Though field conditions remain drier than normal for this time of year, erratic rains have prompted many communal farmers in Matabeleland, Masvingo and other regions to start planting crops.
Everson Ndlovu, a development and relief aid worker in Tshelanyemba communal lands, Matabeleland South Province, says some farmers in the region are taking advantage of the rains to plant maize and drought tolerant crops such as sorghum and millet.
A Gutu farmer, who asked to be identified as Mukoma Mike, says most farmers in Gutu District, Masvingo Province, remain confident that they will have good harvests this season despite the late rains.
According to the government’s Meteorological Services, some parts of Zimbabwe are expected to receive above normal rains this season.
However, Meteorological Services Department director Tichaona Zinyemba declined to comment on the rain outlook, saying he is on leave.
Zimbabwe’s cabinet recently revised upwards the number of people in the country who are likely to need food assistance from 1,6 million to 2 million.
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) had originally estimated that over 1.6 million people would be food insecure between January and March next year, the peak hunger months in the country.
The hardest hit areas are Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South, and - most worryingly - the normally food secure Mashonaland Central Province.
The United Nations World Food Program says the deteriorating food situation was caused by erratic rainfall and dry spells, limited access to agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer, a reduction in the planted hectarage, poor farming practices and inadequate crop diversification.
This year’s cereal harvest was 1,076.772 metric tonnes – one third lower than that of last year and the lowest since 2008.
To meet the increased needs, the WFP and its partners would undertake food distribution with regionally procured cereals as well as imported vegetable oil.
The organization has a food budget deficit of $87 million after setting aside $119 million for food aid.