Zimbabwe

MCC helps Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ to alleviate hunger

MCC is helping Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ Church distribute seeds to farmers who are struggling with drought and economic turmoil.

By Tim Shenk

AKRON, Pa. - Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) is helping Zimbabwe's Brethren in Christ Church distribute seeds to farmers who are struggling with drought and economic turmoil.

Members of the Brethren in Christ Church (BICC) are distributing 25 metric tons of sorghum and maize seeds to 2,000 farm families in Zimbabwe's Matabeleland South province. A seven-year drought has caused crops to fail in the region, leaving households with little food or seed to plant for the coming year, according to Prosper Dube, the BICC food relief coordinator.

"The people are looking for something to put in the ground, so come April or March they might have something," Dube says.

Drought is not the only problem affecting Zimbabwean farmers. The national economy has collapsed, putting most Zimbabweans out of work and making their money virtually worthless. According to the United Nations, Zimbabwe's average life expectancy has fallen to less than 37 years, from 61 years in 1990.

These conditions are dividing families as able-bodied adults leave Zimbabwe to seek work in neighboring South Africa. Children and older adults are often left behind to take care of themselves, Dube says.

MCC provided the BICC food relief program with $25,000 to purchase and distribute seeds. The targeted area includes 16 BICC congregations whose members face the same economic challenges as their neighbors, Dube says.

Dube says recent rains have given hope that next year's crops will not fail, although it is too soon to tell if the drought is over.

MCC is also providing about $500,000 for food distributions in Zimbabwe in partnership with the Canadian Foodgrains Bank. The Canadian International Development Agency is matching this contribution to increase the total project funds to $2.5 million.

Through the project, relief workers are distributing a six-month supply of corn, beans, cooking oil and other food to about 120,000 people in areas throughout Zimbabwe.

"We're looking at ways to increase what we are doing in terms of relief and development in the country," says William Reimer, the director of MCC's food, disaster and material resources program.

Tim Shenk is a writer for Mennonite Central Committee.