Zimbabwe: Crop and vulnerability assessments will map needs

JOHANNESBURG, 23 April (IRIN) - Two assessments currently being conducted in Zimbabwe will allow the World Food Programme (WFP) to better prepare for meeting the expected food needs for the year ahead.
About half of all Zimbabweans currently require food aid to survive, following poor harvests brought on by drought, HIV/AIDS and the impact of the government's fast-track land reform programme on agricultural production.

WFP Zimbabwe spokesman Luis Clemens told IRIN on Wednesday the agency had distributed about 60,000 mt of food aid to 4.7 million vulnerable Zimbabweans in March.

"The distributions consist of 10 kg of maize, 1 kg of pulses (beans), 0.6 kg of vegetable oil and 1 kg of fortified corn soya blend (CSB). In April WFP will distribute to 4.6 million people some 50,000 mt of food aid, less than in the previous month. There will be a distribution of maize and CSB, but no vegetable oil and pulses as we don't have enough [of those commodities]," said Clemens.

WFP would be scaling down its assistance during the harvest months, he explained.

"[There will be] a reduction in May/June of our food distributions, because there's a harvest. In those places where there's no harvest we continue with business as usual. WFP is in the business of providing food to those who are vulnerable, who have no source of food, who are in need of food aid. Folks who have just harvested enough food to feed themselves for at least a few months are temporarily not in need of food aid," Clemens added.

The two assessments being conducted, along with government crop figures, would allow aid agencies to plot the way forward in the post-harvest period.

"The first is the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) which is an inter-agency assessment in which WFP, NGOs, government and SADC [Southern African Development Community] all participate," Clemens said.

The ZimVAC would "map out the need for food aid and the numbers [of those in need], projecting forward to April next year".

"The second assessment is a WFP and UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, going on in Zimbabwe at the moment. This is looking at the size of the harvest, domestic production, government capacity to import [food], and seed and fertiliser availability vis-à-vis human consumption requirements," Clemens said.

This assessment would subtract domestic production and government capacity to import food from annual consumption requirements in order to indicate the food gap for the marketing year ending April 2004.

"So between the [FAO] crop and food [assessment mission] and the ZimVAC we should be getting a pretty good idea of what the food gap is likely to be," he added. Clemens stressed, however, that the WFP could act on that data only once the government issued a request for assistance.

An appeal would then be made to donors at a stakeholders' meeting expected to be held in June in Johannesburg, South Africa.


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