Elita Chikwati Agriculture Reporter
ABOUT 2,2 million people will require food assistance between January and March 2014, the 2013 Rural Livelihoods Assessment conducted in May and June has revealed.The assessment, done by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, also projected that 1,5 million people are food insecure as the legacy of the dysfunctional inclusive Government that saw MDC-T, which held the finance ministry, starve the farming sector of funding, bites.
The funding woes were compounded by poor rains received in some parts of the country, rendering over 300 000 households food insecure.
There is, however, hope for farmers this year as Government and banks have mobilised a billion dollars to finance agriculture this season.
According to the report, areas facing dire food shortages are Matabeleland South, Masvingo, Midlands and southern parts of Manicaland.
Parts of Mashonaland East and Central have also been severely affected.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister Joseph Made recently said inadequate funding was hampering the movement of maize from Zambia into the country and the distribution of maize from areas of surplus to areas of deficit.
This has resulted in 19 425 tonnes of maize being delivered from Zambia out of the 150 000 tonnes that were sourced on a Government-to-Government agreement.
Minister Made said the Government required about US$60 million to bring in the remaining 137 000 tonnes of maize from Zambia.
He said Zimbabwe has so far paid US$10 million to Zambia and would procure more grain once funds permit.
“We have since written to the Finance ministry for more funds to enable the movement of grain from Zambia,” said Minister Made.
Zimbabwe received poor rains last cropping season, resulting in food shortages.
Some people facing serious food shortages have had to import grain from other areas with supply, while others are selling their livestock in exchange for grain.
According to the report, the 2013-14 consumption year was projected to have 25 percent of rural households’ food insecure, which is an increase of 6 percent, compared to the previous consumption year.
The cumulative energy food deficit for the rural households is estimated at an equivalent of 177 000 tonnes. The assessment projects the spread and depth of food insecurity across the country, covering all the eight rural provinces and districts.
Matabeleland North is 40,3 percent food insecure, Masvingo 32,7 percent, Matabeleland South 32 percent and Midlands 30,7 percent.
The proportions in these four areas are higher compared to the national average.
The report attributed this to parts of Masvingo, Midlands, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South not receiving effective rains for planting by end of December 2012.
Crops that were planted were affected by erratic rains. Mashonaland West, which is 13 percent food insecure and Mashonaland East at 17 percent, were projected to have the least proportion of food insecure households.
Department of Social Services principal policy analyst Mr Laxon Chinhengo said they had put in place several programmes to assist vulnerable people.
“We have the Harmonised Social Cash transfer programme that targets the poorest households which do not have labour and have older persons, persons with disabilities and also in child-headed households.
“These households are normally the poorest and food insecure. Through the programme, these households are receiving between US$10 and US$25 depending on the size of the households. So far we have assisted over 31 000 households bi-monthly.”
Mr Chinhengo said the other programme; the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme directly supported households to access food.
The department is also assisting hunger-stricken families with free food.
Under the Free Food programme, food is distributed to labour-constrained households for instance the elderly, disabled and the chronically ill.
“Approximately 20-25 percent of food insecure households are normally within this category,” he said.
Mr Chinhengo said the second programme is the Productive Safety Net in which households that are food insecure but have excess labour can participate in rehabilitation of community assets and they receive either food or cash.
He said these households are selected through existing Food Distribution Committees at community level.
“Selection of wards is done at the district level through the District Drought Relief Committee (DDRC) using the ZIMVAC reports as well as their knowledge of the district food security situation.
“Within the wards, the FDCs are monitored by members of the DDRC and base their ranking of households on current harvest, access to land, and other sources of livelihoods,” he said.
Mr Chinhengo said food distribution had been carried out since June under the Food Deficit Mitigation programme because of lack of funding.
He said the request for funding has been submitted to the Finance ministry.
“Food distribution has been done through the Grain Marketing Board for the Grain Loan Scheme which is administered by the Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development ministry.
“The major challenge has been financing from Treasury and this affected most programmes being undertaken by the department,” he said.