Zimbabwe is experiencing chronic food insecurity. Based on the 2013 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) produced in May 2013, the 2013/2014 consumption year was projected to see 2.2 million people (25 per cent of rural households) food insecure by the peak of the hunger period in March 2014. With this background the Zimbabwe Red Cross Society (ZRCS) and the International Federation for the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) launched an Emergency Appeal on 11 December 2013. The Appeal focused on four wards in the north of Gwanda District, Matabeleland South. The operation sought to mobilize CHF 805,279 to achieve the planned activities. However, a total of CHF 648,840 was raised, accounting for 81% of the target.
The support was received from the American Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross, British Red Cross, Danish Red Cross, Finnish Red Cross, Japanese Red Cross Society, Monaco Red Cross, Swedish Red Cross, Swiss Red Cross and Netherlands Red Cross. The funds received were prioritized for cash distribution, rehabilitation of water points, and procurement of community garden establishment materials, vegetable seed packs and trainings. A total of 2,100 households (10,500 people) were reached, five community gardens established and 20 water points rehabilitated. Stakeholder involvement in the operation has been high, starting from the beneficiary selection as well as in the implementation of activities particularly training and borehole rehabilitations.
The 2013/14 agricultural season was reasonably good as fairly decent amounts of rainfall were complemented by agricultural input distributions from the government and humanitarian agencies. The ZIMVAC report has not yet been released, however, the preliminary reports indicate that the 2014/15 consumption year is better than the situation of 2013/14 and most households will be able to consume food from their own production for at least six months. Not all communities will have adequate food supplies to sustain their households, the extent of the food deficit will be determined by the ZIMVAC Assessment.
At the time of this update, all targeted activities had been implemented. 21 water points have been rehabilitated in the district. The beneficiaries, after receiving their vegetable seed packs prepared nursery beds in their individual gardens. Beneficiaries of the five community gardens are working in the established sites. Hygiene promotion activities are ongoing with volunteers cascading trainings and information to households. Hygiene promotion activities are not limited to the 2,100 ZRCS supported beneficiaries, but to the community as a whole.
An internal review carried out by ZRCS focusing primarily on outcome 1 (10,500 beneficiaries [2,100 households] receive food assistance for three months) was carried out from 16 to 20 June. A subsequent field visit was conducted from 20 to 22 July by an evaluation team consisting of ZRCS staff from headquarters and the Gwanda provincial office, as well as IFRC PMER staff and the IFRC Operations Manager. The team conducted key informant interviews with relevant stakeholders and focus group discussions with beneficiaries and volunteers to assess the entire operation. Through operations update no 4 an extension up to 31 July was sought to allow time to conduct a lessons learnt workshop. The findings from this evaluation visit and the internal review in June informed the lessons learned workshop on the Gwanda Food Security Operation that was held on 24 July 2014.
The workshop discussed the challenges and successes experienced per outcome and developed recommendations for future operations. A SWOT analysis was conducted looking at the general project management, budgeting and procurement, activity processes, and communication, as well as beneficiary and stakeholder engagement. The evaluation team is currently working on the evaluation report that will be published in August. The specific areas that the workshop focused on are as follows:
- Cash distribution feasibility in the future vs. direct food distribution – applicability, community level relations, usage of cash
- Volunteer activities/ effectiveness – the efficiency of the structure, quality of the volunteers, motivation, and continuity after exit
- Water and Sanitation – durability after rehabs, community involvement and commitment to maintenance, functionality and organization of water point committees
- Community Gardening – feasibility of the intervention in view of water availability challenges, is the structure effective and sustainable?
- Appeals process – time required to initiate the process, develop the proposal and launch implementation – what needs to be revisited, what successes and challenges were encountered
- Cash disbursement system – challenges, successes and areas that can be improved