A new report published today suggests that up to 1.6 million people in Zimbabwe will require food aid next year. http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2012/aug/01/zimbabwe-food-shortages-aid
This is an appalling position to be in. Zimbabwe used to be Southern Africa’s breadbasket – producing and exporting food but a combination of poor rainfalls and political turmoil have reduced their output dramatically. The problems are exacerbated by a lack of skills, inputs and knowledge by farmers, all of which reduces productivity.
The response form the international development world to Zimbabwe’s downfall has been slightly mixed. The big agencies like USAID, World Bank and others, who I met recently in Harare, want to see an emphasis on support to commercial farmers. They think that, if they can get the export market up and running, some of the income will trickle down to the 1.6 million – who have very few resources.
Practical Action believes strongly in working with those in immediate need – who may own only one cow or a goat. Helping them to make the most of their meagre resources, gives them a safety net and an ability to take their own choices. This is what we mean by a hand up and not a hand out. Our podcasting work, for example, helps people to tackle disease and get the best form their livestock. We are also working to get people access to clean water and better sanitation.
On reading the new report my thoughts are with the women I recently met. I wonder what their fate will be, come January and February next year when the problems are due to be at their worst.