HomeLocalGovt blocks FAO food assessment mission

Govt blocks FAO food assessment mission

THE Zimbabwean government has called off a joint crop and food supply assessment mission with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), humanitarian sources have claimed.

The FAO was prevented from carrying out similar surveys in 2004 and 2005. Humanitarian agen

cies in Zimbabwe said the government’s decision to call off the FAO mission was related to a UN World Health Organisation (WHO) report, which said the country’s women have the shortest lifespan in the world.

“They (Zimbabwean government) are very upset about it (the World Health Report 2006 by WHO),” said an aid worker. The study’s results released earlier this month were based on 2004 statistics indicating that Zimbabwe’s women now have an average lifespan of 34 years — the lowest in the world — while that of men is 37 years.

The Minister of Health and Child Welfare, David Parirenyatwa, has reportedly declared these statistics false. Agriculture minister Joseph Made told Irin that the government was going to conduct crop and food supply assessments on its own, without the involvement of local and international NGOs. “The government has the capacity to do the task at hand. We will only invite others where we need help.”

Last week, he insisted that the only legitimate surveys would be those carried out by a special government committee headed by the Central Statistical Office.

The FAO said it was aware of press accounts that Made was not pleased with “backdoor” assessment missions, but was still awaiting an official response.

“FAO is always ready to assist member countries with such missions but the organisation must maintain its credibility and capacity to speak freely and openly regarding the mission’s findings,” said John Riddle, FAO spokesman.

“These statistics are needed by the government and the people of Zimbabwe — not all these other foreign agencies competing to (be part of) the assessment”, Made told Irin. “Once the figure is given, it will be up to us to decide on what to do next.” He refused to be drawn into giving a crop estimate, but insisted that the harvest would be better because the rains had been good.

The Ministry of Agriculture has started sending officials into the countryside to carry out this year’s pre-harvest food security survey.

“We are deploying officers to all provinces, districts and wards. We need one week to carry out the assessment. If all goes well, the results will be ready by late next week, but only through the Ministry of Agriculture,” Shadreck Mlambo, a senior official with the Agricultural Extension Services, told local media at the weekend. — Irin.

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