The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: Zimbabwe

The FAO Component of the Consolidated Appeals 2009: Zimbabwe
Nov 2008

Numerous changes to the political landscape took place in Zimbabwe during 2008. Violence leading up to the March election affected an estimated 36 000 people, while the signing of an agreement between the main political parties in September was a positive step towards stability. However, an unpredictable policy environment, massive inflation – from 11.2 million percent in June to 231 million percent in July – and the continued decline in both formal and informal employment opportunities have negatively affected household food security across the country.

The prevailing severe economic crisis together with poor harvests, flooding in the southeast and northwest of the country in early-2008, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the suspension of most humanitarian activities for several months have increased the vulnerability of the already struggling population.

Challenges facing food security and livelihoods

Since 2000, agricultural production has shifted from developed technological systems to more basic subsistence farming that is highly dependent on external conditions, such as weather patterns, and which has increased the risk of recurrent food insecurity.

In 2007/08, agricultural production in Zimbabwe hit an all-time low for most crops and the cereal harvest in April 2008 fell short of national consumption requirements. Adverse weather conditions, deteriorating farming infrastructure, a lack of access to agricultural inputs (including fertilizers and draught power), the impact of HIV/AIDS and the disincentive effect of controlled producer prices led to a decrease in area planted, average yields and overall production.

Preparations for the 2008/09 season were hampered by the limited availability of inputs, particularly of fertilizer and seeds, which are in seriously short supply. Continued fuel shortages affect farmers’ ability to use mechanized tillage. Production levels in 2009 are likely to be low as large areas of arable land may remain idle and farming households struggle to access basic services and commodities.

Livestock play a central role in the livelihoods of rural people in Zimbabwe, providing a source of food and income and acting as a fallback asset for households affected by drought. Dip tanks are the focal point of cattle and small ruminant disease prevention and control strategies. However, budgetary constraints and insufficient foreign currency have reduced the Department of  Veterinary Services’ capacity to procure appropriate chemicals and vaccines to ensure that animals remain healthy.

FAO response

Timely collection and provision of accurate information on the food security situation is essential for humanitarian organizations to plan future activities. In recent years, FAO has positioned itself as a provider of agricultural data and during 2009 will seek to further strengthen information sharing on food security in Zimbabwe by training agricultural extension workers to undertake data collection in 20 districts, organizing workshops and training activities on IPC and implementing national surveys.

FAO’s proposed activities for 2009 include procuring and distributing essential agricultural inputs (fertilizers, seeds, etc.), designing and implementing an extension support system for communal farmers, training smallholders on improved land use and management practices (such as conservation agriculture) and promoting the production of small grain and legume seeds. Support will also be provided to improve the nutritional status of HIV/AIDS-affected households by supplying them with vegetable seeds and tools to establish family or community gardens.

In order to improve the health status of livestock, FAO will support veterinary services to combat tick-borne diseases and foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) in ruminants and Newcastle disease in poultry. Different ways of transferring the responsibility for managing dip tanks from the state to the communal sector will be tested in three districts, while vaccines will be procured and mass vaccinations carried out against FMD. The capacity of the Central Veterinary Laboratory to produce vaccines against tick-borne diseases and Newcastle disease will be improved.  In addition, public awareness of Newcastle disease and avian influenza will be increased through a media campaign.