FRW news in brief

    | February 24, 2014

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    1- Zimbabwe: Government agency shortchanges small-scale farmers

    For the past 83 years, Zimbabwe’s state-run Grain Marketing Board, or GMB, has supported small-scale farmers by paying them to produce grain. Now the GMB is being blamed for neither paying farmers nor properly managing the country’s grain reserves.

    Zimbabwe’s Minister of Agriculture recently stated that the government cannot expect farmers to produce if they’re not being paid. Small-scale farmers are the backbone of the country’s food security, providing about 70 percent of its staple crop, maize, according to agricultural analysts and government estimates.

    Over two million people, a quarter of Zimbabwe’s rural population, will require assistance in the 2014 “lean season,” according to a government officials and members of the UN’s World Food Programme.

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    2- Sahel: Twenty million people threatened by food insecurity

    The United Nations is appealing for $2 billion US to feed and care for 20 million people across the Sahel.

    The Sahel suffers from regular droughts, cyclical floods, epidemics and locust infestations. According to the UN, food insecurity in the area has almost doubled over the last year, and deteriorating security in several countries is adding to the problem.

    The situation has been complicated by recent conflicts in Mali and Sudan, and ongoing violence in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.

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    3- Crop-eating pests plague farmers in southern Africa

    In Zimbabwe, a new outbreak of army worms has destroyed 800 hectares of cereal crops and 300 hectares of pasture.

    Subsistence farmers have been hit the hardest. Even those who can afford to spray against the pest find their efforts diluted by heavy rains. Over two million Zimbabweans require food assistance, according to the UN’s World Food Programme.

    Army worms have also been reported in Malawi, Mozambique and eastern Zambia. In Malawi, 2,600 hectares of crops have been affected and 500 hectares completely destroyed, according to the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

    The border area between Malawi and Mozambique is also being hit by outbreaks of red locusts. The Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee says the outbreaks have caused food shortages that will affect 1.85 million people.

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    Editor’s note: FRW published a story on this subject in February 2013 (FRW #235): Southern Africa: Armyworms threaten crops and pastures