SENIOR STAFF WRITER
ZIMBABWE is among Sadc countries facing an acute shortage of food along with Zambia, Mozambique and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the World Food Programme (WFP) has said.
This comes as the government has embarked on an ambitious Pfumvudza agriculture programme targeting 1,8 million households with the aim of producing 1,8 million tonnes of cereal and 360 000 tonnes of oil seed this cropping season to combat food insecurity.
It also comes as the WFP estimates that over five million Zimbabweans are food insecure.
According to an early warning analysis of acute food insecurity hotspots report jointly compiled by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (Fao)and WFP in October, the key drivers of food insecurity include soaring food prices; reduced crop production; and economic downturn in the country.
“Zimbabwe is experiencing a widespread acute food insecurity crisis as a result of a combination of factors including consecutive poor agricultural seasons, on-going macro-economic challenges with food inflation at more than 977 percent as of July 2020 and the impact of Covid-19-related restrictions.
“About five to six million people were estimated to face a food crisis or emergency in rural areas between October and December 2020, with an additional 2.2 million people in urban areas in early 2020. Food insecurity is likely to worsen in the upcoming months with the approach of the lean season, which is likely to be earlier and harsher as a consequence of the below-average 2019-2020 harvest,” the report reads.
The Fao-WFP report the low rainfall received in the country last season had also exacerbated the food security situation.
“The on-going economic difficulties, exacerbated by the pandemic, the African Migratory Locust outbreak and the impact of the two consecutive seasons of below-average cereal harvests on households’ incomes are likely to constrain the most vulnerable farmers’ capacity to take advantage of the predicted favourable rainy season,” the report reads further.
Across the Sadc region, the report says, an estimated 51 million people in the 13-member states are food insecure, representing a 25 percent increase compared to 2019.
“Natural hazards, structural macroeconomic challenges, an African Migratory Locust outbreak, insecurity, conflict and the impact of Covid-19-related restrictions; including a slowdown in economic activities and a fall in remittances are overlapping with the peak of the lean season between November 2020 to January 2021, threatening to further deteriorate already high levels of acute food insecurity.
“While regional climate outlooks provide good prospects for the upcoming agricultural season, localised flooding might occur in the coming months.
“There is a potential risk of heavy rainfall associated with the southern Indian Ocean cyclone season (October to May with peak in early 2021) in parts of Mozambique and Madagascar, and locusts are threatening crop production and the food security of millions of people in Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe”.
Some of the countries named as hunger hotspots in Africa include Cameroon, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and Nigeria among several others.