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CIVIC MONITORING PROGRAMME integrating the FOSENET Food Security monitoring

Community assessment of food security and the social situation in Zimbabwe

March 2004

Posted with permission of the Civic Monitoring Programme.
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Civic organizations have through the monitoring Group of the National NGO Food Security Network (FOSENET) been monitoring food security in Zimbabwe since July 2002. In 2004 this monitoring has been widened to cover other social and economic conditions, recognizing the wide range of conditions influencing social and economic wellbeing. The Civic Monitoring Programme is implemented through NGOs based within districts and community based monitors. Monthly reports from all areas of the country are compiled to provide a monthly situation assessment of food security and social welfare to enhance an ethical, effective and community focussed response to the current situation. Queries and feedback on these reports is welcomed and should be directed to the Civic Monitoring Programme at

The March 2004 report is drawn from 150 monitoring reports from 58 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe, with an average of 2.6 reports per district.
There has been an improvement in food availability in March. While the share of districts reporting poor food security remains relatively constant, the number of districts reporting an improvement in the food supply situation has nearly doubled since February, attributed to relief and harvested crops. Poorest food security continues to be reported from Masvingo, Matebeleland North and Matebeleland South provinces.

An increasing proportion of community reports note households are relying on own produce as their main source of food as harvest yields begin to come in. Despite this 84% of households are reported to have food stocks of a month or less. Vulnerable groups continue to be the unemployed, the aged, orphans, AIDS and TB patients and former farm workers, for the latter particularly in Mashonaland Central.

Fertiliser and seed availability has remained constant since February with nearly half the districts reporting maize seed and fertilizer available. Prices reported in March show a marked downward trend in fertilizer prices but a continued increase in maize seed prices in both formal and parallel markets. The increased maize seed price has been attributed in other reports by the UN to have resulted in a reduced area planted with maize and a substantial shift to sorghum planting to compensate for the unavailability of maize seed.

GMB deliveries, after showing an improvement in supplies in February, plateaued in terms of coverage in March and showed a decline in reported frequency and delivery volume. Prices of GMB maize are reported to be unaffordable for the unemployed and the vulnerable groups not covered by relief programmes. These prices are buffered by the availability of grain from harvests at present but are likely to become a more critical constraint when grain from harvests is not available, particularly for those households who were not able to earn a surplus from harvests.

The price of maize meal also appears to have remained stable during the period February to March 2004, with median prices of $20000 per 10kg in the formal market and $25000 per 10kg on the parallel market reported. In more than a quarter of monitoring reports, a half or more of households in the wards were reported to be unable to afford maize meal prices.

Those who can not afford maize meal prices are reported to be working for others for food , engaging in petty trading, waiting for food relief and selling assets to raise money to buy maize meal.

The government cash for work programme was reported to have fallen slightly in districts covered, and that people felt the payments of $5000 as too little to assist with food security. UN and NGO relief programmes continue to be widespread but largely limited to feeding of school children and targeted vulnerable groups. Reports were made of people going to other areas to access relief food , particularly from urban to rural areas or from resettlement areas to former homes in communal wards.

Reported inward and outward population migration has fallen from 50% of districts reporting this in February to 33% in March. Reasons for movement include former farm workers looking for pieces of land in communal areas to build homes, movement for gold panning and movement out of urban areas because of high cost of living. Reports were also made of people moving into districts with better harvests seeking to work for food.

A wide range of coping strategies thus continue to be used to secure food:

  • Working for food in other peoples fields/farms

  • Reducing the number of meals

  • Households collectively contributing to buy a bag of maize meal

  • Sale of household goods/livestock to raise money for food

  • Engaging in gold panning

While asset sales are similar to those reported in previous months some household assets are now being confiscated by moneylenders after failure by households to repay loans taken last year to buy food.

Reports indicate improved drug availability, but also report increased cost barriers to use of health services. School drop outs are also reported to occur primarily due to failure to pay fees, with children most affected reported to be children of unemployed parents and orphans.

The main form of community support for social needs and caring is reported to be the family, and wider networks of support are poorly resourced or scattered. Many poor households are reported to be poorly informed on social funds for education assistance. These issues appear to be discussed at community level, with a significant increase reported in meetings with MPs and councilors. These meetings reportedly covered food , health and the 2005 elections. During March 72% of districts reported this compared to 15% in January.

  CMP welcomes feedback on these reports
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