By Vusisizwe Mkhwananzi
Gwanda, February 25, 2016 – HUNGER-PRONE Matabeleland South could soon plunge into more starvation after the province’s grain stocks were said to be fast running out.
It has emerged grain meant to avert hunger in the country’s poorest province was yet to be delivered since the last deliveries were made December last year.
Matabeleland South provincial Social Welfare officer Timothy Tirivavi said the last maize deliveries of 200 metric tonnes were made in December and now villagers were waiting for their January-March allocations.
“We are gathering in Harare this week for the latest ZIMVAC report and after that we will be in a position to know the exact number of people who require food assistance,” said Tirivavi, adding that they were still gathering the exact number of people who will require food aid.
Gwanda Central legislator Edison Gumbo said drought is a reality and grain was being sourced to help thousands of families in the region.
“Some maize supplies have arrived in Bulawayo from Zambia and will soon be delivered to Gwanda. More grain is being shipped into the country from Latin America to make sure no-one starves,” said the Zanu PF parliamentarian.
Chief Ketso Mathe of Bolamba area in Gwanda South said most villagers have resorted to selling their livestock for a song to acquire mealie-meal from the shops.
“The situation is really bad, people are in dire need of food and those with cattle or goats are selling them for cheap prices to buy mealie-meal, there is need for an urgent intervention before people die because currently others are surviving on the benevolence of others,” said Chief Mathe.
She said that in the past, people would catch caterpillars (amacimbi) which they would sell in Gwanda and Bulawayo and get some income to buy food but this season due to poor rains they had failed to do so.
However, some villagers fear they will not benefit as over the years food aid has been distributed on political grounds.
“When the food arrives finger pointing on political grounds begins and usually those in the ruling party benefit and we still remain starving,” said a villager in Garanyemba.
“Besides the partisan distribution, we are still required to pay for packaging and transportation of the maize to our wards meaning it is only those with money that can access the food whilst the poor go hungry.”
Villagers say they are charged $2 per kilometre for the delivery of the maize to their respective wards and also made to source their own packaging for the maize.
With almost 2million people in need of food assistance in the wake of an El-Nino induced drought and 75 per cent of the crop declared a complete failure, Zimbabwe will have to import over a million metric tonnes of maize.
Matabeleland South province which lies in the drought prone Region 5 and is second hardest hit by drought after Masvingo with a 65% crop failure.
With an estimated 700 000 settled in the province the Social Welfare estimates that a third of those are urgently in need of food aid.
Agriculture deputy minister recently told Gwanda villagers that government was doing its best to make sure no one starves but advised them to find alternative means to feed themselves.
“We are doing all we can to make sure no-one starves but don’t wait to be spoon fed, try other means also,” said Zhanda.
The department of Social Welfare is also assisting vulnerable groups with food while non-governmental organizations such as Care International have also chipped in to assist avert hunger.
Zimbabwe, once referred to as the breadbasket of Southern Africa because of its thriving agriculture, is now a basket case and has over the years relied on food imports from neighbours Zambia and South Africa.
The slump in food production has heavily been blamed on the chaotic land reform that displaced white commercial farmers in the year 2000.