HARARE – At least 1, 6 million people in Zimbabwe rely on food aid, as the country only has about 92 000 tonnes of maize in stock and will have to import 150 000 tonnes of maize to meet its demand.
The situation is even more desperate in drought-prone regions across the country, a situation which could spell disaster for over 60 percent of the population considered to be poor.
One of the areas hardest hit is Mashonaland Central Province.
Provincial governor Martin Dinha told the Daily News on Sunday the food security situation in his province was disastrous.
“Out of the 10 districts, we have a surplus or break even of harvests in Bindura, Mazowe, Guruve, and partly Shamva.
“But going to other outlying districts like Mt Darwin, Muzarabani and Mbire we have a serious problem. It is a disaster because these are low lying areas and the rains dried early,” Dinha said.
He was speaking on the sidelines of a meeting held by Padare/Enkundleni/Men’s Forum on Gender to appraise the community on issues affecting the girl-child.
Dinha bemoaned the inability of government to provide sustainable farming inputs for farmers in his province and the country’s unfavourable agricultural policies.
“We get seed at times, but we do not get fertiliser. That is where the problem is. Our agricultural policies are not friendly towards the people.
“Malawi and Zambia have had a success at smallholder farming because the pricing of inputs has been subsidised by the government.
Matters of food security are matters of national security,” he said.
He took a swipe at the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) which he said was reluctant to pay farmers the same rate it paid for imported grain.
“The other mitigation method is for people who produce grain to have their grain quickly delivered to the GMB.
“But GMB must have enough money to pay them, not peanuts. If they are importing at $400 why can’t they pay farmers $400 so that grain is moved quickly and consumed nationally.
“Because of that reason we have a lot of surplus grain not reaching those in need.
“We have quite a number of stocks of maize but because there has not been an announcement of prices people are sitting on their maize when others are hungry,” Dinha pointed out.
World Food Programme (WFP) country director Abdurrahim Siddiqui says the food security situation in the country could be a lot worse than last year.
He says the process to assess food insecurity in the country is however still ongoing and will probably be complete by June.
“Concerns have been expressed by stakeholders on the poor harvest prospects based on anecdotal information which points to the fact that the food security situation in the drought affected areas could be worse than it was last year.
“However in the absence of any national assessment, it is not possible to estimate the magnitude of the problem and consequently the needs,” he said.
According to a March Food Security Outlook Update by Reliefweb, Matabeleland South and part of Masvingo also face a crisis because of dry spells.
This comes against the back drop of information that the country’s grain stocks are dwindling fast.
Farmer organisations on one hand say this year’s maize harvest could be about 1,2 million tonnes, a far cry from the 2,2 million tonnes required by the country each year.
This unfortunate turn of events will see six out of 10 families who live well below the poverty datum line of less than $1 a day bearing the brunt. – Thelma Chikwana, Features Editor