Of begging bowls and pipe dreams

Dear Family and Friends,

The frost is lying thick on the ground these winter mornings and on the roadsides the remains of people’s summer maize harvest is painting a frightening picture of what lies ahead for Zimbabwe in the months to come.

For the last six weeks we’ve watched a patchy, very lean crop being carried away from people’s self-apportioned, roadside plots. Where usually you might see eight or ten bags of maize cobs waiting to be carried away, this year just three or four bags have been harvested. Others haven’t harvested even a single bag as their crops were so starved of nutrients that no cobs formed at all.

Sadly, the picture is not much better in many rural farming areas where small scale, self sufficient farmers have reaped almost nothing this season. “Have you got enough to last your family till next year’s harvest?” I asked one man who said he’d got eight bags of maize from his rural fields.

“Not even until Christmas,” he said, “and most of my neighbours are even worse off.” This man had grown the fourth best crop in his area but there were dozens of others who hadn’t even harvested enough maize to last until the end of June this year.

“They are already looking for food,” he told me, saying people were hoping that food aid would come soon but there was no sign of it yet.

It’s really sad to have to be witnessing this, fifteen years after Mr Mugabe’s land reform program, particularly because it’s the ‘ordinary masses’ who are again going to be suffering the most. So far the government’s response to this season’s disastrous maize harvest has come in the form of the begging bowl.

Yes, that shameful begging bowl from our fertile lands is being proffered yet again. Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has just appealed to donors for US$300 million to import maize “to cover the deficit and see us through to the next harvest.

” In a country neck deep in corruption we’re already wondering how much of the 300 million will actually buy maize and end up in the stomachs of hungry Zimbabweans and how much will end up in already bulging pockets. Mr Manangagwa said: "While we need 1, 4 million tonnes of maize a year for consumption, our produce for the 2014-15 season has gone down by approximately 49 percent.”

That was another pretty shocking statistic to let slip coming from the country which until fifteen years ago was a regional maize exporter, regardless of the vagaries of changing weather patterns. Sitting on a rock in the sun on a cold winter morning watching a long crested eagle watching me, I can’t help but think how un-necessary Zimbabwe’s fifteen years of food imports and hunger have been.

As each year passes revival of our past bountiful harvests and ability to export food remains a pipe dream. After fifteen years still no one is secure on the land they grow food on; farm invasions and evictions continue, property rights are not respected and leases are only secure as long as the local politician retains favour in the ruling political party. Until next time, thanks for reading, love cathy. 19th June 2015. Copyright ? Cathy Buckle. www.cathybuckle.com

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