A Silver lining amid drought in Zimbabwe

By Andrew Mambondiyani

Joyleen Simango was smiling from ear to ear. But such broad smiles are currently rare in this part of Manicaland province east of Zimbabwe where the El Nino induced has brought untold suffering to many people.

Harrowing stories of people going for days without proper meals have been told as food and water have become scarce. But Simango, a mother of two, had every reason to smile. She is one of the many beneficiaries of the Enhancing Nutrition, Stepping Up Resilience and Enterprise (ENSURE) Programme led by a nongovernmental organisation, World Vision.

The $55 million programme, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is set to benefit 300, 000 people in six food insecure districts in Manicaland and Masvingo provinces. A similar programme, Amalima in Matabeleland North and South, will benefit 300 000 people over five years in four food insecure districts with a funding of $44 million.

The major objectives of the programmes are to improve nutrition for women and children, increase household income and increase resilience to food security shocks.

With her healthy 20-months-old baby strapped on her back, a beaming Simango could not hide her joy. “I have enough food for my children and as you can see my children are healthy,” she said.

The programme targets, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers and children under the age of two.

“I started benefiting from the programme when I was seven months pregnant,” Simango said. “I am not employed and my husband is still training as a builder”.

Through the programme, Simango was given a ration for two months after which she will be given another ration.

Zimbabwe is in the midst of a serious drought, which has wiped more than half of the maize crop and has killed thousands of cattle.

In Chipinge alone, a district hardest hit by the drought, more than 3 000 cattle died due to lack of grazing, according to Manicaland provincial administrator, Fungai Mbesta.

“We want to thank the assistance which has come to us,” Mbetsa told journalists in Mutare recently.

USAID took journalists to some of the most affected areas in the province for them to have an appreciation of the impact of the current drought.

Mbetsa said the Food for Asset programme funded USAID had helped to construct dams for irrigation.

One of the dams at Birirano, a small isolated community in Chipinge district is almost complete with the irrigation expected to function in June this year.

Chipinge assistant district administrator, Freeman Mavhiza the Birirano irrigation project was community driven.

“That is why it is a success. The project is sustainable because it is our project. Water harvesting will improve lives here. It will transform lives,” Mavhiza said during a tour of the project.

And the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development program is another project running under the United States government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

The project is targeting smallholder dairy farmers in the country’s Natural Regions III and IV and beef farmers in Natural Region IV and V. This region receives low rainfall.

According to a report from the Feed the Future Zimbabwe Livestock Development programme, the program would reduce rural poverty and increase incomes and food security for 3,000 beef and 2,000 dairy smallholder producers; improve their hygiene and nutrition practices, and build the capacity of local organizations to implement agricultural development activities funded by USAID.

“Smallholder livestock farmers can earn considerable income from their cattle if provided with the requisite skills, technical knowledge, improved access to inputs and output markets, and improved access to credit and essential financial services to successfully commercialize their farming activity,” the report said.

The report also said access to adequate feed was critical for both beef and dairy cattle.

“In addition, the program links and facilitates timely and sustainable access to credit and inputs such as stock feeds, fertilizers, forage seeds, fencing materials, breeding stock and services, capital equipment, and water”.

The programme also link farmers with output markets such as milk processors, abattoirs, butcheries, and milk collection centres provide the necessary demand pull for the beef and dairy products from smallholder farmers, while improved adoption of appropriate technologies, good agricultural and animal husbandry practices increase smallholder herd productivity thereby creating a sustainable and viable product supply base.

Against the backdrop of the current El Nino-induced drought, the programme has initiated and introduced affordable drought coping strategies such raising awareness on beef survival meal; facilitating direct marketing of cattle off the rangeland, and introducing drought-tolerant fodder and low-cost feed formulations using locally available resources.

Pregnant and lactating women getting their food rations at Nyanyadzi area in Chimanimani district (Photo by Munyaradzi Nkomo- World Vision)

Pregnant and lactating women getting their food rations at Nyanyadzi area in Chimanimani district (Photo by Munyaradzi Nkomo- World Vision)

Since program inception, 1,400 rural households (48 percent women), have benefited from program interventions. A total of 190 farmers have accessed feedlot loans worth $49,194 to pen fatten 272 animals, resulting in the generation of $161,554 in total sales, according to the report.

Jason Taylor who is the USAID Humanitarian Assistance and Resilience Office director was optimistic that with a little bit of help to people they would be able to feed themselves.

He was quick to add that the obstacles the communities were facing as a resulting of the current drought were vast.

“We want to make our programs not operate in isolation. It takes a lot of time for the various actors to push in the same direction. These communities are the most affected by climate change and we want to look at what sort of tools are needed for them to adapt to climate change,” Taylor said.

USAID Food Security Specialist, Thabisani Moyo told journalists that the programmes by USAID had help communities to sustain themselves.

“In the long term we are going to less and less food assistance for these communities,” Moyo said.

However, USAID Economic Growth Officer, John Macy said emphasised the need for a holistic and catalytic approach to empower the communities affected by the current drought.

“Think about all the different dimension which have gone into the project. The good animal husbandry practices for livestock good agricultural practice for the crops programme; the market linkages. If you take one element it does not work, you need the whole package together,” Macy said.

RuralReporters.com is a news platform with in-depth coverage of under-reported issues in rural communities in Nigeria and across Africa. We report on Agriculture, Health, Women and generally on Rural Development. To pitch a story idea or submit a report, please email: editor@ruralreporters.com

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