Zimbabwe: 650 000 people need food aid in Masvingo province

MASVINGO - At least 650 000 people in Zimbabwe's southern Masvingo province will require food aid this year following poor harvests last farming season, according to a senior government official.

Masvingo provincial administrator, Felix Chikovo at the weekend told ZimOnline that most areas in the province were in dire need of food assistance with only a few districts in the drought-prone province having harvested enough food.

"Some parts of the province did not have a good harvest and as a result, they will need food aid this year. We will move food from areas which had a bumper harvest to areas that have a serious food deficit.

"Preliminary investigations have reveled that about 650 000 people in Masvingo province alone will need food aid," said Chikovo.

Chikovo said the worst affected areas included Chiredzi, Mwenezi and some parts of Chivi district where some families did not harvest enough food.

A villager in Chiredzi district, Steven Mado, told ZimOnline that the food situation was critical for most families in the area.

"By the end of next month we will have exhausted everything that we harvested last March. We are appealing to the government to consider giving us food aid this year.

"We had tried our level best to grow enough food but shortage of fertilizers and agricultural inputs such as seeds affected our production," said Mado.

Zimbabwe has battled perennial food shortages since President Robert Mugabe began seizing productive farms from whites for redistribution to landless blacks in a campaign he said was necessary to correct historical imbalances in land ownership.

But Mugabe failed to support black villagers resettled on former white land with inputs and skills training to maintain production, a situation that saw food output tumbling by about 60 percent to leave once food self sufficient Zimbabwe dependent on food handouts from international aid agencies.

A report released two weeks ago by the Consortium for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency, which brings together non-governmental organisations involved in relief work, said most families in Zimbabwe's rural areas would again require food assistance this year because few harvested enough.

Mugabe however denies his controversial land reforms are to blame for causing food shortages and instead blames erratic rains and an economic crisis that he says is a result of Western sabotage and which has caused shortages of farming inputs.