By Thabani Zwelibanzi
Most Zimbabwean families’ food stocks are expected to run out within three to four months and by September most of the country will experience a food crisis, a report by the Famine Early Warning System Network (Fews Net) says.
Initially Fews Net had classified Zimbabwe as being in the stressed stage but now expects the situation to further deteriorate to a crisis by September.
It is estimated that at least 5.3 million people face food insecurity and will have to rely on donors.
The report said, “food security outcomes persist across most of the country mainly due to the poor 2018/19 harvests and escalating macroeconomic hardships”.
Zimbabwe’s main food problems stem from a poor rainy season, with grain production falling by up to 70 percent in some areas.
“The Ministry of Agriculture second-round crop production estimates indicate the 2018/19 maize production is about 776,600 MT, 59 percent of the five-year average,” Fews Net reported.
“As market demand for maize grain remains high, maize prices continue to atypically increase in most markets for this time of year due to the poor harvest and deteriorating economic environment.
“Poor households, most of whom did not have a harvest and/or exhausted own-produced foods already, will increasingly face difficulties accessing market foods.”
The New Humanitarian said, compared to the 2017/18 season, Manicaland, Matabeleland South, and Matabeleland North all saw their maize production drop by more than 70 percent.
As a coping mechanism, Fews Net said more people, particularly those in rural areas, had resorted to selling their livestock to buy food, but this was further worsening food insecurity.
To further compound issues, the early warning system said limited water availability and access in semi-arid areas of the country meant that people in rural communities were having difficulties finding jobs such as brick moulding, construction, and gold panning.
“Increasing macroeconomic hardships will continue to affect casual labour, remittances, petty trade, and other livelihood and coping activities, thus decreasing household purchasing power,” Few Net said.
An unfolding economic crisis is also complicating the food crisis in Zimbabwe, with inflation rising to 75.86 in April according to official calculations, although some say the rate could be much higher.
In March, the United Nations launched an appeal to raise $232 million to help Zimbabwe tackle its food crisis.
It is estimated that an estimated 2.9 million people in rural areas and 1.5 million in urban areas are already severely food insecure, including 1 million facing emergency levels of food insecurity.
An additional 900 000 people are said to be at risk of reaching crisis food insecurity levels if the humanitarian assistance they are receiving does not continue.