Govt must prepare for drought

HARARE - Zimbabwe's state of preparedness for the forthcoming agricultural season anticipated to be hit hard by drought, should not be a matter of guessing.

We are already coming from a disastrous 2014/2015 season which left the country’s food security in a precarious state.

It is estimated that about 1, 8 million people need food aid while relief agencies say they require $60 million to complement government’s target of $300 million to import grain.

This is against a background of reduced harvest for 2015 whose forecast has been revised to 950 000 metric tonnes of maize, almost half of the 1,8 million metric tonnes needed to avert famine.

Given the current situation, we would expect government to show commitment to mitigate the effects of reduced yields in the 2015/2016 agricultural season by unveiling a comprehensive plan to attract funding.

Drought is expected to hit southern Africa, including South Africa and Zambia, the two countries that Zimbabwe has been relying on for grain imports to feed the nation.

While government announced it has set aside $28 million as part of an input scheme, more needs to be done, including assessing which areas are likely to receive better rainfalls and those likely to be hardest hit.

Government’s attitude in the past, especially gaffes previously made by Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation minister Joseph Made, does not inspire confidence.

Made infamously took a helicopter ride during a crop assessment exercise and bizarrely predicted that Zimbabwe would not require food assistance because from the aerial view, there was sufficient crops for harvesting.

It is our expectation that Made this time around will nail it down and give the correct picture given that the less than normal rains expected in the forthcoming season and subsequent reduced yields, would leave us with few option to import food.

The water situation in southern Africa makes it difficult for the region to improve the people’s livelihoods without supporting each other.

The 2014 report of the World Health Organisation and United Nations International Children’s Fund Joint Monitoring Programme for Water Supply and Sanitation says that two fifths of people without access to improved drinking water sources live in Sub-Saharan Africa.

A ravaging drought is set to worsen the situation and Zimbabwe is among those facing such consequences.

It is important that the government comes up with a plan that reduces the effects of the likely drought.

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