Zimbabwe food security improves

Although food security in Zimbabwe improved significantly following government efforts and a US$70 mn international assistance programme providing farmers with subsidized inputs, the country still needs agricultural and food assistance next year for some 1.68 mn people.

These are the main findings of a report released today on a joint mission to Zimbabwe in June by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the UN World Food Programme to assess the national crop and food security situation.

The mission found that the area planted under maize, the main staple, increased by 20 per cent in 2010 to the highest level in 30 years and production rose seven per cent over 2009.

Compared with the poor 2008 season when less than 500,000 metric tons of maize was harvested, production more than doubled in 2009 and 2010 to 1.27 and 1.35 million tons respectively.


International support
“The generous international support for the 2009/10 input campaign significantly contributed to this year’s relatively good harvest results, even if in some areas of the country rainfall distribution was uneven,” said Cristina Amaral, Chief of FAO’s emergency and rehabilitation operations in Africa.

“Despite the improved availability of food, up to 1.68 mn people will need food assistance because prices remain comparatively high for families with low incomes and little or no access to U.S. dollars or South African rand,” said WFP’s Jan Delbaere, co-author of the report.

“Zimbabwe has only 1.66 mn tons of cereals available as against a total needs forecast of 2.09 mn tons in marketing year 2010/11 (April/March). That leaves a 428,000 tonne shortfall,” said Liliana Balbi, Team Leader, FAO Global Information and Early Warning System.

Part of this will be covered by commercial imports, projected to total 317,000 tonnes of cereals, including 200,000 tonnes of maize.


Food assistance

The mission estimated 1.68 mn Zimbabweans would be food insecure in 2010/11 and 133,000 tons of food assistance would be needed to feed them. The report said that general poverty and chronic food insecurity had led to reduced diversity of consumption and had also contributed to an increased prevalence of chronic malnutrition among young children. The report indicates that lack of liquidity remains a constraint to accessing inputs and increasing food production.

The 2009/10 input assistance programme, jointly formulated by AGRA, FAO, IFAD and WFP, proposed a quick impact programme that aimed to substantively boost smallholder staple food production in Zimbabwe. The international community responded well and FAO received contributions from a number of donors, such as the European Union, the United States of America, the Netherlands, Sweden, Spain and Finland. The EU made the largest financial contribution under the European Union Food Facility for Zimbabwe in the amount of €15.4 mn ($20 mn).

In total 51,500 tonnes of fertilizer and 6,500 tonnes of maize seeds were distributed to 738,000 households. FAO also promoted conservation agriculture that helped farmers to improve soil fertility through the use of techniques such as maintaining soil organic cover, reducing tillage and better crop rotation. The programme also promoted the use of vouchers which farmers could use to get the inputs they needed from local suppliers. The agricultural support programmes need to be continued during the next planting season to consolidate the gains achieved so far.

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