric tonnes of maize and 114 tonnes of pulses.

According to latest statistics by the government-led Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), about 1,1m rural dwellers are expected to be food insecure during the lean season.

Such is the situation in most dry regions of the country, where hunger is looming despite the government declaring that the nation will not starve and has enough grain in stock following the success of command agriculture programme. Currently, dry areas of Zimbabwe are already receiving food aid, while government is on record saying that they have run out of storage for grain following a massive bumper harvest.

“About 1,1m rural people are estimated to be food insecure during January-March peak season. Rural food insecurity for the period April to June 2017 was estimated at 1% and projected to reach 11% during the peak hunger period (January-March). As expected there is progressive increase in the proportion of food insecure households as the consumption year progresses towards the peak hunger period,” the ZIMVAC report read.

The report also revealed that between October and December, about 647 630 people will be food insecure in rural areas.

WFP country director, Eddie Rowe said his organisation will work hand-in-hand with the government to achieve the Zero Hunger goals through offering food aid to about 500 000 people in more than 30 districts in the country during the lean season.

“WFP is committed to supporting the government of Zimbabwe in its goal of achieving Zero Hunger. After reviewing the 2017 ZimVAC Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report, which estimates approximately 1,1 million people will be food insecure in the upcoming lean season, WFP plans to assist 500 000 people (at peak) in 32 districts during the upcoming Lean Season (October 2017 to March 2018).
Co-ordination efforts are currently ongoing with the government and partners to ensure complementarity and eliminate any possible duplication of effort,” he said.

Rowe added that the Lean Season Assistance (LSA) will target 32 districts — across Mat South, Masvingo, Mash Central, Midlands, Manicaland, Mash West, Mat North, Mash East — at various times throughout the Lean Season.

“District targeting was based on ZimVAC projected levels of food insecurity. Priority will be given to severely food insecure households based on our Vulnerability Analysis and Mapping Unit, being cognisant of other major humanitarian actors and the government’s assistance to avoid duplication. LSA is expected to start in October in 13 districts and will gradually scale up based on the projected severity of food insecurity up to March 2018,” Rowe said.

In addition to the Lean Season Assistance (LSA), WFP is working with partners to support refugees at Tongogara Refugee Camp. The non-governmental organisation assisted 9 888 refugees in August. From November, WFP will support livelihood activities — initially at a small scale — to the camp-dwelling refugees with an aim to reduce their reliance on food assistance.

In recent years, the WFP and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees partnership has seen 399 refugee households gaining access to agricultural plots for crop production. Each household has 500m² under irrigation, on which they grow bananas, sugar beans, and potatoes. In total the refugee camp has a 25-hectares irrigation scheme which has been operational since April 2013.
Speaking during the official launch of a weir dam and nutrition garden in Shauke, rural Zvishavane recently, Chinese Ambassador to Zimbabwe Huang Ping said his country has donated another $5m to be used during the lean season period.

“In 2016, China provided $1m for lean season assistance and productive asset creation, for which we are holding the handover now. And today, I have more good news to share with you. Just several days ago, the Chinese government decided to donate $5m to Zimbabwe through WFP in 2017 which will be spent in the 2017-2018 lean season on assistance and support to refugees, benefitting approximately 107 000 people,” he said.

Last year, the government introduced the Special Maize Import Substitution Programme, popularly known as command agriculture, funded to the tune of $192m in a bid to stop maize imports and ensure food security in the country.

Speaking during the annual Zimbabwe Farmers’ Union (ZFU) congress held in Marondera on September 6, Lands and Rural Resettlement minister Douglas Mombeshora confirmed that the country’s silos are full to capacity and that they are engaging the private sector for more storage facilities given that command winter wheat is about to be harvested.

“We are not worried about maize storage now, but as you know we have wheat that is about to come out of the fields, and where are we going to put it as most of the silos are full. So we need to approach the private sector to help us store the wheat. There is no drought and we are not going to feed people as before, so the silos are going to remain full,” he said.

Today, a number of families particularly in the dry regions of the country depend on food aid despite claims by the government that the country’s silos filled to the brim.