By Pretty Chavango
Member of Parliament for Budiriro Honourable Costa Machingauta has called upon Government and local Non Governmental Organisations to consider the plight of urban citizens when handing out food aid as the El Nino drought that has caused widespread starvation exposing everyone to hunger.
Hon Machingauta made this plea while addressing members of Parliament during yesterday’s National assembly sitting. A state of disaster was declared in February by the President over the drought situation in the country which saw more than a quarter of the population in need of food aid.
The 2015-16 agricultural seasons was declared a national state of disaster owing to the erratic rainfall and high temperatures leading to most livestock and crops dying.
The El Nino induced drought has seen a lot of families especially in the rural areas go hungry as their cattle die and their crops are a complete write- off. The unfortunate part being that the most affected ones living in the rural areas account for 67 % (9.4 million) of the total population. 30 % (2.4 million) of them are said to have insecure food for the next 12 months.
The country currently has a national cereal deficit of around 650 000 metric tonnes for the 2015-16 consumption year. The Grain Marketing Board’s (GMB) Strategic grain reserve levels are reportedly standing at 76 % below their minimum requirement. Deliveries of grain to the GMB are very low this year, with only 29 % 11,500 metric tonnes received as of early July, compared to 40,000 metric tonnes by the same time last year.
While USAID has helped to patch the gaps through food and financial aid and have so far donated USD $ 35 million in response to the drought in Zimbabwe, much more help is still needed. A knowledge brief facilitated by the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) at the American Embassy recently revealed that 75 % of maize crop had failed in Masvingo while 65% had failed in Matebeleland South. The southern part of the country has been cited as the worst affected and over 22.000 cattle have died as a result of poor grazing and water shortages.
While rural dwellers have been more affected, urban residents are also feeling the pinch as food aid is mostly focused on the rural areas. Questions were raised in parliament last month as to when urban citizens will receive aid and the Deputy Minister of Public service, Labour and Social Welfare Hon Tapiwa Matangaidze promised distribution of food relief in urban area starting this month.
Meanwhile Indian delegate Nehaal Mayoor is in the country where he is assessing the drought situation with the assistance of Zimbabwe United Nations and the World food programme as a youth envoy resource person on behalf of United Nations Development of Public Information (UNDPI) .
Farmers are being urged to shift from traditional farming methods and adjust to the shifting seasons.
Small grains like Finger Millet, Rapoko and Sorghum can be planted instead of Maize as they are drought resistant . These crops can be considered in the coming years in the unfortunate occurrence of another drought. These crops are usually shunned by farmers because they have no ready market, however considering circumstances; food security is more vital then surplus for sale.
Zimbabwe has faced back to back droughts and farmers need to be aware.