Government rescues food-insecure families

Peter Matika, peter.matika@chronicle.co.zw

GOVERNMENT has distributed maize and traditional grains to over 200 000 food-insecure families across the country so far through the Food Deficit Mitigation Programme targeted at cushioning vulnerable citizens following the El Nino-induced drought.

The registration for more vulnerable populations is continuing in all the provinces in line with President Mnangagwa’s promise to ensure that no one dies of hunger in the country.

In a post-Cabinet media briefing with journalists yesterday, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Minister, Dr Jenfan Muswere, said about 26 percent or 2 715 717 people were food-insecure during the period January to March 2024, citing the 2023 Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC) estimates.

He said Matabeleland North Province has the highest food-insecure population, with 42 percent requiring assistance, while only 12 percent of the population will require food assistance in Mashonaland West Province.

“The food insecure population requires 100 482 metric tonnes of grain during the three-month period. The registration of food-insecure people and the distribution of grain has commenced in all areas across the country’s eight rural provinces, and is being led by the traditional leaders who are ably supported by councillors and Government officials,” said Dr Muswere.

He said to date a total of 2 722,46 tonnes of grain comprising 405 tonnes of traditional grains and 2 317,46 tonnes of maize has been distributed to 247 576 food-insecure people.

“Communities and households in distress are urged to contact their respective Ministers of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution, who will in turn communicate with the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare on the food requirements,” said the minister. 

“The registration of beneficiaries and distribution of grain will continue unabated during the El Nino-induced drought period.”

Regarding the 2023/2024 agricultural season first round crops, livestock and fisheries assessment, Minister Muswere said the exercise seeks to ascertain the area planted for crops and their state, as well as determine the status of livestock and  fisheries, to estimate seasonal production for purposes of guiding, planning and policy interventions.

“Government is seized with the food security situation in the country and is intensifying efforts to ensure that no one and no place is left behind in terms of food sufficiency,” he said

The country is now pinning its hopes on irrigation farming with the country’s 10 600 dams having the capacity to irrigate two million hectares, yet only 217    000 hectares have functional irrigation while some 72 000 hectares were planted under irrigated maize in the 2023/2024 season.

Livestock

Dr Muswere said the Government has been improving irrigation by 10 000 to 15   000 hectares annually from 2020 to 2023, up from 2000 to 3000 hectares before this review.

He also said over 57 000 boreholes have been drilled by the Rural Infrastructure Development Agency (Rida) and the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa).

“Ensuring sustainable food security requires accelerated irrigation rehabilitation and development and the establishment of village business units to mitigate the effects of climate change,” said Dr Muswere.

“To this end, the existing and innovative irrigation development programmes are being promoted in order to increase the area under irrigation. 

“Equally important, is the need to harness diaspora participation in investing in agricultural financing with particular focus on irrigation investment, in order to foster modernisation and industrialisation of rural areas.”

Dr Muswere said an investment conference on irrigation financing will  be hosted this year to attract both internal and external investors to provide the necessary impetus to accelerate irrigation rehabilitation and development and village business unit programmes to ensure food security.

Irrigation

“The major outcome expected from the conference is that investments will enable the country’s 10 600 dams to be utilised for irrigation,” he said. 

“More drilling rigs with the capacity to drill up to 450 metres will be procured. An initial target of 10 000 village business units will be established by November 2024. 

“Finances will be mobilised to accelerate the establishment of the targeted 350 000 hectares for summer irrigation.”

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