Millions of Zimbabweans have received food aid over the past decade as the country's agricultural sector collapsed under the impact of a chaotic land reform program, but now South African churches are collecting food to send to what might seem an unlikely group of recipients: aging white commercial farmers left destitute in the process.
Commercial Farmers Union Agricultural Recovery and Compensation manager Ben Gilpin said his organization will channel the food packages to the farmers who are mostly over the age of 65, have no source of income and are no longer able to work.
The union will also urge the British government, which has scaled back such assistance, to step it up again, and ask the Zimbabwean government to lend a hand.
Gilpin said former commercial farmers receiving such aid lost their financial assets in the seizure of their farms, saw their savings wiped out by the hyperinflation that ravaged the Zimbabwean economy through early 2009, and have no pensions.
He said some farmers sunk large amounts into farm improvements only to be driven off their farms by liberation war veterans and other supporters of President Robert Mugabe who launched land reform in 2000. Most large farms ended up in the hands of senior officials of Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - Mr. Mugabe's own family holds several.
Development worker Liberty Bhebhe said food handouts from South African churches should also go to the thousands who lost their livelihoods as a result of land reform.
“We understand that the General Plantation and Agricultural Workers Union is currently assessing the needs of ex-farm workers who also need help in terms of food aid and other basic necessities,” Bhebhe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Gibbs Dube.