CWS heralds Zimbabwe's lifting of ban on humanitarian aid--agency announces food security programs and fundraising appeal

NEW YORK, NY - As Zimbabwe lifts its ban preventing work in the country by outside humanitarian agencies, global agency Church World Service announced today a national fundraising campaign to bring emergency and longer-term assistance for the dire food crisis in the southern African country.

An estimated 2.04 million Zimbabweans will experience food insecurity through this month alone, and that number is expected to rise to 3.8 million in October, peaking to about 5.1 million people between January and March 2009.

CWS Director of Emergency Response Programs Donna Derr said the agency "is welcoming the shifting policies in Zimbabwe" and will work with its partner in the region to deliver badly needed general food aid, school feeding, food recovery and psychosocial support, as part of the organization's multi-solution response to the worldwide food crisis.

Most urgently, the CWS-supported program will alleviate short-term food insecurity for 26,900 particularly vulnerable persons during the most critical period--between October of this year and April 2009-by building up crop productivity and food security through conservation farming training. The program will offer relief and rehabilitation during the first half of 2008 in selected districts of Zimbabwe to those affected and displaced by political violence.

"This population will require food assistance amounting to 395,000 tons of cereals through 2009," said Derr. She said the CWS assisted program will provide monthly food rations of maize, cooking oil, and beans between October 2008 and April 2009 to 26,900 food insecure people in Gutu and Mwenezi Districts, in the southern province of Masvingo.

Christian Care, a CWS partner in Zimbabwe, works in the Zvishavane District, where in 2007 and through this year it worked with 400 households that have benefited from a CWS-supported program of conservation farming training.

Church World Service is expanding support for the program now, to assist 600 households in four wards, and 900 households between 2009 and 2010.

The agricultural project is designed to help farmers rebuild their production capacities and adapt to the challenging impacts of climate change, another key focus of Church World Service global development work.

The Zvishavane program will also include nutrition and health education for the communities, with a 12-month commitment allowing time for households to learn and adopt the innovations.

Zimbabwean farmers will compare conservation and conventional farming results

Each household participating in the CWS farm program will work on two plots each measuring 50 meters by 50 meters, one for conservation farming and another for conventional farming. The idea is for each farmer to observe the difference in practices and results from conservation and conventional farming techniques and to learn seed production techniques.

For the project, 600 farming households in Zvishavane District's four wards will receive seed and fertilizers, including 10 kg of open pollinated varieties (OPV) maize seed, 50 kg of basal fertilizers (fertilizer typically containing nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium that is dug into the ground alongside seed plantings) and 50 kg of ammonium nitrate (primary nitrogen source) fertilizers.

Although the recently announced power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe offers hope for the country's recovery, "Zimbabwe's people are experiencing a storm surge of compound suffering," Derr said. "This crisis stems from the collapse of the economy, severe food insecurity, an all-time low in basic service delivery, political stalemate, and the underlying political atmosphere that has caused the internal displacement of thousands of people."

Over 85 percent of Zimbabwe's population is unemployed. Almost 90 percent of them subsist below the poverty line on $1 per day.

HOW TO HELP: Those wishing to support this emergency may contribute online (www.churchworldservice.org), by phone (800-297-1516), or by sending contributions to Church World Service, P.O. Box 968, Elkhart, IN 46515.

Media Contact:

Lesley Crosson, CWS/New York, 212-870-2676; lcrosson@churchworldservice.org

Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526; jdragin@gis.net