Food stocks begin to decline

Ngoni Chanakira

AFTER some improvement of household food stocks in March to May, this year, stocks are now beginning to decline again with worsening situations being experienced in Matabeleland North, South

and Manicaland.

Donors say food scarcities are thus likely to grow during the coming months and of greater concern is the fact that even if rains are good, unless seed and fertiliser are made available, harvests could continue to be poor.

The donors said food scarcities would especially affect the poorest households who could not afford the priced inflation on inputs, and widening income inequality in the rural areas.

A Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), the Food Security Network (Fosenet), says in its assessment of the food situation in Zimbabwe for the period ending July that while nearly a quarter of households had more than a month’s food supply in May, this had fallen to 14% by July.

Fosenet involves 24 NGOs that collectively cover all districts of Zimbabwe and all types of communities.

Its members subscribe that food distribution in Zimbabwe must be based on a platform of ethical principles derived from international humanitarian law.

The NGO said the monitoring for July was drawn from 142 monitoring reports from 50 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe.

“The improvement of food availability from local harvests has begun to plateau in July, forewarning future shortages in late 2003,” Fosenet said in its report released this week. “Initial indicators suggest that food shortages may cover half of districts in the country. Many districts report that food needs are likely to be severe by October.”

Zimbabwe is facing an acute food shortage caused by the controversial fast-track land resettlement programme where thousands of peasants were given pieces of land by government in a move meant to try and solve the sensitive land problem in the country.

However, some of these individuals have not farmed on their land mainly because they cannot afford inputs, are not trained in agriculture, and in some cases, the land was unsuitable for farming.

Fosenet said after some improvement of household stocks in March to May, stocks were now beginning to decline again.

“While nearly a quarter of households had more than one month’s food supply in May, this had fallen to 14% by July,” the organanisation said.

“Districts reporting no improvement or worsening situations are clustered in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, and Manicaland. These are provinces where chronic food scarcities have been reported since 2002.”

The organisation said an increasing number of individuals were reported to be moving between districts to secure food.

Although movement had become a critical survival strategy, it was also an increasingly costly and time-consuming one, the organisation said, with 86% of districts reporting transport difficulties in July compared to 42% in May this year.

“Households currently face severe constraints in accessing seed and fertiliser which will affect 2003 planting if not addressed,” the organisation warned. “In five provinces all districts reported that seed was not available and in two provinces all districts reported that fertiliser was not available.

Prices of seed and fertiliser have increased since May by over 100% in formal and parallel markets. About a third of households report that they have no access to tillage or draught power. Matabeleland North and South are particularly disadvantaged.”

The report said while support for these inputs was critical for production in the 2003/4 season, no reports were made of such inputs being organised.