FEWS Zimbabwe Food Security Emergency 6 Aug 2004 - Food access remains a concern

Access to Food Continues to be the Biggest Food Security Challenge in 2004/05 Consumption Year

Zimbabwe continues to face a severe food security crisis characterized by high levels of unemployment and inflation, foreign exchange constraints, poor agricultural production over the last four years, drought, and poor government policies, exacerbated by crippling levels of HIV/AIDS. In September last year, the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) estimated 2.5 million people in the urban areas to be food insecure. Although some food security indicators have improved in recent months, many Zimbabweans continue to face conditions of extreme food insecurity. Rural food security and vulnerability assessment conducted by the ZimVAC in April 2004 estimated that at the peak of the hunger period (December to March) about 2.3 million rural people will be in need of food assistance.

The controversy surrounding Zimbabwe's cereal production for the 2003/04 agricultural season - coupled with the lack of data on cereal imports - continues to make thorough food security analysis and response planning very difficult. However, sub national data indicate that cereals are still generally available in most rural districts from own and local production, but is becoming scarce in Buhera, Mutare, Bietbridge and Bulilimangwe Districts, which are estimated to have produced less than four months of their annual needs in the 2003/04 agricultural season. An additional eight rural districts are expected to use up their cereal harvests within the next four months (see map). Food security is seriously threatened by cereal shortages in these districts.

The suspension of general feeding in April, May and June this year by food aid agencies in the country in response to Government's announcement that the country has enough food from the 2003/04 agricultural season's harvest has left the majority of food insecure households more dependent on their limited consumption, expenditure and income coping strategies. The ZimVAC estimated that about 2.2 million people in the rural areas will not be able to meet all their food needs on their own between July and November 2004 and during this period they would require food assistance, which is about 52,000 MT. The number of rural people expected to require food assistance during the hunger period (December 2004 to March 2005) is expected to peak at 2.3 million.

Average Cereals Available (months) to Rural District Population from the Estimated 2003/2004 Production as of 31 July 2004


The availability of basic food stuffs is stable in most markets in the urban areas, but low households' purchasing power has remained a major food security problem; this has been further compounded by high unemployment levels and high inflation rates. Minimum wage reviews done in April 2004 have seen minimum wages of industrial workers going up by more than 190 percent, from Z$114,594 to Z$341,655. However, the new wage rate is just enough to cover 30 percent of the cost of the total CCZ low income household basket for June 2004 estimated at Z$1,143,510. The situation has marginally worsened compared to last May.

Water cuts lasting for weeks and frequent sewage blockages that go for days without being attended to are becoming more of a norm than an exception in Harare and other smaller towns. These water problems are coupled with irregular collection of refuse and uncontrolled vegetable vendors putting up shop everywhere, and are posing a serious health hazard to Zimbabwe's urban population.


  • Sub-district level assessments are urgently required to identify the food insecure and appropriate food assistance rendered to them to avoid dire consequences.

  • NGOs and Government should embark on livelihoods recovery programs based on soon to be published livelihoods assessments such as the Zimbabwe VAC assessments and the Poverty Assessment Study.

  • With food access of great continuing concern, targeted food aid should continue throughout the country for poor socio-economic groups. Improved maize availability will not address the famine threat that could occur in some parts of the country this year. Special attention is required for the most vulnerable households in Manicaland and Matebeleland South Provinces.

  • Improved management of municipalities and urban boards should address most of these problems, for they are by and large results of mismanagement. Central Government budgeting should make provisions for water and sewage infrastructure renovations and development.