ZIMBABWE’S food crisis is expected to worsen and reach new lows by June this year, with about 4,3 million citizens expected to be food insecure.
By Nkululeko Sibanda
According to the Global Report on Food Crises for the year 2020 which was produced and recently released by the Food Security Information Network, the country’s situation was now galloping to alarming levels.
Government, the report says, is highly incapacitated to address the food security situation owing to a weak economy.
“The alarming acute food insecurity situation is expected to worsen in 2020,” the report reads in part.
“Persisting economic difficulties have eroded the resilience of households. Given limited indications that there will be a significant turnaround in the economy during the first half of 2020, households are likely to continue to face severe food access constraints.”
President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government has been struggling to feed the people, and the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus has left the vulnerable country in a worse off situation.
The report added: “Early rainfall deficits caused permanent wilting of crops in localized areas, while erratic rainfall is expected to result in a decline in crop productivity in the 2019/2020 season.
“The on-going economic crisis has hindered farmers’ access to agricultural inputs, causing a reduction in the area planted with maize.
“The 2020 harvest is forecast to remain below the five-year average, which would sustain a tight supply situation and curtail potential earnings from crop sales for farming households. As a result, the acutely food-insecure rural population in need of urgent action is estimated at 4.3 million up to June 2020 (IPC, March 2020).”
Government has taken what it calls baby steps towards dealing with the food crisis through engaging various private players to import maize into the country.
The move, however, has been hugely affected by the shortage of foreign currency as the local currency has continued to lose value when juxtaposed with other international currencies — a situation that has seen the maize importers pumping more money to get access to the foreign currency.
“From October-December 2019, an estimated 3,6 million rural inhabitants were classified in crisis or worse (IPC Phase 3 or above). This includes over 1,1 million facing emergency (IPC Phase 4) conditions. This was a marked deterioration compared with the 2018 end-of-year peak (IPC, August 2019).
“An additional 2.7 million rural inhabitants classified in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) were at risk of slipping into Crisis (IPCPhase 3) if their livelihoods were not supported.
Of particular concern were the nine districts classified in emergency (IPC Phase 4), where the results of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) IPC analysis demonstrated an increase in the number of people facing food consumption gaps and forced to employ emergency strategies, thus jeopardising their future (IPC, August 2019).
“The deepening hardship forced families to eat less, skip meals, take children out of school, sell off livestock and fall into a vicious cycle of debt. Little respite is expected for the most vulnerable, including subsistence farmers, who grow most of Zimbabwe’s food and depend on a single, increasingly erratic rainy season (World Food Programme, December 2019),” the report said.
HIV and Aids, the report states, continue to weigh in on the challenges the people face as they try to fight against the food crisis.
“Widespread poverty, high levels of HIV/Aids and low crop productivity also undermine food security (WFP, 2019). As a result, Zimbabwe is experiencing one of its worst acute food insecurity crises in a decade, with atypically high humanitarian food assistance needs (FEWS NET, November 2019 and United Nations, December 2019),” stated the report.
“The persisting poor macroeconomic environment, marked by hyperinflation, continued to drive the appalling acute food insecurity situation (IPC, August 2019). In July, annual inflation reached 230 percent. Extreme poverty was estimated to have risen from 29% in 2018 to 34% in 2019, meaning that 5,7 million Zimbabweans were living in extreme poverty in 2019 (WB, October 2019).”