GOVERNMENT has started distributing grain to needy communities across the country in line with its commitment to ensure that no household starves.
The programme targets the elderly, child-headed families and orphans for free food distribution while the able bodied will be recruited to do food for work projects in their localities.
The exercise has been necessitated by the need to cushion citizens from hunger after some parts of the country received poor yields in the 2021/22 farming season due to drought-induced conditions.
The Department of Social Welfare distributed 15 000 tonnes of maize this month and is expected to scale up the intervention to 30 000 tonnes going forward, according to official reports. The exercise is set to continue until next year’s harvest.
Despite some parts of the country being food insecure due to poor rains, the Government has committed to cushioning the public from hunger, said Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister, Professor Paul Mavima.
He said the Government’s interventions were being guided by the recently released Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) Rural Livelihood Report, which has shown that the Government is the biggest social net provider for vulnerable citizens.
“We have just started the food deficit mitigation programme. This month, we had an allocation of 15 000 tonnes to go into the areas that were adversely affected due to erratic rains,” said the minister.
“We are targeting that on an average, up to the next harvest, we will be distributing something like 30 000 tons per month.
“We will start off low but we will increase the allocations as we reach the peak hunger period, which is going to be from January to about March into 2023. That programme has started.”
Prof Mavima said his ministry has also sent complementary teams to assess the vulnerability levels in several districts and that the Government was confident that all vulnerable members of the public will access grain.
“We are not expecting to fail to give support to families in need of food aid. We have done proper research and now we know the extent of hunger in the country,” he said.
“We are going to give each and every family what it deserves in terms of food, using the data that has been provided to us by the different Government departments,” said Prof Mavima.
From now until October/November the minister said beneficiaries would work for the food they receive but when the farming season starts, they must be focused on working on their farms so that they harvest in the following season.
“That is the only difference. We don’t give food for free to the able-bodied. We request them to work at schools, clinics, road rehabilitation and in different communities,” he said.
Meanwhile, traditional leaders from Matabeleland region have called on the Government to expedite the food distribution programme as some areas are increasingly becoming desperate.
National Council of Chiefs deputy president Chief Mtshane Khumalo said: “This time, there was nothing to harvest in April due to the low rainfalls that were recorded. This means for the past few months communities have been struggling with food. So, it’s important for Government to start distributing grain as a lot of people are food insecure,” said Chief Mtshane.
Chief Nkalakatha from Nkayi District in Matabeleland North said villagers under his jurisdiction did not record any meaningful harvest in the previous farming season.
“So, the communities are increasingly becoming food insecure. We hope that Government can reach our communities as soon as possible as the people are yet to receive grain,” he said.
“I have 22 villages and two wards in my area and most of the people in the community are already food insecure,” said Chief Nkalakatha.
He said his area is closer to the Grain Marketing Board and he was aware that most of the grain has not reached their community.