ZIMBABWE is experiencing one of its worst food insecurity seasons, with an estimated 5.6 million people trapped in hunger following rolling years of drought spells in several districts in a development that has prompted the international humanitarian organisation, Red Cross, to take action and save lives.
According to the ZimVac 2022 report, Zimbabwe is experiencing food insecurity, with 5.6 out of 16.6 million people (33%) having insufficient food. A projected 38% of rural households are likely to be cereal insecure at the peak of the lean season between October and December 2022.
The factors driving food insecurity in Zimbabwe are multifaceted and compounded by a combination of climate shocks and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which is exacerbating existing vulnerabilities affecting the poor. In 2023, Zimbabwe is projected to continue to be affected by the food security crisis.
An increasing number of households are already experiencing hardships. According to the ZimVac report, the worst affected provinces are Matabeleland North (58%), Masvingo (41%) and Matabeleland South (36%).
It is projected that the situation is likely to prevail in most typical deficit-producing areas through January 2023 and the peak of the lean season. The high inflation and climate shocks which are impacting several sectors have proved to be a burden to rural folks, as revealed by a recent visit to Mwenezi district in Masvingo.
During the field visit to the district, distraught villagers told The NewsHawks that the situation had gone out of hand because in the past three-and-a-half years, they have not had a single bumper harvest.
“Our barns are empty. The fields are dry with wilting crops which were destroyed by the scotching sun at germination stage. The majority of villagers in this area are now surviving from selling off their livestock but at very low prices due to desperation,” said Future Chipepa, an elderly female villager in Mwenezi’s village 9 of ward 14.
“This year I planted twice after failure of the first attempt in October, but my field is still resembling a plain ground yet we hear of lush green crops having already shot up in other parts of the country.” Another villager, Josphat Jeke, said while in the past three seasons the community has been trying to switch to the farming of small grains, the plan failed.
“The heat is just too much and the small grains in majority of the farms in our area are failing to come out of the soil after planting so that at least there is hope. This year the few farms which at least got something out of the soil in their farms encountered another challenge of birds which simply came and wiped off the crops at their tender stages,” he said.
Mwenezi’s acting district development coordinator Iceben Masiiwa said he believed climate change was behind the crisis in the area.
“When we say rains have come, they are usually in the form of hailstorms, which does not help the farmers because that is not ideal for farming. We have 18 wards in the district, but not a single one is food secure. The rainfall patterns have continued to be on low levels. The people do not have sound income and rely on farming which has led to this current crisis. There is need for interventions,” he said.
As a way of helping out, the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) in partnership with the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) has since launched a project called ZERO HUNGER in Mwenezi which started last month with initial stage of identifying worst affected villagers who will get support.
Stambuli Kim, the ZRCS spokesperson, explained to The NewsHawks how the project will be rolled out.
“The ZERO HUNGER programme has three major pillars, which are Food Security and Livelihoods, Health and Nutrition, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). The ZERO HUNGER programme is part of the IFRC and ZRCS’s urgent and massive action to scale up life-saving assistance to millions of people facing crisis or worse levels of acute food insecurity in Zimbabwe.
“At the same time, through longer-term programming, the ZRCS will address the root causes of food insecurity whilst building upon its previous successes and work in support of government plans and frameworks in building the resilience of the most impoverished communities.
“The programme will target 850 households in three wards in Mwenezi district. The eligible will be mostly vulnerable people in the communities which include the elderly people, children in child-headed families, people living with disabilities, pregnant and lactating mothers, people with chronic illness, malnourished children in Red Zone,” he said.
The project will entail direct cash assistance through a money transfer agency every month on a transfer value of US$13 per person for up to five family members at each of the selected 850 households. A single family will therefore get an average transfer of US$65 every month if it has five family members.
Under the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene arm of the project, there shall be repairing and rehabilitation of 10 boreholes including solarisation of other boreholes.
The Hunger Crisis Programme is anticipated to be implemented in other districts which include Buhera and Chiredzi. Established through the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society Act 30 of 1981 and with over 100 branches countrywide, ZRCS has a vision of a resilient Zimbabwe, able to withstand and quickly recover from natural and man-made disasters.