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Civic Monitoring Programme integrating the FOSENET Food Security monitoring

Community Assessment of Food Security and the Social Situation in Zimbabwe

Contact: fsmt2@mweb.co.zw

December 2003 / January 2004

Posted with permission of the Civic Monitoring Programme
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    This report is the first of a broader monitoring of food security and social welfare at community level by the Civic Monitoring Programme. Monthly monitoring will be complemented by quarterly monitoring of specific areas of social welfare. The first quarterly report will be on health and education. Proposals for health and education issues to monitor are welcomed and should be sent by March 15 to fsmt2@mweb.co.zw

Summary

Monitoring information for December 2003/January 2004 is drawn from 141 reports from sentinel wards in 53 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe.

More than three quarters of the districts report a worsening food situation, an increase of 10% in the districts compared to November 2003 .

Fertilizer availability has improved, with more than 45% of districts reporting fertilizer available on the local market compared to a third in November 2003. Seed availability has also improved, with half (54%) of districts noting seed to be available on local markets, compared to a quarter (28%) in November 2003.

Improved supplies are however counteracted by increased costs. Prices of fertilizer have increased by 27% since November 2003, although median seed prices have remained relatively constant in the same period. This may reflect falling demand for seed after planting but continued demand for fertilizer.

Community reports indicate that 50% of households in districts do not have any food stocks and less than 40% have stocks to last them just one month

Commercial supplies of food have improved markedly in January 2004 compared to January 2003. Cost rather than supply is now a more important limiting factor in food access.

Maize meal is found primarily in informal markets with prices in January 2004 approximately ten times higher than a year ago (January 2003). The average price of maize meal has risen by over 44 % since November 2003, with 10kg maize meal being sold for up to Z$16000 and Z$25000 on the formal and parallel market respectively.

Half of the districts reported 50% or more of households unable to afford current maize meal prices. Those who cannot afford these prices are reported to be seeking work on farms where they are paid in food or to be resorting to gold panning.

GMB deliveries were reported to have improved in January 2004 in terms of both frequency and volume of delivery. GMB Grain prices are also reported to have risen markedly in the period, with reported increases of 66- 120% across all provinces. Food shortages and rising input costs and food prices have led to persistent dependency on food aid, despite improved availability of market supplies . The major reported problems relating to the GMB thus concern issues of access, with continued complaints of problems and bias in access, including political bias.

Relief was reported to be present in thirty four districts (64% of districts). Urban areas now report relief activities, although to a lesser extent and only covering school children, the elderly, and TB and AIDS patients. Barriers to relief include deserving beneficiaries left off lists due to marginalisation or reported political bias, transport and access problems for ill and vulnerable groups, lack of clear information on relief programmes, and shortages in overall supplies.

Migration in and out of districts is reported to be taking place in 36% of the districts. This level of reported migration is lower than that reported in October 2003 (53% districts) and November 2003 (47% districts). The major reasons given for the movement of people are of former farmworkers moving into rural and urban areas to seek refuge, or find areas to settle. There is some report of people leaving rural areas due to political harassment. Some urban to rural movement is reported into resettlement areas, but there is also report in Manicaland of people leaving newly settled forest areas. Urban to rural movement for gold panning continues to be reported across Mashonaland and Manicaland.

Monitor reports indicate the growing squeeze on households to meet basic needs. This has now extended beyond food, and includes rising costs of health, education and other basic services.

Clinic fees were not commonly reported, and in the 13 districts (25%) where they were reported ranged from $118 to $15 000. Communities do report serious difficulties buying drugs however due to high prices. Inadequate staffing of clinics is reported to be a barrier to care in a quarter of districts, and drug availability in half of districts.

School fees were reported to average $11 000 per term, while levies were reported to average $12 000 per term, with a combined total for households of $23 000 per term. The range for fees was $105 to $45 000 and for levies $500 to $50 000. Economic hardships, parents failure to pay fees and a high rate of orphaned children due to AIDS were the most commonly noted reasons given for children dropping out of school in January 2004.

Economic deterioration is thus a major issue and a concern for households. While food insecurity has contributed significantly to household poverty, the significant deterioration in people's living standards covers wider issues of access to and costs of basic goods and services.

Coping strategies were reported to be primarily individual and household based. As household resources have become stretched, so community and social inputs for vulnerable groups have fallen. This is compounded by the lack of contact between people and their elected representatives. In only 8 districts (15%) did people report having seen their elected representative (councilor or MP) in the past month.

The Civic Monitoring Project welcomes feedback on these reports.
Follow up queries and feedback to CMP, Box CY2720, Causeway, Harare
fsmt2@mweb.co.zw



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