via Poor utilization of land behind Zimbabwe’s hunger threat | SW Radio Africa by Tichaona Sibanda 23 October 2013
Hunger is stalking millions of people in Zimbabwe as food insecurity grows amid concerns the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is on the verge of collapsing, according to our correspondent in Harare.
Simon Muchemwa, who has been to several districts in the country in the last month, told us the current high levels of food insecurity are being attributed to various factors, including the controversial land grab program and poor farming methods.
Muchemwa said the situation is being made worse by the GMB, which has shut down most of its depots due financial problems. The GMB is the country’s leading grain trade and marketing company but it owes farmers millions in dollars from previous farming seasons.
Unlike previous years where food shortages where concentrated in drought prone areas, this year the crisis is affecting even the most fertile of lands in Mashonaland, Manicaland and Midlands provinces.
Speaking on our weekly program The Hidden Story, Muchemwa said since the start of the year, the grain reserves have been running dangerously low, and the situation has been worsened further by farmers concentrating on cash and not food crops.
Once dubbed the ‘bread basket of the region’, the country’s thriving agricultural sector has taken a severe knock after the violent takeover of white-owned commercial farms by President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF government.
The country now imports grain from Zambia and Malawi — countries to which it used to export. Many of the white farmers who lost their farms and resettled in Zambia are the ones now providing the grain to Zimbabwe.
‘The problem with farmers who benefitted from the land reform exercise is that they are mainly growing tobacco for export and only a small percentage of farmers are growing maize for consumption,’ Muchemwa said.
Our correspondent added that during his tour of the countryside, he witnessed vast swathes of prime land not being utilized.
This week, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) contributed US$25 million to support vulnerable families suffering the effects of drought and a poor harvest.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) will use this contribution, along with additional donor funding, to support a relief operation for over 2 million of the most food-insecure people during the lean season between October and March 2014, when the next harvest is due.