Prevent starvation

HARARE - Yet again Zimbabwe is faced with acute food shortages in drought-prone regions of Matabeleland and Masvingo which has been worsened by poor agricultural policies employed by President Robert Mugabe’s government.

It is government’s responsibility that no one starves and against this background the coalition government must intervene immediately to prevent starvation.

The government, with the help of aid agencies, should quickly provide food-aid to people who are facing hunger during this dry season.

The government should put in place mechanisms which will ensure that Zimbabwe is restored as the bread basket of Africa capable of feeding its populace.

This embarrassing situation of importing grain from Zambia should come to an end.

Surely, it is a scandal that Zimbabwe now relies on imports from Zambia and to imagine that this grain is being produced by white farmers who were chased away during the bloody farm invasions, is a disgrace.

In April this year, the minister of Agriculture Joseph Made reported that about a third of planted crops had failed due to the lack of irrigation systems and the inability by farmers to buy the necessary inputs on time.

With rain patterns now erratic because of climate change and other factors, it is imperative that the government takes adequate measures to ensure that its citizens will not be perennially starved at the mercy of the vagaries of the weather.

Despite the unreliable weather patterns, the debilitating effects of the land grab policies are still haunting us a decade on.

Droughts, poorly implemented policies and a shift by banks to fund tobacco and cotton instead of maize and other grains have all contributed to Zimbabwe's current situation.

There is also need for a holistic approach by business, government and indeed all sectors to manage a changing climate that might not be appreciated by villagers in Masvingo or Gwanda but whose effects will be felt by all and sundry.

There is need to mainstream climate change adaptation in agricultural extension systems of Zimbabwe so that government can facilitate smallholder farmers to adapt to, and cope better with climate variability and change.

But this can be rectified if Zimbabwe which has rich farming soils and hardworking citizens puts in place farming techniques such as irrigation facilities as well as adopting small grain crops.

As it stands 1,6 million Zimbabweans will be in need of food assistance during the peak hunger period spanning January to March 2013 and this should be enough to spur the usually inept government to take not only short term measures but also long-term steps that would guarantee food security. - Staff Writer

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