Emergency measures to deal with food shortages put in place

Innocent Ruwende, Harare Bureau
THE government has come up with immediate measures to fight food shortages, including opening up imports of maize and maize meal to private importers, while movement of grain from areas with surplus to those in need will be allowed.

This came out at a multi-stakeholder consultative meeting held yesterday between the Government and United Nations agencies to assess the impact of the El Nino-induced drought on the country.

The meeting was also aimed at coming up with an urgent coordinated response to the humanitarian needs caused by the drought.

At least 1,5 million people are in need of food aid in the next three months following last year’s drought that ravaged most parts of the country

More people will line up for food aid in the near future as it is becoming evident that most areas will not harvest enough food this season because of the erratic rains received, not only in Zimbabwe, but throughout Southern Africa.

Speaking at the consultative meeting, the permanent secretary in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Ngoni Masoka said all 60 rural districts required food aid, although the extent differed.

“The financial requirement is $153 million and the current financial commitment is $54 million, leaving a gap of $78 million,” he said.

“We’ve 30 districts with comprehensive support, of these, eight are covered through a joint initiative between Government and the World Food Programme, 14 by a consortium led by CARE international and eight by the World Food Programme.”

Masoka said Government and its partners were facing problems in moving grain from the Grain Marketing Board depots.

The GMB was in the process of importing grain from other countries, with the parastatal having been allowed by the State Procurement Board to bring in 30 000 tonnes from Zambia with immediate effect without going to tender.

The parastatal is also going to tender to import 200 000 more tonnes from the same country.

Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development permanent secretary Ringson Chitsiko said at the same meeting that the situation was dire in most areas.

“The rainfall has been poorly distributed, leading to delays in the start of the growing season,” he said in a report read on his behalf by the ministry’s director (economics and markets), Clemence Bwenje.

“This has led to delayed planting, poor germination, which requires re-planting in most instances. Temporary to permanent wilting of the early planted crops has been reported in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Masvingo, parts of Midlands and Manicaland.

“There is dire shortage of grazing and water in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South, Masvingo, parts of Midlands and Manicaland. Poverty deaths of livestock stand at approximately 10 000 and continue to rise.”

The Government was encouraging strategic marketing of livestock, in effect destocking, to cushion farmers against losses, said Chitsiko.

“Government, under the livestock drought mitigation programme, introduced the provision of subsidised livestock feed and emergency irrigation rehabilitation development programme,” he said.

“As we speak 300 000 vulnerable households are receiving assistance under the Government Crop and Livestock inputs scheme valued at $28,3 million. Each household received 10kg maize seed, 50kg of top dressing and basal fertilizer.”

Chitisko said 30 000 farmers were being assisted with cotton inputs and the Food Agriculture Organization was supporting 8 000 households to access livestock survival feed and drought tolerant seed.

UN Resident Coordinator Bishow Parajuli urged stakeholders to focus on responding adequately and timely to the urgent needs of the food-insecure population.

He said building community resilience was an integral component of the response.

“With the current trend, the initial national response plan of $132 million launched in October 2015 to respond to the food insecurity situation would likely go up further,” said Parajuli.

“Thanks to mainly the USA, the UK and the UN Central Emergency Relief Fund, so far only $59 million has been mobilised in food and cash support with responses being implemented.”

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