Rural households key to lasting food security

Source: Rural households key to lasting food security | The Sunday News

Rural households key to lasting food security
Dr Anxious Masuka

Food security exists when all people in a society have adequate food for an active, healthy life at all times. As a broad term, ‘food security’ is defined by the availability of safe and nutritious food and a guaranteed capability to procure and acquire food of good quality in a socially acceptable way.

Food insecurity on the other hand occurs when basic healthy food is not easily accessible, and poor households struggle to secure enough food for their nutritional needs. Food insecurity has been identified as a global crisis, according to Samkeliso Hlophe-Ginidza and NS Mpandeli, in their theses, the role of small scale farmers in ensuring food security in Africa.

The pair adds that the United Nations estimates that by 2050, 86 percent of the world’s population living in extreme poverty will be concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa. And in order to ensure food security in the future, current food production levels will need to be increased by at least 70%.

“Getting rural households to actively participate in small-scale agricultural activities for subsistence farming can play a vital role in minimising the vulnerability to hunger in rural food-insecure households. Studies done in different countries indicate that the gross domestic product (GDP) growth originating from agricultural activities is at least twice as effective in advancing the poorest half of a country’s population than GDP growth generated from any other sector.”

The role of rural farmers therefore cannot be ignored. From time immemorial, rural farmers have been the anchor and pillar in as far as food security is concerned, and Zimbabwe has made sure the trend continues with massive support from the Presidential Import Scheme and farming programmes like intwasa/pfumvudza, which are championed by the government.

Last week, we reported that President Mnangagwa will this month launch this year’s Presidential Input Scheme as the country gears for another successful farming season, where one million hectares will be put under the  Pfumvudza/Intwasa programme.

In addition, 2,3 million families will benefit from free inputs under the support scheme. Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka told Sunday News on the sidelines of the Esigodini Agricultural College graduation ceremony recently that the inputs were already at different Grain Marketing Board (GMB) depots across the country.

“We have started to send inputs to GMB and so far, they have received over 35 000 metric tonnes of compound D fertiliser and over 8 000 metric tonnes of seed which has already started being distributed,” said Dr Masuka.

He said under the Pfumvudza/Intwasa farming programme, Government was looking at 2,3 million households, with 1,8 million households coming from rural areas, while they had also included those doing transient urban cultivation so that they could be assisted. In addition, fertiliser companies, financiers and other supporting institutions and stakeholders had committed themselves to complementing the Government in supporting farmers to ensure optimum production.

The Government is on record as saying there was marked improvement in maize yield across the country as a result of increased amount of rainfall and good distribution from the onset of the season in November 2020 to the end of February 2021.

United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation adds that smallholder farmers play a critical role in food and nutrition security in Zimbabwe, with their production accounting for the bulk of the country’s food.

In addition, agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy as Zimbabweans remain largely a rural people, who derive their livelihoods from farming and other related rural economic activities. Irrigation farming is also contributing significantly to households in terms of income in rural areas.

Research has revealed that around two thirds of people in rural areas have produced more food than just for subsistence.

In terms of the high cost of maize seed on the market, Minister Masuka said it was their hope that with the stabilisation of the micro-economic environment, prices will be stable. He said when farmers got paid after delivering their produce to the GMB, they will be able to retool for the summer season by acquiring inputs.