42 000 receive food aid
MUTARE — Over 42 000 households are currently receiving food aid from government and developmental partners with more expected to join the food relief programme as drought takes its toll on Manicaland province.
The food relief beneficiaries are drawn from parts of Mutare rural, Marange and the entire Buhera district, which was declared as one of the most vulnerable by the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC).
Government officials have since recommended that more districts, namely Mutare and Chipinge should be placed under the ZIMVAC programme.
Out of the seven districts in the province, only Makoni and Mutasa are expected to record favourable yields despite the below normal rainfall.
Officers from the department of Agriculture and Extension Services (Agritex) officers toured the province last week to assess the impact of the poor rains.
Senior provincial officials have indicated that the rains would only improve pastures and crops that were above knee height.
Statistics gathered by the Financial Gazette gave a gloomy picture of the agricultural sector in the province.
A total of 3 309 cattle have died owing to the dry spell, which triggered an acute shortage of pastures.
Chipinge was the hardest hit with 2 500 deaths recorded followed by Buhera, which had 500 and 148 in Chimanimani, as well as 161 in Makoni.
Of the 500 000 hectares planted in Manicaland during the 2015/2016 season, indications are that less than half of the average produce of 0,5 tonnes per hectare would be realised.
“The recent rains are quite substantial in improving the situation for crops that had not wilted in areas such as Makoni and Mutasa. But in Buhera we are not happy. There was total write off. The only possibility is to replant. Some parts of Chimanimani and Chipinge also received favourable rainfall and I can safely say it will (only) improve pastures there. As far as crops are concerned we are still to assess whether any harvests can be recorded. These areas were greatly affected by acute shortage of pastures and a great number of livestock were lost due to this factor,” said Manicaland provincial administrator, Fungai Mbetsa.
“We are currently providing food relief, on a monthly basis, in the driest wards across the province. Areas such as Zimunya, Bocha, and other parts of Mutare are receiving aid from government, but Buhera receives its aid from WFP (World Food Programme) since it was placed under the most vulnerable communities. But we feel that other districts should be there as well. The situation in Mutare and Chipinge is very critical as well, so we expected more households to be under ZIMVAC,” he added.
Mbetsa lamented that they were still supplying monthly aid that was due last year and hoped to get back on course this year.
Turning to the expected provincial yield, Mbetsa stated that Manicaland would be in dire need of food aid till the next rains expected around October or November.
“Overall, we no longer expect any meaningful yields. The rainfall pattern disrupted the crops and we will be getting less than half the amount of yields we received on an average,” he said.
Agritex provincial officer, Godfrey Mamhare refused to comment and referred questions to the principal director, a Mr Gondo who could not be reached.
However, Mamhare was earlier quoted in the media as having indicated that the recent rains would not change the situation much in drought-prone areas such as Chipinge, Buhera, Mutare and Makoni South.
He said regions four and five were left untilled as many feared that the crops would wilt, while regions two and one are likely to harvest if the dry spell does not continue.
Provincial Affairs Minister, Mandi Chimene, also indicated that the farming situation in the province was alarming.
“We have so many areas that are hit hard by drought due to lack of rainfall,” Chimene said.
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