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CIVIC MONITORING PROGRAMME integrating the FOSENET Food Security monitoring

Community assessment of the food security and the social situation in Zimbabwe


May 2004

Posted with acknowledgements to the Civic Monitoring Programme
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The May 2004 report is drawn from 150 monitoring reports from 52 districts from all provinces of Zimbabwe, with an average of 2.9 reports per district.

An increasing share of households are reported to be sourcing food from their own production, with an increase to 63% of sites reporting this in May compared to 44% in April 2004. Despite this the share of sites reporting improved food availability is reported to have fallen in May 2004, reversing an upward trend since February 2004.

A relatively constant two thirds of households report having stocks of a month or less. The reported level of household food stocks in May 2004 is higher than that reported in May 2003.

While reported food insecurity is lower than 2003, there are particular areas and social groups who appear to be more vulnerable. Food availability is reported to be lower in Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North, Mashonaland East, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces. Those reported to be more vulnerable to food insecurity continue to be orphans, AIDS and TB patients, the unemployed, the elderly.

Previous monitoring reports have noted that seed and fertilizer availability and cost are a major constraint to food production. Availability of these inputs was reported in about a third of sites. The reported costs of these inputs has remained stable since February 2004, compared to the increases in cost reported prior to this date, and have not followed increases in the Consumer Price Index. It will be important to track whether these real reductions in seed and fertilizer costs persist into periods of high demand later in 2004 and this will be monitored in future rounds.

Reported deliveries from the GMB continued to remain low in terms of frequency, quantities delivered and areas covered by the distribution. GMB deliveries are reported to have increased between November 2003 and February 2004 and fallen thereafter, with increased GMB deliveries noted during periods of reduced food availability from household production.

Reported GMB maize prices have remained constant and are significantly lower than commercial prices. It is not clear how far this subsidy on GMB prices is particularly available to the areas or social groups more vulnerable to food insecurity reported above (see Table 5 below).

Commercial food was reported to be widely available in May 2004, significantly more so than in May 2003. The reported barrier to household access is not availability but cost, particularly in urban areas where grain from own production is reported to be less available. The price of maize meal in commercial markets was reported to have increased in May 2004 to upper price levels of between $18 000- $21 000 /10kg. Food prices in May 2004 are 350% higher than they were in May 2003.

The government cash for work programme was reported to be operational in 21% of districts and non governmental and UN relief programmes to be operational in 61% of districts, a constant level compared to April 2004. Community reports in both urban and rural areas indicate that medical fees and drug cost are a major constraint in health care. Clinic fee levels are reported to vary widely from Z$120 to Z$35 000, with the highest reported level at $35 000 in Mashonaland East.

Primary school fees per term were reported to range from Z$325 to Z$95 000 with highest fees reported in Manicaland and the lowest in Midlands. School levies were reported to range from Z$425 to $100 000. Communities reported in 56% of districts that high school fees and levies have resulted in some children of school going age failing to go to school, particularly children of unemployed parents and orphans.

The profile of social and economic conditions in May 2004 indicates increasing commercialization of basic social and economic needs, as people are having to spend an increasing amount to secure these needs. Household spending is reported where there are shortfalls in public sector provision of social services (eg to access drugs) or where there have been production shortfalls (eg food).

Community responses have ranged from

  • strategies to boost incomes (eg: market gardening; trading; income generating projects; buying and selling fish, moulding bricks for sale; working in other people's farms to get food as payment
  • strategies to use savings: with household asset sales in a third of districts,
  • strategies to cut spending and consumption (eg: reducing number of meals; withdrawing children from school; using less expensive health providers (clinics; herbalists)
  • strategies to pool or reduce costs (eg: purchasing food as a group then sharing the commodities; forming village food committees
As reported in previous rounds of CMP monitoring, households report having too few resources to provide sustained support of vulnerable groups within communities. It would appear that efforts to support production activities in communities, boost incomes and strengthen public services are more sustainable intervention strategies. Future quarterly monitoring will thus report in more detail on employment, production and incomes at community level.

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