19 January 2010

Zimbabwe: Country Faces Food Shortages

Harare — Zimbabwe is facing massive food shortages again this year with crops already wilting in many parts of the country due to a prolonged dry spell.

The United States funded Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), in its latest forecast predicts that as a result of the poor rainfall and the severe shortage of agriculture inputs, 2.2 million Zimbabweans would need food aid.

This means that people who will need urgent food aid between January and March has increased from the 1.7 million projected at the end of last year.

Close to half of Zimbabwe's population has depended on donors for food in the last nine years.

But hopes were heightened following the formation of a unity government between President Robert Mugabe and his former archrivals in February last year that the situation would improve.

In November last year, the United Nations reduced by almost 50 percent its request for donations to assist Zimbabwe's poor following positive changes in the economic situation.

Aid agencies now fear the cuts in funding will see more people going without food this year.

FEWSNET said the below average rainfall and high temperatures in the southern half of the country over the past three weeks had seen most crops wilting due to moisture stress.

"Since December, below average precipitation and above average temperatures continue to help strengthen seasonal moisture deficits across central Mozambique, southern Malawi, southern Madagascar and southern Zimbabwe," FEWSNET said in the report covering Southern Africa.

The traditional food producing areas of Mashonaland have also received below average rainfall.

Mr Mugabe's government has already come under attack for poor planning as farmers are still battling to access fertliser, a couple of months before the summer cropping season comes to an end in April.

The unity government has also failed to stop the renewed attacks on white commercial farmers by Zanu PF militants trying to push the remaining few land owners under the previous administration's controversial land reforms.

Mr Renson Gasela, the spokesperson of the smaller faction of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said the poor season would be as a result of poor planning and climatic factors.

"We are faced with another disastrous agricultural season," says Gasela.

"But it's a combination of human and climatic factors that are causing this calamity."

The Commercial Farmers Union (CFU), which represents mainly the white farmers has already forecast a poor agricultural season citing continued invasion of white owned commercial farms as well as shortages of seed and fertiliser.

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