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Community assessment of food security and the social situation in Zimbabwe

Civic Monitoring Programme
integrating the FOSENET Food Security monitoring

Contact: fsmt2@mweb.co.zw

February 2004

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Summary

The February 2004 report is drawn from 146 monitoring reports from 60 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe, with an average of 2.4 reports per district.

Food security is gradually improving, primarily due to early production yields and available wild foods. Food security is however still low with 91% of households having food stocks of a month or less. Thirty-five districts (58%) report a worsening food situation, reduced from 79% in January, while a fifth (22%) report improving food supplies, a significant increase on the 11% in January, and due to early planted crops being harvested. Food insecurity appears to be highest in Manicaland and Matabeleland provinces.

Households continue to be dependent on GMB, relief and commercial food, with about a tenth sourcing food from own production.

Availability of fertilizer and seed appears to have remained relatively constant since January, with availability in about half of districts.

GMB deliveries were reported to have been improving since January 2004 in terms of quantities being delivered and the frequency of deliveries to sentinel wards. Communities continue to note problems in GMB food distribution, including rising prices, influential people accessing GMB food ahead of others and political bias.

Commercial availability of basic foodstuffs (maize meal, oil, sugar and bread) is higher in February 2004 than it was at the same period in 2003, significantly so in some provinces. Price is the major reported barrier to food access from commercial markets, with monitoring reports in half the districts noting that 50% or more of households in the district could not afford prevailing maize meal prices.

Households unable to afford food are reported to carry out farm work for food, rural gold panning and urban vending and to rely heavily on relief.

The government cash for work programme was reported present in thirty two districts (53% of districts).

NGO Relief activities were reported present in forty four districts (73% of districts) including urban areas, a relatively constant level compared to January 2004. Reports indicate the relief programmes are generally now focused on the most vulnerable groups, including school children, the elderly, pregnant women, orphans and people with TB and AIDS.

There was some movement by people from urban and resettlement areas to rural areas where relief food is being distributed. The greater reporting of movement of people to areas of relief food distribution than of relief food leakages into commercial markets indicates that the system for relief distribution has remained relatively free from leakages, although biases in access continue to be reported.

Inward or outward population migration was reported in 50% of the districts, an increase on the figure reported in January 2004 (36% of districts) and similar to the figure reported in November 2003 (47% of districts). People are reported to be moving due to the cost of living, for incomes, due to land tenure changes or for political security.

Households reported that they used a range of approaches to deal with economic difficulties, most individual household actions rather than community actions
  • Not buying medicines when ill (Manicaland)
  • Sale of personal goods to raise funds for survival (Manicaland)
  • fishing in dams, selling river sand, bricks and other goods (Mashonaland East)
  • sale of vegetables and fruit (Mashonaland East)
  • commercial sex work (Manicaland, Mashonaland East)
  • working as housemaids (Mashonaland Central)
Sixteen districts(26%) reported that households were selling assets, similar to the 28% reported in January.

Health service provision was reported to be reasonable in relation to infrastructures and nurse staffing. However safe water and drug supplies were less available. Cost is also reported to be a barrier to health care, with clinic fees reported to range from Z$700 - Z$15 000.

Community reports noted that school dropouts are attributable to economic difficulties, with parents or guardians failing to raise money for school fees and levies, given the increases imposed at the beginning of the year. School fees were reported to range from Z$ 300 - Z$70 000 per term, and levies from Z$425 - Z$50 000. The other significant cost reported for households was the cost of uniforms. The groups reported to be most affected by fallout from education were members of child headed households (due to AIDS deaths) and extremely poor households.

In February 2004 58% of districts reported that communities met their Member of Parliament or councilor during the month, a significant increase compared to January 2004.

Communities seem, however, to lack access to information. On agricultural prices for example only half of districts said they could adequately access information, with 30% of these getting information from formal media, especially print media, 23% from word of mouth and 15% from traders directly.



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