Zimbabwe: Villagers skip meals to save scarce food (AFP)

| October 5, 2015

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Rural Zimbabweans are skipping meals and foraging for wild fruit. Food stocks are running low after a poor harvest blamed on drought and the country’s controversial land reforms.

Rabian Chidamba is a mother of four who lives in Musana district, northwest of the capital, Harare. The 40-year-old has cut the family’s intake to two meals a day as she carefully manages her small stock of maize. She says, “Even if the children complain of hunger, there is nothing we can do about it.”

Breakfast is tea with home-baked maize-meal bread, while supper is maize meal and fried kale, occasionally supplemented with a small serving of meat.

Mrs. Chidamba still has some maize in her granary, but her next harvest is April or May of next year. She says, “Our harvest came to 10 bags of maize instead of the 30 bags we usually get.”

Mrs. Chidamba usually sells surplus maize to raise money for her children’s school fees and other necessities. But this year she doesn’t have enough to feed her family.

At least one and a half million Zimbabweans need food aid, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, or WFP, and other aid agencies.

Zimbabwe used to produce a good maize harvest. But the country has become a perennial importer following a slump in agricultural production.

President Mugabe says the low yields are due to erratic rains caused by climate change. Other factors include the lack of fertilizer, seeds, and farming equipment.

The Zimbabwean government has relaxed import regulations to allow individuals and private companies to import grain to supplement local supplies. The agriculture ministry says that, so far, imports consist of maize from Zambia and maize meal from South Africa.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has appealed to development agencies and the private sector to provide cash to ensure that the vulnerable are not “exposed to hunger and starvation.”

WFP says it will start distributing food at the end of September. The recipients will work on projects such as building small dams, repairing roads, and starting vegetable gardens.

Tinashe Mubaira is an information officer at WFP. He says, “Because of the poor harvest this year, food security levels are deteriorating earlier … [in] the lean season than usual.”

The government says that the worst affected areas are the southern provinces of Matabeleland North, Masvingo, and Matabeleland South.

Zvidzai Nyakudirwa is a storekeeper in the Chinamhora communal lands northeast of Harare. He says desperate villagers have been bartering their livestock for maize, and often getting a bad deal.

Mr. Nyakudirwa says that most of his customers are travellers passing through the settlement, not local residents. He says, “It’s tough for many families here.”

To read the article on which this story was based, Villagers in Zimbabwe skip meals to save scant food, go to: http://news.yahoo.com/villagers-zimbabwe-skip-meals-save-scant-food-062421742.html

Photo: A Zimbabwean farmer is seen holding a dried corn cob, near Bikita. Credit: AFP Photo/Alexander Joe