MATABELELAND is in dire need of food aid as poverty wreaks havoc in the region with most people unable to buy essentials, a human rights watchdog has said.
BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
According to the latest Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) report, in some parts of Matabeleland North, elephants had destroyed crops, leaving villagers facing starvation.
A combination of adverse weather conditions such as the prolonged dry spell and poor planning, according to agricultural experts, is to blame for hunger stalking many people across the country.
The prolonged dry spell also wiped out drought-resistant small grains in Matabeleland South.
“All districts in the province (Matabeleland North) are in dire need of urgent food assistance as there was no harvest to talk about.
“Even the few who harvested some crops in places like Hwange and Lupane had the rest destroyed by elephants and other wild animals,” ZPP said in its May report.
“Food is available in shops, but most people cannot afford as they do not have money.
“During the by-election campaigns, however, villagers in Tsholotsho North accessed rice and maize all of which were distributed on a non-partisan basis.”
The human rights watchdog said in Matabeleland South, food was only found in shops as people did not harvest anything.
“Poverty in most districts makes the cost of food in shops prohibitive,” said ZPP
Agriculture minister Joseph Made last month said Zimbabwe would import 700 000 tonnes of maize to avert hunger following poor harvests.
He said maize production went down by 49% because of the inconsistent rains and shortage of inputs.
The government is issuing maize import licences to companies in a bid to avert hunger-related deaths, but critics say the majority of Zimbabweans have no disposable income to buy food.
Zimbabwe has suffered perennial food shortages since the government embarked on a chaotic land reform programme in 2000 that displaced over 4 000 commercial farmers.