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Drought-prone regions face starvation

RURAL households in Masvingo, Matabeleland provinces and the extreme western and northern areas are now running out of cereals and they need urgent government and humanitarian food assistance to avert possible widespread starvation. 

The Famine Early Warning System Network for Food Security Outlook (Fewsnet) from October 2010 to March 2011 said in the next six months an increased number of people in areas which were the most affected by poor rains during the 2009/2010 agricultural season were likely to face starvation.
“As the lean season commences most households in the traditionally grain deficit provinces of Masvingo, Matabeleland, the extreme western area, and northern area of the country have run out of their own cereal stocks and are already reliant on inadequate and erratic maize supplies on the market,” reads the report.
Fewsnet said the people’s hope now lay with humanitarian and government food assistance programmes.
“Though there is likely to be an improved supply of basic commodities on the market throughout the outlook period, prices of basic commodities are expected to increase, limiting access for the very poor and poor households in urban areas. These affected households are expected to be moderately food insecure throughout the outlook period,” read the report.
“The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) grain sales are not very significant across the provinces, some cereal deficit households prefer buying from traders whose prices are lower. Despite the limited supplies on the market, households are also facing access challenges as prices of grains on the market are picking up and this is expected to prevail through to the next harvest in April/May. As a result, most vulnerable households will require food assistance.”
The report said according to an assessment by ZimVAC Rural Livelihoods, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and Matabeleland South provinces and northern parts of the country had the highest prevalence of food insecurity due to the dry spell in the second half of the 2009/2010 cropping season.
“As is expected, a majority of very poor and poor households have run out of their cereal stocks and are relying more on the market to meet food requirements.”
“The main shock affecting households in this zone and other parts of the country is the high cost of agricultural inputs. Farmers might not benefit from the predicted favourable rains in both halves of the 2010/11 rainy season if they fail to access the costly inputs. Though inputs are readily available on the market, a majority of the small-holder farmers are not likely to afford this.”

Wongai Zhangazha

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