Government officials question ZimLAC findings on urban food security

The Zimbabwe Livelihoods Assessment Committee (ZimLAC), in its Urban Livelihoods Assessment, has reported that low-density urban households are not food insecure, unlike high-density families, who will receive cash transfers to buy food during the drought.

However, some government officials argue that this assessment is not entirely scientific, as some households in low-density areas are impoverished. Excluding such families could create tension between them and the government.

The Minister of Public Service, Labour, and Social Welfare, July Moyo, disclosed that ZimLAC findings, which have been approved by the Cabinet, indicate that low-density households are better off in terms of food security.

“We have said in the low-density areas there is no hunger,” the minister said to murmurs of disapproval at a drought mitigation meeting with DDCs and social welfare officers from Matabeleland North,  South and  Bulawayo in the city on Sunday.

The minister responded by saying he was stating what the ZimLAC had reported.

“I am not ZimLAC. I am just stating what I’ve been given and what has been approved by the Cabinet. But you have a case, you can put it through, But we have been directed to look mostly at the high-density areas because they are the ones who have always been receiving cash transfers,” Moyo said.

“That’s what we are looking at for now, until I am told otherwise and I have to make it back to the Cabinet to say, ‘oh, there is some hunger there (in low density) but not as much as in the high-density areas,” he said. 

During the plenary session, Tsvagai Fikile Marovatsanga from the office of the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Bulawayo, who was part of the ZimLAC teams, stated that the study did not include low-density families.

“Minister, you spoke about the ZimLac issue where we are only concentrating on people from the other side and not the other side. Yes, it is a scientific approach, I want to agree with you but then we did not make any assessments from the other side (low-density areas),” she claimed.

“ZimLAC only assessed the other side (high-density areas) and I am sure there are people who are suffering.  I was the DDC for Ward 2 and 3 and we do have people that are suffering from between Ward 1 and Ward 5. I think those should also be considered. That is my take. I was also involved but we did not do it.”

Marovatsanga suggested that they could do a study of low-density households by going door to door to establish the extent of food insecurity.

“They are not so many, but they are there,” she said.

Bulawayo Provincial Development Coordinator (PDC) Paul Nyoni weighed in that some families in low-density households were suffering economically.

“There are some houses (who are struggling). Drive around the houses, you will know their problems. The houses are falling apart, some are occupied by grandchildren,” he said.

The minister conceded to this revelation and said “Ok, let’s see how we can do it.”

In an interview with journalists, the minister said the social welfare department will conduct mini-testing of the low-density households.

“When talking about ZimLAC, we are talking about the food basket, total poverty basket, disposal incomes from city to city, town to town, all those are taken into account to come up with figures. Some percentages are lower or higher,” he said.

Moyo also acknowledged that tension could arise between residents and the government if they were excluded.

“Well (tension) is possible but I’m saying we are dependent on the ZimLAC report. They are the ones who came up with this. I listened to the Minister of State (Judith Ncube) and obviously, we must interrogate this,” he said.

“We still have enough professionalism to do mini-testing on a smaller scale. I’m sure through the social welfare department they can do mini-testing on those low-density areas but the numbers won’t be as big as numbers that we are finding in the high-density areas.”

Meanwhile, the minister stated that according to ZimLAC, cities and towns were assigned a proportion of the depth of hunger based on population.

“In Bulawayo, the percentage of hunger is 41 percent,” said Moyo.

“We are going to give 41 percent of that 7 142,  the cost of a 10kg mealie meal which we cost at US$8. For now, we will be giving US$57 136 and since we are going to be distributing for 10 months, the figure will be US$571 376.”

“So the total amount that we need for 10 months is US$17 587 950 to feed or to give cash to 219 849 people.”

The minister said the percentage of the food insure in Beitbridge was 21.6 percent,
Victoria Falls – 38.5 percent, Hwange – 38.8 percent, Plumtree – 37.7 percent while Kwekwe Redcliff has 59.7 percent, which is one of the highest in terms of instances of poverty.

“So we use these figures and the population is given not just by ZimVAC but also by the census produced last year. The task ahead is how to select beneficiaries. We have given you the wards and made some suggestions which we want to tease out,” Moyo said.

“You will be surprised that some areas that you will think generally are poor like Caledonia are richer than several cities. But when you look at the type of houses that are being built by individuals in Umguza, I have seen the type of houses built in the Upper and Lower rangemore, definitely, the people who are building there are not poor. Or if you go to Cowdray Park, it may not be as poor due to the type of people who are building out there. So that is our challenge.”

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