At least 3.8m people in Zimbabwe are facing acute food insecurity following a sharp drop in agricultural output in the last cropping season due to erratic rainfall renewing fresh calls for urgent intervention to rescue the situation.
Production of maize in the 2021/2022 season is projected at 1 557 914 metric tonnes, reflecting a 43% decrease from 2 717 171 metric produced in the 2020/2021 season.
In the 2022 Rural Livelihoods Assessment report, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), director general, George Kembo said nearly 400 000 metric tonnes are required to feed the food insecure population.
“At peak [January to March 2023], about 38% [3.8m people] of the rural households are projected to be cereal insecure and this is an increase from 27% reported in 2021.
“Matabeleland North (58%) is projected to have the highest prevalence of cereal insecurity during the peak hunger period,” Kembo said.
About 30% of households are projected to be food insecure during the third quarter (October to December 2022).
About 13 districts are projected to have over 50% of their households being cereal insecure with the highest cereal insecurity is projected in Hwange (73%), Binga (71%), Mwenezi (66%) and Buhera (65%).
The least cereal insecurity prevalence is projected in Guruve (9%), Bindura (12%), Kwekwe (12%) and Sanyati (13%).
Manicaland (641,058) and Masvingo (629,078) are projected to have the highest populations of cereal insecure people during the peak hunger period.
The ZimVAC report comes as the World Food Programme last month added Zimbabwe on the hunger hotspot list.
The WFP said climate shocks are also contributing to the increase of acute food insecurity in places such as Benin, Cabo Verde, Guinea, Kenya and Zimbabwe.
This week, Japan donated US$500,000 to help Zimbabwe fight food insecurity. The money will be channelled through the WFP.
WFP representative in Zimbabwe Francesca Erdelmann said at the handover of the money that the funding comes at a critical time, with many vulnerable families struggling to put food on the table.
“Not only has poor rainfall during the recent growing season resulted in widespread crop failure, prices of food, fuel and fertilisers have surged due to the conflict in Ukraine. Families are now being forced to sell off livestock and other precious belongings to be able to buy food,” Erdelmann said.
The contribution from Japan will support food distributions during the start of the lean season, October to December 2022, when WFP aims to assist more than 400,000 people.
Since 2019, Japan has contributed over US$24.6m to WFP-supported food assistance and resilience-building for vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe, as well as nutrition support for pregnant women in maternity waiting homes.
In 2021, Japan contributed US$5.75m through WFP to support vulnerable, food insecure communities in Zimbabwe that were severely impacted by climate shocks and Covid-19.
The government is committed to irrigation development as the long-term solution to achieving sustainable and climate resilient agriculture and through the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Development; government has come up with an Accelerated Irrigation Rehabilitation and Development Plan to accelerate irrigation rehabilitation and development.
The ministry is targeting to increase cropping area under irrigation from 116 000 ha to 350 000 ha by 2025.
There are 450 smallholder irrigation schemes out of which 50% (225 schemes) require rehabilitation.
A total of 92 schemes will be rehabilitated in 2022.
The ministry is also targeting the introduction of irrigation scheme business managers to manage the schemes as business cases.