‘Rains won’t ensure improved harvests’

BY NQOBANI NDLOVU

A FOOD security report by the United Nations Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has ruled out improved harvests following the current wet spell it described as coming a little too late.

The country has witnessed a wet spell in recent weeks, and flash floods in Binga, Matabeleland North and Chimanimani in Manicaland, among other areas, coming after most planted crops had wilted, leaving the majority of Zimbabweans facing another drought.

An OCHA Food Security Early Warning System (Agromat report) released on Monday said hunger looms large again, with little chance that planted crops will produce a better harvest following the recent rains.

“Rainfall improved in central parts of the region in February, benefitting crop conditions for some areas, but for many crops in southern Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique, the rains came too late to save the crop from permanent wilting,” the report read.

“Replanting in Zimbabwe in mid-January has presented some limited chances of slightly improved harvests if the current rains extend until April. However, short term forecasts suggest low rainfall in the next few weeks.

“Despite improvement in vegetation conditions after the January and February rainfall, seasonal accumulation of vegetation indices remains below average, with poor grazing conditions in a number of areas, including Namibia and southern Zimbabwe,” the report added.

Already, hunger stalks the country owing to the El Nino-induced drought. Mealie-meal is scarce at retail shops and found on the black market at exorbitant prices, adding to the woes of long-suffering Zimbabweans.

A report in the State media yesterday said government had suspended the Belmont depot manager in Bulawayo and his four subordinates for allegedly diverting subsidised mealie-meal to the black market. Food aid distribution even in the urban centres is also now being politicised, with the well-connected Zanu PF supporters being said to be the main beneficiaries, a claim the ruling party keeps denying as false.

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