Maputo — INADEQUATE funds have presented government and humanitarian organisations a dilemma in their frantic efforts to revive agriculture and stave off hunger in the wake of the Cyclone Idai that devastated Mozambique slightly a month ago.
This comes amid fears thousands of beneficiaries could be tempted to consume the maize and beans seeds distributed to them, instead of planting them.
The high possibility of this has prompted plans by the financially-struggling World Food Programme (WFP) to sustain food rations to take place alongside the distribution of seeds.
Some 1 million people have been reached with food assistance since Idai struck on March 14.
"In the immediate aftermath of the cyclone, people were so very desperate," said Lola Castro, WFP's director for Southern Africa.
"Thanks to the hard work and resourcefulness of the many involved, the speed and scale of the response has transformed that desperation into hope," Castro added.
People affected by the cyclone and resultant floods are receiving up to 30-day rations of rice and maize meal, pulses, fortified blended food and vegetable oil.
WFP had previously cut rations to Mozambique because of financial shortfalls in recent years.
Such deficits have returned to haunt another United Nations agency, the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO).
It seeks an initial US$19 million to rebuild critical agricultural and fisheries infrastructure, resume local food production and support livestock owners.
At the time of going to press, $3,85 million has been allocated to immediately reach some 95 000 people.
This represents a gap of $15,5 million or 80 percent.
Nonetheless, around 15 000 farming households hit by Cyclone Idai are to receive agricultural kits including early-maturing maize and bean seeds to grow their own food again.
FAO believes the reviving livelihoods and markets as soon as possible is crucial to help farmers, fishers and pastoralists get back on their feet in time for the main planting season in October and beyond.
Farmers in areas left devastated by the cyclone have started receiving much-needed agricultural inputs thanks to a joint effort by (FAO) and Mozambique's Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to assist hard-hit rural families to get a head-start on the impending secondary growing season.
Manica and Sofala, the provinces worst impacted by the devastation, will receive agricultural kits containing hoes, machetes and early-maturing maize and bean seeds that, once sown, will be ready to harvest after just 90 days.
Farmers in the two provinces produce around 25 percent of Mozambique's cereal output but most were left without assets, seed reserves and crops that were almost ready for harvest.
"Reviving livelihoods and markets as soon as possible is crucial to help farmers, fishers and pastoralists get back on their feet in time for the main planting season in October and beyond," said Olman Serrano, FAO Representative in Mozambique.
The envoy confirmed the smaller second planting season was now underway, leaving an increasingly narrow window of opportunity to sow early-maturing crops such as the beans and maize FAO is distributing.
"These can be harvested around 90 days after planting and go some way to filing the productive gap left by the massive losses suffered in this main harvest," Serrano said.
Subsistence farming is crucial for Mozambique's economy and food security, with over 80 percent of the 30 million-population depending on agriculture for their livelihoods and some 99 percent of these being small-scale farmers.