Tendai Mugabe and Talent Chimutambgi
President Mugabe yesterday declared the 2015-16 agricultural season a national disaster due to the dire effects of the El Nino weather phenomenon that has seen the country receiving normal to below normal rainfall.
In a statement yesterday, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the declaration was aimed at mobilising resources to alleviate food shortages.
Among other things, the declaration also seeks to undertake the tasks of ensuring and supervising the programme of effective delivery of relief supplies for people and livestock as well as emergency irrigation programmes.
The declaration also seeks to nurture linkages with the private sector, development partners and non-governmental organisation agencies to ensure a well-coordinated response to minimise distress and suffering caused by the drought.
As a result of the El Nino phenomenon, livestock deaths had also increased significantly in most parts of the country.
Currently, a total of 16 681 livestock deaths have been recorded, with Masvingo province being the hardest hit with 6 566 deaths.
“Given the foregoing, demonstration on the magnitude of the significant impacts and the continued threats of El Nino phenomenon-induced drought, His Excellency, the President has declared a state of disaster in regard to severely affected areas in communal and resettlement lands of Zimbabwe effective from February 2 2016,” Minister Kasukuwere said.
“Subsection (1) of Section 27 of the Civil Protection Act (Chapter 10: 06) provides that if at any time it appears to the President that any disaster is of such a nature and extent that extraordinary measures are necessary to assist and protect the persons affected or likely to be affected by the disaster in any area of the country, the President may, in such a manner as he considers fit, declare that, with effect from a date specified by him, a state of disaster exists within an area or areas specified by him in the declaration.
“The seasonal outlook indicated from the outset that the 2015-16 rainfall season for Zimbabwe was likely to experience normal to below normal rainfall throughout the country. This weather condition has been brought about by the El Nino phenomenon.
“This phenomenon is highly associated with droughts and prolonged dry spells in most sub-Saharan countries.”
Minister Kasukuwere said over 95 percent of Zimbabwe received less than 75 percent of the rainfall that they would have received by this time of the year.
He said the cropping season started late in all provinces and some parts of the country were yet to receive significant rains for planting.
“The maize crop condition was adversely affected with as much as 75 percent write off in Masvingo province and 65 percent write-off in Matabeleland South province,” said Minister Kasukuwere.
“The maize crop condition in other provinces ranges from poor to fair and largely at vegetative stage.”
Minister Kasukuwere said indications from the 2015 ZIMVAC Report showed that at least 1,5 million people were facing food shortage with all the 60 rural districts affected in varying degrees.
He said preliminary indications from the 2016 ZIMVAC Report were that provinces with the highest proportion of the food insecure population include Matabeleland North which stood at 40 percent, Midlands at 30 percent, Mashonaland East at 17 percent and Mashonaland Central at 21 percent.
“Overall, the food insecure population has risen to 2 444 000, 26 percent of the population,” Minister Kasukuwere said.
He noted that dam levels were declining due to the poor rainfall season and the national average was currently 51 percent full.
Minister Kasukuwere said all the catchment areas were below the expected levels except for Manyame and Mazowe.
“Runde catchment is lowest at 27,4 percent,” he said.
“Boreholes are drying up particularly in the southern provinces and 31 percent are non-functional. Livestock have to move in excess of five kilometres in search of water. Grazing is expected to improve in areas currently receiving rains.”
As a result, Minister Kasukuwere said livestock prices had significantly dropped in some areas and the problem was worsened by outbreaks of foot and mouth disease.
The current El Nino phenomenon is affecting all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.