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Zimbabwe Optimistic on Food Security This Year

Food-insecure women leave a World Food Program relief center in Mudzi district, Zimbabwe, about 200 km east of Harare, Feb. 2020 (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)
Food-insecure women leave a World Food Program relief center in Mudzi district, Zimbabwe, about 200 km east of Harare, Feb. 2020 (Columbus Mavhunga/VOA)

Zimbabwe says it has started preparing for a bumper harvest, the country’s first in two decades. But aid agencies say they still need to ensure about four million people have enough food, especially in urban areas where business has been hurt by the COVID-19 lockdown.

Zimbabwe’s government says above average rainfall levels and conservation agriculture are bearing fruits for the country, which for many years has largely depended on humanitarian aid.

Information Minister Monica Mutsvangwa said this week that according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe will produce 2.8 million tons of corn, the country’s staple crop, against a target of 1.8 million tons needed for consumption.

She said the government is getting equipment in place to handle the harvest.

“Regarding timeous harvesting of grain, an additional 72 and 21 combined harvesters from the John Deere Facility and the Belarus Programme will be mobilized. [The] government is also mobilizing internal capacity for combine harvesting through the repair of 25 non-functional combines which are owned by institutions and individuals. In the same vein, the ministry is importing an additional 13 mobile grain dryers from Italy,” Mutsvangwa said.

When the harvest comes in, it should drive down the cost of food around the country.

But that does not fix everything for Zimbabweans in urban areas struggling to making a living.

About 40 kilometers away from where Mutsvangwa spoke is Epworth, one of the poorest townships in Zimbabwe. There, 48-year-old widow Caroline Chanyaruka is enrolled in the World Food Program’s urban resilience program, which helps people launch income-generating projects. She now makes mushrooms from biowaste. She eats them and sells the surplus to look after her seven children.

“Hunger is such a terrible thing. It’s worse for a widow like me. For school fees, food and everything the children look up to me,” Chanyaruka said. “So, it’s difficult for a woman to do it alone. This [WFP] program has helped me during these lockdown periods. It also helped my children as they somewhat get occupied with watering the mushrooms. They now have something to do even in their future.”

Claire Nevill, the spokeswoman of the WFP in Zimbabwe, says Chanyaruka is one of more than half a million urbanites the U.N. agency is trying to help be food secure in the wake of the COVID-19 lockdowns and Zimbabwe’s moribund economy.

Others, Nevill says, receive cash handouts of $12 each.

“This cash assistance has proved to be a lifeline for thousands of Zimbabweans right now and has allowed WFP to remain agile to the changing context in Zimbabwe. The outbreak of the COVID-19 has exacerbated Zimbabwe’s economic instability and has had a devastating effect on urban residents, many of whom were living hand to mouth working multiple jobs in the urban sector,” she said.

Still, Nevill added the WFP is facing a funding gap of around $45 million.

She said with more funding, the WFP can reach millions of Zimbabweans affected by the pandemic and the lagging economy.