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NGO Food Security Network

Community assessment of the food situation in Zimbabwe, November 2003

Posted with permission of FOSENET. Responses to this report can be sent to
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The National NGO Food Security Network (FOSENET) involves 24 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 that derive from international humanitarian law, viz:
  • 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 the provision of 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, and without adverse distinction of any kind;
  • Respect for community values of solidarity, dignity and peace and of community culture.


Two thirds of districts report a worsening food supply situation, a small reduction from October 2003, with the improvement primarily due to relief supplies.

The pattern of vulnerability has remained the same, viz: The elderly, the unemployed, people living with AIDS, displaced farm workers and orphans. There is further report of displacement of farmworkers and new report of farming activities being disturbed by violence around political activity.

In and out migration has been reported in 47% of the districts. This represents a slight decrease from the 53% reported in October. The reports indicate that the increase in costs of travel have affected movements, including for food.

Food prices in the formal and parallel market continue to rise beyond the reach of many. People are reported to be hungry even when the staple foods are available on the market. GMB food which is relatively more affordable is widely reported to be scarce. Only 17% of districts were reported to have GMB deliveries during the month.

Fertiliser availability has improved over the past month. A third of the districts report fertilizer available on the local market compared to the quarter that reported this in October. Maize seed supply has however fallen as 28% of districts report seed availability compared to the 35% reported in October. Some seed distribution activities are reported to be taking place in districts. Inadequate supplies, high demand and inflation continue, however, to push the fertilizer and maize seed prices up by between 30 - 40% in the past month.

Commercial food availability is better than it was at the same period last year, using maize meal and cooking oil as indicator foods. Escalating prices continue to be the major problem in accessing commercial food. The parallel market is reportedly serving as a major source of food as well as a source of income for urban residents.

Relief was reported to have resumed in thirty six districts (62% of districts). Relief activities are now widely reported in major urban areas for the first time. Lack of relief in resettlement areas was noted in reports. The cash for work programme was reported to be taking place in half of the districts, an increase on the 22% reported in October.

Reports of political interference with food distribution were made from 19% of districts, with reports coming from all provinces.

Reports of asset sales to raise money to buy food were made from twenty six districts (45%), equal to that reported in October. The impact of these sales, the trends on school access, particularly with rising fee levels, and the impact on wider household social welfare and poverty will be explored in more detail in the January monitoring. This and future rounds of monitoring will now widen the review of household wellbeing in Zimbabwe to examine the wider issues related to social and economic wellbeing and to food security. Past rounds of food security monitoring have highlighted that household and community food security are directly linked to wider economic and social factors, with economic inflation, poverty, AIDS and ill health, transport costs, social and political marginalization undermining food security, and poor food security and some food seeking activities undermining health, education access, household assets and leading to deepening poverty. The food security monitoring is thus now widening in 2004 to a wider civic monitoring to inform the wider range of relief and recovery strategies needed to address these issues.

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