Changing weather patterns and recurrent droughts were another factor – but these have been blamed excessively. A far more significant factor has been the lack of inputs – itself a direct result of the collapse of the thriving and productive agricultural industry, which had a massive knock-on effect on the entire economy.
Zimbabwe has been forced to become a net importer of grain, but the government has been found wanting in that regard because of poor funding. Western humanitarian aid has provided much relief to the hungry, although its involvement has not been adequate because of financial constraints and hostility from the very government that should know better.
It is very disturbing that, despite the fact that we have been experiencing food shortages for more than a decade, the government seems not to have learnt anything out of it at all. This is puzzling, to say the least, because one of its primary responsibilities is to ensure that the nation is well fed.
Our strategic grain reserves are close to rock bottom right now, and the situation has been like that for a long time. Recent revelations from the Grain Marketing Board show that farmers this year have delivered less than 20,000 metric tonnes, against a yearly requirement of more than 2 million. This has left the population at the mercy of unscrupulous traders who acquire maize from communal and smallholder farmers at low prices (because they pay in cash – unlike the GMB which sometimes never pays at all) and sell at stratospheric prices.
Effectively, that pushes the price of the staple maize-meal beyond the reach of the majority of the people, particularly those in rural areas, resulting in widespread hunger.
For us, this betrays government’s half-hearted approach to food insecurity, which has now reached critical levels. We do not understand why the government can find money to foot a huge travel bill for the President, cabinet ministers and other officials – yet it cannot effectively boost grain reserves.
Equally disturbing is the fact that Zimbabwe is experiencing perennial shortages of inputs and when they are made available, it is too late.
It is time we set our priorities right in order to ensure that the nation is well fed. There is no point in lauding the land redistribution programme ad nauseum, when the people continue to go hungry year in and year out.Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga