HUNGER is "looming" over Zimbabwe, the UN World Food Programme
(WFP) warned last week. One in four of the rural population is
expected to need help next year.
A study led by the Government, with support from the UN,
predicts that 2.2 million people will require food assistance early
next year - the highest level since early 2009.
"Many districts, particularly in the south, harvested very
little, and people are already trying to stretch out their
dwindling food-stocks," the country director of the WFP, Sory
Ouane, said on Tuesday of last week.
From next month, the WFP and its partners will provide cereals,
procured from the region, as well as imported vegetable oil and
pulses. Cash transfers will be used in some areas, helping to prop
up local markets. The support will be given until March next year,
when the harvest will begin.
The WFP attributes the incipient crisis to various factors,
including adverse weather, the unavailability and high cost of
seeds and fertilisers, and projected high cereal prices due to a
poor harvest of maize.
On Friday of last week, the country programme manager for
Christian Aid Zimbabwe, Miriam Machaya, said that the situation was
"dire, especially in the arid and marginalised Matabeleland
provinces where Christian Aid and our local partner organisations
Besides poor rains and drought, she highlighted "widespread
poverty, constraining even basic farming investment; the late or
total unavailability of government-funded seeds and fertilisers;
damaging farming methods; and pest outbreaks".
She also suggested that the situation had been compounded by the
country's "souring international-donor relations", owing to the
recent election outcome and President Mugabe's policies.
Although the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission pronounced President
Mugabe the victor in last month's national elections, concerns were
raised about the conduct of the vote (News, 9 August), and the
cabinet was not announced until Tuesday.
Ms Machaya was "fairly confident" that the situation would
improve, through local and international organisations' supporting
farmers in improving their production, and providing women with
access to tools.
On Monday, she said that President Mugabe's policy of land
reform had "definitely" had an impact. The country, which once
enjoyed a surplus of food, was now importing food.
The results of land reform in the country, under which 6000
white farmers have been replaced by 245,000 black farmers, remain
highly contested. A visiting fellow at the London School of
Economics, Joseph Hanlon, told The Guardian on Wednesday
of last week: "All the evidence . . . is that it takes two decades
for new farmers to reach maximum production, so we cannot expect
the 2000 land-reform farmers to be there yet. So, in a bad rainfall
year, Zimbabwe will be importing maize - it always has. No surprise