First intervention in Zimbabwe: ACTED vows for a structural recovery of the agricultural economy

Already working alongside African communities affected by major humanitarian crises on the continent, ACTED is setting up a relief intervention to support the populations of Zimbabwe suffering from the consequences of the economic downturn and food insecurity, aggravated by a cholera pandemic. In June and September, ACTED has sent two evaluation missions in the country, which identified the needs as well as the priorities which can be tackled by ACTED: food insecurity, particularly related to the difficulties encountered by agricultural producers in Zimbabwe.

The collapse of the economy, particularly of the agricultural sector, hyperinflation, political unrests and a series of poor harvests have in a few years time dragged Zimbabwe, the former cereal granary of Southern Africa, into a catastrophic situation. The farmers settled in the former large-scale business farms, which used to be managed by expropriated farmers, lack the necessary financial resources and experience to maintain the previous levels of production. Today, a large part of the population is food insecure. However for the past year now, the national unity government, the introduction of the US dollar and of the South-African rand in economic exchanges as well as the liberalization of the agricultural sector have provided some stability to the country, a prerequisite for the economic recovery of Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, the food and economic situation of the majority of the households remains worrying.

Achieving food security in the country will only be possible through the recovery of the agricultural production, particularly through small farmers working on community lands. Numerous farmers are thus already supported by the international community with input distributions. Still, because of the lack of cash in the country (barter is still very frequent in the countryside) and the structuring of the market sector, farmers' production retail prices are very low, thus keeping them in poverty.

In order to support these farmers into leaving this poverty cycle, ACTED will support the sale of agricultural productions, in supplementation to the activities already implemented by other international NGOs. ACTED will proceed to the purchase of corn and sorghum leftovers from 3,000 small producers who have already benefitted from seeds and fertilizer distributions by the FAO in the Mutoko district, in East Mashonaland (North-East of the country). 40% of these purchases will be paid in cash and 60% in purchasing vouchers; vouchers will be available from the participating local input sellers. This pilot project will thus support the agricultural recovery in assisting the entire linking actors of this chain (farmers and retailers).

A food support to the most vulnerable households of the country, 600 tons of purchased maize and sorghum will be distributed, in partnership with national organizations who have already practiced this kind of interventions. Beyond the recovery of the agricultural economy, thus restoring the country's food autonomy and increasing the income of small farmers, the project will additionally enable food support to the most vulnerable households, deeply affected by a non-ending crisis.

Funded by the French Cooperation in Harare, this innovative programme is the first intervention led by ACTED in Zimbabwe and, in case it is successful, could well be replicated at a larger scale throughout the country and serve as a model of agricultural market sector support project. A first glimpse of what might follow, this project could well turn ACTED's first intervention in Zimbabwe into a longer, larger and deeper involvement in the country.