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A rude awakening

Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka was adjudged the best performing minister.

GOVERNMENT on Tuesday said more than half of the population would require food aid due to the effects of the El Niño-induced drought as it raised the appeal for assistance to US$3 billion.

The revelations that about eight million people need help comes after President Emmerson Mnangagwa last month declared the drought a state of national disaster to marshal resources from aid agencies and development partners.

 Mnangagwa said then that US$2 billion was needed to ensure that no one dies of hunger.

Tuesday’s revelations came after the Second Round Crops, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment Report painted a gloomy picture.

 Of the 2 496 201 hectares planted under maize and traditional grains, the yield will be around 744 271 metric tonnes. Government had projected a yield of 2 579 237 metric tonnes.

 This will likely trigger panic buying ahead of potential shortages despite government assurance that no one will starve.

 A hike in the price of grain will be inevitable as a result. 

 Government’s data showed that six million people in rural areas require food aid.

There are fears that food will be distributed along partisan lines after Zanu PF recently said it would superintend the exercise due to its “mobilisation prowess”.

 To a large extent, we are in this mess due to weather conditions. Yet this is a rude awakening after government failed to prepare for a rainy day following forecasts last year that the 2023/24 season will be affected by a drought.

 At the time predictions were made, Zimbabwe was drowned in celebrations of a bumper harvest of wheat attributed to the “tireless work by the second republic”.

 Agriculture minister Anxious Masuka was adjudged the best performing minister.

It was at that time that the narrative Zimbabwe can feed itself was bandied.

 Until last month, the government has been claiming that it has enough grain to take the nation up to the end of the year as it hurried to dismiss claims by the Grain Marketing Board that silos were almost empty hence available stocks will not last beyond May.

However, all hope is not lost.  A tight system must be  in place to ensure the food aid reaches the vulnerable six million people in the rural areas and 1,7 million in urban areas.

This entails punishing those that abuse the system by diverting food meant for vulnerable groups.

On Tuesday Masuka said people would receive 7,5kg per month, adding that they would get rations that cover three months to reduce transport costs.

Government was this week forced to forewarn villagers that they are not supposed to pay for delivery of food aid amid reports that some communities were being asked to foot the transport bill.

Masuka said the government had enough apparatus  to intervene should there be profiteering by the private sector.

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