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Assessment of the Food Situation in Zimbabwe

July 2003

FOSENET: NGO Food Security Network

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Posted with permission of FOSENET
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The National NGO Food Security (FOSENET) involves 24 non government organisations that collectively cover ALL districts of Zimbabwe, and all types of communities. FOSENET members subscribe that food distribution in Zimbabwe must be based on a platform of ethical principles derived from international humanitarian law:

  • The right to life with dignity and the duty not to withhold or frustrate the provision of life saving assistance;
  • The obligation of states and other parties to agree to provide humanitarian and impartial assistance when the civilian population lacks essential supplies;
  • Relief not to bring unintended advantage to one or more parties nor to further any partisan position;
  • The management and distribution of food and other relief with based purely on criteria of need and not on partisan grounds;
  • Respect for community culture and values of solidarity, dignity and peace
As one of its functions FOSENET is monitoring through its monitoring working group food needs, availability and access.

Fosenet monitoring for July 2003 is drawn from 142 monitoring reports from 50 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe.

The improvement of food availability from local harvests has begun to plateau in July, forewarning future shortages in late 2003. Initial indicators suggest that food shortages may cover half of districts in the country. Many districts report that food needs are likely to be severe by October 2003.

After some improvement of household food stocks in March to May, stocks are now beginning to decline again. While nearly a quarter of households had more than one months food supply in May, this had fallen to 14% by July.

Districts reporting no improvement or worsening situations are clustered in Matebeleland North, Matebeleland South, and Manicaland. These are provinces where chronic food scarcities have been reported since 2002.

An increasing number of people are reported to be moving between districts to secure food. Although movement has become a critical survival strategy, it is also an increasingly costly and time consuming one, with 86% of districts reporting transport difficulties in July compared to 42% in May 2003.

Households currently face severe constraints in accessing seed and fertilizer which will affect 2003 planting if not addressed. In five provinces all districts reported that seed was not available and in two provinces all districts reported that fertilizer was not available. Prices of seed and fertilizer have increased since May 2003 by over 100% in formal and parallel markets. About a third of households report that they have no access to tillage or draught power. Matabeleland North and South are particularly disadvantaged.

While support for these inputs is critical for production in the 2003/4 season. no reports were made of such inputs being organized. Only a quarter of districts reported that they had been visited by an AREX officer in the past month. In only 7 districts (14%) were there reports that households had planted any winter crops (generally wheat). This indicates that households will significantly dependent on any foods produced in the coming season.

Inadequate or absent GMB supplies continue to be noted. The frequency of GMB deliveries in July was half that reported in May and the volume of grain less than 20% the May volume. Communities believe that GMB reduced its deliveries on the assumption that there were good harvests even in places where harvests yield were poor.

Some districts reported that farmers were compelled to sell their grain to GMB. In such districts the failure of GMB to deliver adequate supplies leaves the district with a food deficit. Such GMB generated deficits and the strong price incentive for farmers to sell their grain in urban parallel markets has reduced maize grain availability in rural areas.

There has been a significant increase in the reported price of GMB maize from Z$580/50kg to Z$13000/50kg.

Commercial supplies of food have generally improved and are better than they were a year ago in August 2002.

Commercial supplies have however escalated in cost. Parallel market prices have increased to an upper price range of Z$10 000/10kg, a 136% increase on May 2003 prices. With both GMB and commercial price escalation, poor people are finding it extremely difficult to afford maize. For areas like Matabeleland North and South that have had sustained food insecurity, supply side scarcities and cost inflation are likely to escalate both poverty and malnutrition.

Relief was reported to have stopped in 54% of districts. The transition from relief to recovery seems from reports to be inadequate and the participation of communities poor. Only half the districts reported that communities were adequately informed about relief supplies stopping. People were not clear about the criteria for stopping and were concerned given the poor harvests. Only three districts reported any ongoing preparation for future food needs and there were no reports of support for production inputs.

Districts predicted that with poor local stocks relief needs would increase in late 2003. Communities were however most concerned about the continued problems in accessing production inputs to move from relief to recovery.

Food scarcities are thus likely to grow in the coming months. Of even greater concern is the fact that even if rains are good, unless seed and fertiliser are made available harvests could continue to be poor. This will especially affect the poorest households who cannot afford the priced inflation on these inputs, widening income inequality in rural areas.


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