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CIVIC MONITORING PROGRAMME integrating the FOSENET Food Security monitoring

Community Assessment of Socioeconomic Development and Food Security in Zimbabwe

June and July 2004

Posted with acknowledgements to the Civic Monitoring Programme.
Further details on the CMP can be obtained from: fsmt2@mweb.co.zw
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The June/July 2004 report is drawn from 166 monitoring reports from 58 districts in June and 142 reports from 51 districts in July from all provinces of Zimbabwe.

Summary

Households continue to rely on their own harvests for food. About two thirds of households reported to be sourcing food from their own harvests in June and July 04. Urban households are reported to be sourcing food from improved commercial supplies and maize grain sales from rural areas.

A falling share of districts reported improvements in food availability in June and July. Falling food availability was reported from 22 district sites, mainly in Masvingo, Manicaland, Matebeleland South and North Provinces. This was reported to be associated with lower crop yields in these areas, with reports of poor rains and shortages of inputs (fertilizer and maize seed) in the 2003/2004 planting season. Average to good harvest yields were reported in sites in central areas of the country. The SADC FEWS NET Zimbabwe Monthly Food Security Update in June 2004 supports these findings from the CMP, and noted that 22 rural districts were estimated to have produced insufficient cereals to meet the needs of their populations.

Food stocks have remained relatively low, with sentinel wards reporting in July 04 that 39% of households have stocks of less than a month and that 29% of households do not have any food in stock, a slight increase on levels reported in May and June 2004.

The reported food security situation is better than at the same period in 2003, as also observed in the UN Zimbabwe Food Security Brief issue no.4, May 2004. Households reported to be more vulnerable to food insecurity are child headed households, people ill with AIDS and TB, unemployed people and the elderly.

Maize seed availability has improved in June and July 04, while fertilizer availability is reported to have fallen slightly in the same period. Sorghum seed was only reported to be available in 5% of districts.

The prices of fertilizer and maize seed were reported to have remained stable between January and June 04. While fertilizer prices remained stable in July 04, significant increases were reported in maize seed costs in the month. Monitors report that with cost inflation, households with sufficient funds seek to secure inputs early, but that for many of the poorest rural households, the costs of commercial seed and fertilizer make this unaffordable.

Commercial food availability has continued to be high in June and July 2004, and is at levels similar to that reported in June and July 2003. The reported price of maize meal in commercial markets has risen between June and July 04 in seven provinces by an average of $3 000 / 10kg. High and increasing prices of commercial foods are reported to be a major problem for food security in a third of districts, particularly for poor households in urban areas for whom commercial food is a major source of food.

Prices reported from CMP monitoring indicate that reported maize meal prices in commercial markets have been rising at the same rate as the Central Statistics Office Food Consumer Price Index (CPI), but appear to fall below the food CPI during months when harvest yields provide food (April, May) and rise above the food CPI when food from harvests are less available (February, July).

Non government relief activities fell markedly from 61% of districts reporting relief activities in May 04, to 50% in June and 27% of districts in July. These activities now target pregnant mothers, the elderly, school children, TB and AIDS patients and no site reported any general food distribution to households.

In June and July 2004 the government cash for work programme was reported to be operational in two districts and to have stopped in twelve districts, the reason reported being shortage of funds.

Drug availability reported in health services (using indicator drugs) has remained relatively stable since March 2004. 88% of sites report that their clinic has a nurse available. Fee charges reported at clinics continued to vary widely.

Reported fee charges and levies for primary schooling was also reported to vary widely with twenty fold differences from lowest to highest and highest fees in urban areas.

One form of social response, particularly to economic pressures, has been that of migration. Population movements between districts have remained relatively constant with a quarter of districts reporting such movements. The pull factors for movements include lower costs of living outside major urban centres and opportunities for earning incomes, such as from gold panning or migration to neighbouring countries. Push factors, mainly from urban areas, include the costs of services, rates and rentals.

Communities have used a range of strategies to respond to economic pressures:

  • Strategies to boost incomes including working on other peoples farms, gold panning, gardening and vending vegetables and fish
  • Sale of household assets, including of livestock and ploughs, have been reported from a relatively constant share of districts since May 2004.
  • Strategies to cut spending and consumption, including buying in small quantities for single meals, reducing the number of meals and food transfers from rural relatives
  • Strategies to pool or reduce costs, including forming groups and buying in bulk, working in the zunde ramambo and forming food committees.
Some of these reported strategies can create future problems for poor households:

  • Where reduced consumption affects goods and services essential for health and social development (eg) cutbacks in soap, food, schooling and health care)
  • Where household asset sales leave households with little reserves to meet shocks like AIDS and drought
  • Where households cut back on production inputs, such as reported for fertilizer or sale of ploughs, as this has the effect of reducing future earnings.
This makes strategies that boost incomes or that reduce or share cost burdens an important target of support at community level. While many of the current reported income generating strategies appear to be implemented at the individual level, those aimed at sharing or reducing costs appear to be built on strengthening co-operative and collective mechanisms at community level. It is not clear how inclusive either set of strategies are of the most vulnerable groups.



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