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Zimbabwe food security and vulnerability assessments - April 2004 report

Report No. 4, April 2004, Harare


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  1. Zimbabwe Country Context

    Zimbabwe has a population of 11.6 million people (CSO August 2002) with the bulk of the population living in the rural areas of the country.

    The country’s economy has faced a lot of challenges in the last five years with GDP falling by 28.7% between 1999 and 2003 and expected to decline further by 6.5 percent in 20041. Annual inflation rose consistently from 228% in April 2003 to 622.8% in January 2004, but with a fall to 500% by April 2004. Between March and December 2003 the Zimbabwe dollar lost over 360%2 of its value against the United States dollar, but rates stabilised during the early months of 2004 alongside the decline in inflation and the introduction of new economic policies. The National Food Poverty line for a household of 5 persons increased by 639.5% between April 2003 and March 2004 with minimum wages not keeping pace with the increasing cost of living in the country (Labour and Economic development research Institute of Zimbabwe, 2004). The structural unemployment estimated to be above 60% of the employable population of Zimbabwe (Human development Report 2003).

    Most recent estimates in Zimbabwe indicate that 1.8 million people are living with HIV/AIDS, with an adult prevalence rate of 24.6%3. The impact on food security of the pandemic has been through loss of coping mechanisms at the community level and the generally poor long-term nutrition status of the population.

    Purpose of the Assessment

    The April 2004 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment aimed to appraise the food security and livelihood situation throughout the country, in order to identify areas in need and rural populations likely to be food insecure in the 2004-2005 marketing year and to determine their short and medium to long term livelihoods needs. This should inform decision-making, both on programme interventions and possible policy options.

    The specific objectives of the assessment were:

    • To identify areas and socio-economic groups likely to be food insecure and to predict the extent and intensity of food insecurity at national and sub-national levelsTo identify major constraints and opportunities to support sustainable rural livelihoods.

    • To establish changes in livelihoods and coping strategies of rural households over time.

    • To understand the gender and age dimensions of sustainable rural livelihoods.

    • To examine the linkages between rural livelihoods and HIV/AIDS, education, child protection, health, nutrition and water and sanitation.

  2. Overview of Methodology of Assessment

    1. Technique

    2. A “Livelihoods Based Vulnerability Analysis| (LBVA) framework based on household surveys and focus group discussions was used for the ZimVAC April 2004 assessment. The approach used is adapted from the LBVA adopted by the SADC Regional VAC in March 2003. The LBVA covers a wide range of issues, including availability of, and access to, food, water, shelter, health, education and child protection.

    3. Data Collection

    4. The sampling frame for the April 2004 survey was based on the list of all sites covered in the April 2003 survey, updated for completion and coverage of provincial, land use and Food Economy Zone sectors. A random sample of sites was selected from this list, and, within each site, a village was identified for conducting the household interviews and community focus group discussions. Wherever possible the selected village was one that had also been visited in the 2003 exercise.

      A total of 93 sites were selected across the country and within each selected village 25 household and one community interview were conducted. A total of 2,243 household interviews were conducted in 92 sites and the resultant analysis sample consisted of 2,170 household and 90 community interviews.

    5. Survey Logistics

    6. The survey was conducted from April 20th to May 4th 2004. A total of 13 teams of 66 field researchers representing NGOs, UN and Government carried out the exercise. To facilitate data capture, researchers used Personal Digital Assistants supplied by the World Food Programme.

    7. Data Analysis

    8. Data analysis was undertaken using SPSS software. To determine food security conditions for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 consumption years, data was analysed by province, farming sector and Livelihood Zone. Linkages were made between food security and indicators of household welfare, including proxies for HIV/AIDS were explored. Extrapolation of the results to district level was done by linking Livelihood Zone data with CSO August 2002 ward level census data. The community interviews were analysed separately, and then linked to household data to provide a complete picture.

  3. Summary of Key Findings

    1. Demographics

      • Sample - The sample covered every district in the country and more than 75% of all sampled households were in the Communal areas whilst approximately 8% were in Old resettlement and small scale farming areas, 13% in newly resettled A1 areas, and the remainder (2%) in operational Large scale commercial farming areas.

      • Household Activities - Most households interviewed were engaged in farming activities (70%). A number of households were also engaged in other livelihood activities with market gardening being the most common (13%) followed by mining (6%).

      • Household Composition - The largest households were found in Matabeleland North and South and smallest in Mashonaland East. Over 30% of the households had elderly persons (60+ years) as members.

      • Head of Household Profile - A number of head of household characteristics are summarised below.
        • Female-headed households were most common in Matabeleland North and Midlands(35%) and least common in Mashonaland West (20%).

        • Overall 27% of households had a head aged 60+, most commonly in MashonalandEast.

        • One fifth of all households recorded the head as being widowed, most commonly in Midlands

    2. Review of the Situation in 2003-04 Marketing Year

      • National Food Security Situation 2003-04 - The cereal requirements for last year were estimated at approximately 2.4 million MT. Of this total, maize constituted about 1.9 million MT. With the 2003 harvest production reported at 1.1 million MT of cereals including carry over stocks, the cereal gap was estimated at 1.3 million MT.

