$44 billion drought response kitty out

• Boon for 3m food-insecure people

• Millers to import 1,1 million tonnes grain

Theseus Shambare

The Government has set aside an initial $44 billion to facilitate the delivery of food to about three million people considered food-insecure, while millers plan to import 1,1 million tonnes of grain as part of a slew of measures to mitigate the effects of the El Niño-induced drought.

Beneficiaries will receive free food during the forthcoming peak hunger period under the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme.

At least 71 500 tonnes of cereals — maize, sorghum and millet — have been earmarked for distribution to all 63 rural districts targeted under the programme.

The Government will be distributing food to 59 districts, while the World Food Programme will be operating in four districts — Buhera, Chivi, Mwenezi and Mangwe.

The planned response comes at a time when the country is experiencing one of the driest seasons in recent years due to the El Niño weather phenomenon.

The recent prolonged dry spell has taken a toll on rain-fed crops countrywide.

The Government and development partners have since finalised a comprehensive food assistance strategic plan to ensure national food security.

In an interview with The Sunday Mail on Friday, Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister July Moyo said food distribution was being guided by results of the Zimbabwe Livelihood Assessment Committee.

“In order to ensure food-insecure populations are reached with assistance, the Government has set aside $43,7 billion to cater for all distribution processes during the peak hunger period (January-March 2024).

“However, it is important to point out that Treasury continues to be very supportive if there is a need to adjust the budget to ensure everyone in need is supported with food,” said Mr Moyo.

The Zimbabwe Livelihood Assessment Committee indicated that around 2,7 million people were in need of food assistance.

“The Government is reaching out to over 2,3 million food-insecure people, whilst WFP and its cooperating partners are reaching out to over 300 000,” he said.

To ensure transparency, villagers and traditional leaders are identifying the most deserving beneficiaries.

Those being targeted include communities with no or low harvests, households with malnourished children and those headed by people with disabilities,

orphans, women, the elderly, children or chronically ill people.

During the build-up to the summer cropping season, when weather experts warned of the El Niño weather phenomenon, the Government quickly permitted private businesses to import maize without paying duty.

Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe national chairperson Mr Tafadzwa Musarara told The Sunday Mail that millers had put in place modalities to ensure there is enough maize to meet the mealie meal demand.

“Between now and next year, our members will import at least 1,1 million tonnes. In the same vein, we will secure the balance of 500 000 tonnes from South Africa,” said Mr Musarara.

“Plans are also to bring more maize from South America through Beira. We thank the Government for weaning us from the GMB (Grain Marketing Board). We are now seeing liberalisation of the market.”

In addition, following completion of the first-round Crop, Livestock and Fisheries Assessment (CLAFA), the Cabinet is this week expected to release the final roadmap for the drought mitigation measures.

Acting chief director for the Agricultural Advisory and Rural Development Services Mr Leonard Munamati said the assessment is now complete.

“The first-round CLAFA is now complete, and we have presented the report to the Minister (of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development) and I think he will present it to the Cabinet on Tuesday next (this) week before the roadmap is made public,” he said.

“We also included comments in the report because when we completed our assessment a month ago, the conditions were fair but, from that time to date, most of the areas have not yet received any rainfall.”

The current condition of the crop, he added, is still good in irrigated areas.

However, for conventional fields that rely on the rains, maize is generally in a poor state.

“The crops under conventional fields are now heavily stressed, with some experiencing permanent wilting, especially the maize crop.

“But for the traditional grains, we are still hopeful that if rains come, farmers may get some reasonable yields, although not as expected.”

With some areas receiving light rains in the past few days, farmers are being encouraged to only apply fertiliser when it is appropriate to do so to avoid further losses.

“For now, farmers with small Pfumvudza/Intwasa plots close to water sources may try to use whichever method available to them to water their crops so that they can salvage something.”

During the handover of 100 vehicles to traditional chiefs last week, President Mnangagwa assured vulnerable communities of Government assistance.

“In view of the dire effects of the El Niño weather phenomenon, I want to assure the nation that measures have been put in place to guarantee adequate food for all communities of our country. I appeal to you as traditional leaders to go and reassure our people that no communities will starve,” he said.

* X: @TheseusShambare

Sunday Mail

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