Two million face starvation

ABOUT two million Zimbabweans will require food aid during the 2012/2013 agricultural season because of poor rainfall patterns and limited access to farming inputs.

Report by Staff Writer
According to a recent Zimbabwe 2012 Consolidated Appeal report compiled by the World Food Programme (WFP), the country’s food security remains unstable as the government has failed to subsidise indigenous farmers who benefited from the land reform programme, under which white-owned large scale commercial farms were expropriated for resettlement purposes.

 
As a result, poor harvests have characterised every season since the chaotic land reform programme in 2000.

 
About 1,6 million people are receiving food aid in the current season and WFP country director Felix Bamezon said his organisation was gearing up to meet the rise in demand for food assistance countrywide.“Our field staff is already reporting signs of distress in rural areas, including empty granaries and farmers selling off their livestock to make ends meet,” said Bamezon. “To meet the increased needs, WFP and its partners will undertake food distributions with regionally procured cereals as well as imported vegetable oil and pulses.”

 
The food crisis comes at a time the Meteorological Services Department has predicted drought during Zimbabwe’s traditional farming season from October 2012 to around March 2013.

Meteorologist Barnabas Chipindu advised farmers last Thursday to plant drought-resistant crops to minimise the impact of poor rainfall as another severe drought looms.

 
Areas that would be severely affected by the drought include Matabeleland provinces, parts of Masvingo and Manicaland, the meteorological department said.

 
In an effort to alleviate the food shortages, government has struck a deal with northern neighbour Zambia to import 300 000 tonnes of maize.  Ironically, the bulk of the imported maize is being produced by former white commercial farmers evicted during the land invasions.

 
Mandivamba Rukuni, founder and executive director of Wisdom Africa Leadership Academy, has urged government to invest in agriculture to alleviate food insecurity.

 
“The government has to invest much in this sector so that such a scenario can never be experienced,” Rukuni said. “Malawi is one of the poorest countries in Africa, but its government is investing 15% of its budget in maize production because it is a food security crop.”

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