      • Food Insecure Rural Population in 2003-04 - 56% of the rural population was estimated to fallshort of their minimum cereal requirements during 2003-04 compared to 76% in the 2002-03 marketing year.

      • Coping Strategies and Consumption Patterns - Improved food security in the rural areas has resulted in most households reducing their consumption coping strategies during December to March, compared to the same period 2002-03. In particular, there were significant reductions in the proportion of households skipping entire days without meals, eating unusual foods, or eating only vegetables.

      • Agriculture4 - Area planted to cereals for the 2003 season ranged from 0.13 to 50 acres increasing by 9% from the 2002-03 season, predominantly in the A1 resettled areas.

      • Household Health - Malaria was overwhelmingly accorded the highest ranks followed by HIV/AIDS and diarrhoea.

      • Child Protection Issues - Overally, 21% of households reported having one or more children aged 15 or less labouring full time on the farm whilst 37% had children engaged in part timework. The number of children labouring full time or part time drops consistently as the household’s food security status improves and households with orphans have a higher average number of children labouring full time than those without orphans.

      • Migration – Overally, 15% of communities reported higher than normal out-migration and 23% reported higher than normal in-migration. Major reasons for out-migration were seeking jobs and food whilst reasons for in-migration were seeking jobs and food and also ill health.

    3. Projections for Household Food Security 2004-05

    4. Food security for the marketing year April 2004 to March 2005 was determined from household data collected on crop production and livestock holdings and predictions of income expenditure on cereals and other sources of cereals, and was extrapolated from the findings of the previous year.

      • Predictions of Food Security 2004-05 - A total amount of 177,681 Mt of cereal will be required to meet the needs of a population of about 2.3 million people in the rural areas who at the peak of the hunger period (Dec – Mar) will not be able to meet their food requirements during the 2004-05 season. This is equivalent to 29% of the total rural population and represents a significant decrease of the predicted situation a year ago (56%). The highest numbers of the population predicted to be food insecure will be in Manicaland and Midlands provinces. The extent of the cereal deficit varies across the three periods with the largest deficit being expected in the period December to March.

      • Population with Food Deficit - For the period April to July the proportion of the food insecure population will range from 4% in Mudzi to 41% in Hwange with more than half of all districts having less than 20% of the population facing a deficit. The level of need varies across districts with Nyanga, Mutasa, Mberengwa, Insiza, Bulilima, Umzingwane, Kariba, Tsholotsho, Binga and Hwange having at least 30% of the population food insecure during the period up to July 2004.

      1. Possible intervention Strategies

        Short Term Strategies Household Food Deficits

        In order to meet the food requirements of the 2.3 million people expected to be food insecure in the coming year, a number of measures could be introduced:

        • Targeted cash transfers - safety nets would be most appropriate in areas where there is food surplus but isolated pockets of vulnerable households. In other areas, cash transfer programmes should be continued and active efforts to ensure that food would be made available on the market for purchase.

        • Community Food Granaries – Zunde raMambo

        • Targeted food aid – beneficiaries should be the most vulnerable households

        • Subsidizing of cereals for vulnerable households - Though is an expensive option, it is recognized that prices of cereals could substantially alter the number of food insecure households but even at minimum prices there will still be just under 10% of the rural population who are so chronically poor that their incomes would be inadequate to purchase sufficient cereal requirements.

        • Internal redistribution of cereals - internal movement of food must be facilitated to ensure that food reaches all areas where there are needs.

      2. Long Term Food Security and Livelihoods recovery strategies

      3. To address long term food and livelihood insecurity at both national and sub national levels, efforts by government and partner organizations should be directed at poverty reduction and these could include:

        • Strengthening measures to control inflation to ensure that food and other basic goods and services are affordable to the population.

        • Continued support for towards agricultural recovery.

        • Continued support for livestock recovery programmes.

        • Continued investments in the social services, in particular health and education.

        • Continued and intensified efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS pandemic, in terms of prevention, mitigation and treatment and support for those infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.

        • Continued efforts to address the plight of orphaned children.

      4. Monitoring and Further Research

      5. Projecting food security requires making a variety of assumptions, particularly about prices and, in turn, households ability to access food commodities. It is very important, therefore, that monitoring of food security and livelihoods is carried out to review the validity of assumptions and to account for any unpredicted changes that may occur. The key variables to monitor will include:

        • Maize prices and availability (both from the GMB and inter households markets)

        • Livestock prices and terms of trade

        • Cash crop prices and returns

        • Provision of external assistance (e.g. food aid, other transfers)

        • Responsiveness of different income sources to changes in the cost of living

        • Utilisation ie nutritional status indices

  1. Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Selected Economic Indicators 2004.

  2. Pararrel Market rate.

  3. Zimbabwe National HIV and AIDS Estimates (2003), MOHCW, CDC,UNAIDS.

  4. This section excludes those reporting no land (91 households) predominantly in the large-scale commercial farming sector and ex-farm workers in A1 areas. All averages are taken over non-zero areas.

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