Many Zimbabweans still hungry in spite of higher food production says UN

25 June 2009Although agricultural production has increased this year, with the maize crop to have more than doubled, high food insecurity persists in Zimbabwe, according to a new report released jointly by the United Nations food and agriculture agencies. This year’s abundant rainfall has resulted in the amount of maize harvested – 1.14 metric tonnes – recording a 130 per cent increase over 2008.But the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) study warned that this winter’s wheat harvest is only expected to yield 12,000 tonnes, the lowest ever, due to the high cost of fertilizers and seeds, farmers’ lack of funds and the unreliable electricity supply for irrigation.The Zimbabwean Government’s liberalization of most of the economy’s sectors, with the adoption of the United States dollar and the South African rand as legal currencies, has brought the annual inflation rate down to zero from its high last year, estimated by the World Bank to be 56 million per cent.In addition, grain market reform has led to the free movement of grain, which has now filled shops at a lower price.But for many households without access to foreign currency, food remains out of reach, the agencies cautioned.Despite this year’s bountiful maize crop, “having depleted their food stocks and sold livestock and other assets to cope with the effects of recent crises, many rural households are still struggling to survive,” said WFP’s Jan Delbaere, who co-led the UN mission early last month which produced the new report.According to the report, some 2.8 million Zimbabweans will need food assistance between April 2009 and March 2010. Only 1.4 million tonnes of the more than 2 million tonnes of cereal needed will be produced domestically this year.The agencies recommend that the Government and the international community provide fertilizer and seed to help farmers, noting that for Zimbabwe’s food production to become sustainable, the country will need to re-establish its domestic seed industry, promote conservation agriculture and rehabilitate its irrigation facilities.

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