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The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Zimbabwe

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2010: Zimbabwe

Nov 2009

The recent political advances in 2009 have had a marked impact on Zimbabwe’s devastated economy. Dollarization of the economy, accompanied by the easing of trade restrictions and removal of price controls have led to much better food availability throughout the country.

Although there are uncertainties about likely progress in implementing the Global Political Agreement, all signs point to the country moving away from humanitarian crisis towards transition.

Recovery from almost a decade of instability and economic deterioration will take time and must be supported through humanitarian activities that both meet the immediate needs of the poorest population and lay the foundation for genuine socio-economic development. Chronic vulnerability remains, particularly in rural areas, linked to HIV prevalence rates of 13.7 percent and lack of access to food and basic social services, and reflected in a rate of chronic malnutrition in children under five years old that has reached 33 percent.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Agriculture is central to the livelihoods of about 70 percent of Zimbabwe’s population. A decade ago, many rural, communal farmers would have relied on a mixture of remittances from family members in urban centres and their own production to ensure their food security. The almost complete collapse of the country’s economy, however, forced more and more people to depend on their own harvests to feed themselves and their families. Inefficient land and crop management practices and intensive production have led to declining soil fertility and falling yields across the country. The decline in the provision of extension services has meant farmers struggle to access appropriate training and information on good agricultural practices.

The 2008/09 agricultural season saw excellent rainfall conditions across most of Zimbabwe and resulted in good harvests. Despite this, there remains a significant food deficit due to the extreme shortage of essential inputs, including quality seeds, tools, fuel and draught power. Many farmers were forced to rely on second or third choice seeds and even on food aid grains to plant in the last season and remain in urgent need of assistance for the coming seasons.

However, the opening of the country’s economy has provided an excellent opportunity to initiate market-oriented input distribution to prevent a continued reliance on external assistance. Deterioration of the national veterinary infrastructure and persistent shortage of veterinary drugs and vaccines have increased the risk of livestock mortality, threatening a key source of food and incomes. There is an urgent need to manage the recently emerging threat to both animal and human populations, reflected in the expansion of tsetse fly populations into wider areas. In addition, the smallholder poultry sector continues to see declining flock sizes as a result of Newcastle disease.

FAO response

FAO will continue to serve as lead of the Agriculture Cluster in 2010, with the objective of improving household food security and rebuilding livelihoods. In the past few years, the Organization has positioned itself as a key provider of essential, accurate and timely information on agriculture and food security for humanitarian and Government partners.

In the coming year, FAO will continue to work with the Famine Early Warning Systems Network and the National Early Warning Unit to provide regular updates on the food security and agriculture situation in Zimbabwe. As the chair of the Agricultural Coordination Working Group, FAO plans to continue its efforts to bring representatives of UN agencies, NGOs, farmers’ unions, community groups, Government institutions and the private sector together to share information and ensure coordinated planning of programmes and interventions in 2010 to avoid overlap and reach the most vulnerable populations.

Livestock production plays an important role in the livelihoods of vulnerable rural households. However, the combined impact of animal diseases, limited resources and sale of livestock has severely reduced herd and flock sizes in the country. During 2010, FAO plans to support the restocking of poultry and mass vaccination of birds against Newcastle disease and ruminants against FMD and tick-borne diseases. Efforts will also be made to prevent the spread of tsetse fly to reduce infection rates among animals and humans.

In collaboration with NGO partners, FAO plans to assist the most vulnerable farming households, including young people and people living with HIV/AIDS, by providing crop and vegetable seeds and other inputs through input trade fairs and support to agrodealers; organizing Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools; and conducting training in post-harvest storage, food preservation, improved agronomic practices and nutrition. Higher yields will be encouraged through the promotion of conservation agriculture and better land and crop management practices accompanied by appropriate extension support and training.