Measures in place to avert food shortages “The new ethos and philosophy of ‘a dam as an economy’ has seen the expanded project scope, including dam construction, irrigation development, hydro-electricity generation, potable water and fisheries development as fundamental project tenets to accelerate rural development for the attainment of Vision 2030, elevate and improve livelihoods while leaving no one and no place behind,” Dr Masuka said.

Nqobile Tshili and Patrick Chitumba

The Government has put mitigatory measures in place to avert food shortages in the wake of the looming drought by ensuring food security at household level for vulnerable families across the country until the next harvest. 

Zimbabwe and Southern Africa are experiencing El Nino weather conditions, which are characterised by low rainfall and extremely high temperatures.

Due to the El-Nino weather conditions, the country has received inadequate rains this season and farmers across the country have watched their crops wilt due to extended dry periods.

The food deficit mitigation programme under which the Government provides vulnerable households with grain, will require about 24 000 tonnes per month.

The Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare is compiling a list of those exposed to hunger as the Government wants to ensure that no one dies of hunger. Those who did not harvest enough grain in the previous season, mostly from drought-prone areas, will be the first to be allocated grain.

In an interview yesterday, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo said plans are in place to assist affected people with food aid.

“The Government is fully aware that some areas and districts did not do well in terms of crop production and productivity because of the El-Nino effect. However, the Government will not let anyone die of hunger,” he said.

“We have reserves from the 2022/23 season which will be used to feed those in need. While some districts or areas didn’t do well, other areas did well and we will avail food aid to those in need of assistance.” 

Recently, the Ministry revealed that the Treasury has released $11 billion for the transportation of grain relief to vulnerable communities.

Speaking during the National Youth Day commemorations in Masvingo last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development Minister Dr Anxious Masuka said the Government will soon update the nation on the crop situation. 

He said if the country exhausts its reserves, the Government will import to ensure food security at the household level. Dr Masuka said he would assess the crop situation in two weeks and then brief President Mnangagwa if the heat wave persists.

Zanu PF Secretary-General Dr Obert Mpofu, speaking on the sidelines of the party’s victory celebrations in Ward 12 in Umguza yesterday said no one will go hungry.

“We are also coming at a time when there is drought, people have experienced the wilting of their crops, indicating that this year is going to be a bad year for agriculture. The President has assured the nation, people will not be left out to starve because of the Government’s interventions,” he said.

Dr Mpofu said the Government has put in place a plan which will ensure that people affected by drought are supported through a drought relief programme which has already started. 

He said he was aware that the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare has started initiatives to ensure that those in need are prioritised.

“The department is registering some of the intended beneficiaries to complete certain forms as they compile a database of the affected families. So, it is a massive programme which has started. So we are here to deal with those issues,” said Dr Mpofu.

Meanwhile, traditional leaders have urged the Government to intervene to facilitate food relief programmes in communities across the country where many households are reportedly running out of supplies.

In an interview, National Chiefs Council president, Chief Mtshana Khumalo, said most communities were unlikely to salvage anything from their fields.

“If you set the fields on fire, they are all going to burn. That is how I can summarise the situation in the fields. There is nothing on the fields,” he said.

“Even those who had planted late and had hoped the crops would recover if we had received rains this week, but we haven’t received the rains and their crops are also wilting.”

Chief Mtshana said communities were now hopeful that whatever rains will be received anytime from now would be crucial for livestock survival in terms of pastures. 

Given the dire crop situation, he said it was prudent for the Government to start providing communities with grain relief.

“We are just hoping that it rains in the next two to three weeks maybe we can have some pastures for animals. There is a need for the Government to support communities now,” said Chief Mtshane.

“Normally between January and February, communities would have started eating fresh maize in their fields, but at the moment there is nothing in the fields. This means that the Government should start providing for the communities and will need to support them for longer periods.”

Chief Siachilaba from Binga said the situation was now desperate for most areas in the district as there were no more prospects of harvesting anything.

 “Most of the crops are now a write-off and even if it starts raining, we don’t think that the crops will recover. Government should start making interventions to assist communities, the whole district of Binga is in a desperate situation,” he said. 

Chief Ngungumbane from Mberengwa District, Midlands province said the crop situation in his area was a complete disaster.

“The food situation in Mberengwa District as a whole is dire. The crops have failed and the villagers are in urgent need of food assistance because they might end up starving if nothing is done to rescue the situation,” he said.

Chief Njelele from Gokwe also concurred saying that poor rains have dampened prospects of good harvests in his area and communities were now looking up to the Government for assistance.

“The rains disappeared soon after we had planted our crops and when farmers replanted, the crops did not do well because the rains came late and were very excessive. Our appeal at the moment is for the Government to start moving grain to this area to assist those in need,” he said

Chief Dakamela from Nkayi District, Matabeleland North also painted a gloomy picture from his area.

Chief Mphini Ndiweni from Bulilima District in Matabeleland South said the situation was dire as areas under his jurisdiction are not expecting to harvest anything.

“We last received rains in January and all the crops have wilted. We are mainly concerned about our livestock, we lost a huge number of cattle between last year and the beginning of this year,” he said.

“The pastures are not adequate and we might lose more cattle this year. We are, therefore, calling upon the Government to come up with measures to provide stock feed for animals.”

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