THE World Food Programme (WFP) says it is spending at least US$40 million in assisting 700 000 vulnerable communities around the country during the lean season.
The lean season is the time between planting and harvesting when food stocks dwindle and vulnerable families often skip meals.
WFP is supporting Zimbabwe to curb this cyclical food crisis that runs from October to March annually.
In an interview, WFP country director Francesca Erdelmannn said this year, the lean season assistance was being supported by Japan, the United States Agency for International Development (USAid) and Germany.
“On a programme like this for the period of about six months where we provide support for over 700 000 people which costs close to US$40 million and it’s because of the contributions like the ones we have received from the government of Japan that then makes it possible.
“We now have to see how this agricultural season turns out and that will give us information about the next lean season which starts in October this year, what does it look like, we cannot yet speculate about the needs of that time because it depends very much on the productivity during the agricultural season.
“So the Agriculture ministry will undertake two sets of surveys to see what is the harvest and productivity going to look like and in May-June the food and nutrition council spearheads a national assessment which was undertaken in rural areas that will give us an indication of what the food security situation of the rural people will look like from July onwards and that will give us an idea about the next lean season and that doesn’t mean that we sit idly between rainy seasons. The World Food Programme also provides support towards other things such as entrepreneurship training, livelihood creation, it’s about creating rural assets that help in productivity, it’s also about financial literacy and also about agricultural insurance.”
WFP connects its lean season response with efforts that bolster the capacity of the most vulnerable households and communities to deal with future shocks.
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For this, WFP also works with rural farming communities to upgrade productive infrastructure such as dams, roads, dip tanks and storage facilities.
With support from partners including Japan, WFP is also introducing climate-smart and nutrition-sensitive farming techniques, and connecting farmers to markets, strengthening business skills and financial literacy.
The food and nutrition security situation in the country continues to be negatively impacted by a combination of factors including macroeconomic conditions, poor crop productivity by the communal farmers who are the most vulnerable and a lack of economically viable alternative livelihood options.
The rural Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report co-ordinated by the Food and Nutrition Council indicated that 38% of the rural population would be cereal insecure during the peak lean season (January-March 2023), compared to 27% during the last lean season.
An urban ZimVAC is ongoing to have insights into the food security situation in urban areas, which has been impacted over the last three years by COVID-19 and global economic dynamics.
According to the Hunger Hotspots report published by FAO and WFP in September 2022, Zimbabwe continues to be among the top 19 countries where food insecurity is on the rise.
With the generous contribution of US$500 000 from the government of Japan, WFP will provide food baskets to 2 900 vulnerable people in Mount Darwin district and 46 000 vulnerable people in Hwedza district in the month of January 2023.
WFP distributes unconditional food assistance to food-insecure people during the lean season in close co-ordination with the national FDMS programme.