Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

Commercial Farmers' Union of Zimbabwe

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Hunger, disease are signs of bad governance

Comment: Hunger, disease are signs of bad governance

Saturday, 27 March 2010 19:14

PEOPLE need not be suffering from, or even dying of, severe malnutrition as is happening in Mberengwa and many other parts of the country that experienced a bad 2009/10 agriculture season. Reports coming from Mberengwa in the southern Midlands show that hundreds of adults are being treated for malnutrition-related diseases such as pellagra while many more children have contracted kwashiorkor.
Zimbabwe is a modern country that should be able to deal with such regular occurrences as droughts. Not only is the country’s rainfall patterns closely monitored but also a lot of organisations have made it their brief to give
food assistance to people who need it.

Climatic changes ravaging the world today have also affected the tropics to which Zimbabwe belongs. It has been established that Zimbabwe suffers a drought every three years.

By the middle of the last century Zimbabwe had already been divided into five agricultural-climatic zones according to the amount of rain they received and what kind of farming was appropriate in each region. The amount of rainfall received lessened with descent from region I to region V. Region V, the second biggest and driest, occupies 27% of the country. According to a 1960 research the region “is an extensive farming region. Rainfall in this region is too low and erratic for the reliable production of even drought-resistant fodder and grain crops, and farming is based on grazing natural pasture. Extensive cattle or game ranching is the only sound farming system for this region”.

But people do cropping in this region anyway. Most of southern and parts of north-west Zimbabwe lie in this region and receive less than 450 mm of rain a year. On the other hand, according to the 1960 research annual rainfall is highest in natural region I which covers approximately 2% of the land area. The region is a specialised and diversified farming region.

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network gives regular updates on which regions would need food assistance, when. So, with this essential data why are people starving? How is the country’s lack of preparedness explained?Again we find that our politics are not right.

First, one of the reasons why the land reform programme was launched was ostensibly to resettle people living in arid areas in areas where decent farming could not be practised. But this was done only to a limited extent.
People in arid or semi-arid regions remained where they were. The reason was mainly tribalism – politicians in fertile regions refused to accept people from the poor areas purely for their political survival.

Second, the regions that should produce food for the nation have been handicapped again through political expedience. Zimbabwe’s commercial agriculture sector, which was once the envy of the world, now lies in ruins.
The official reason for this was that historical imbalances had to be rectified. Fair enough, but we have not seen a concerted effort to rehabilitate this sector even though the powers that be now accept the mistakes they made in land redistribution.

As if that was not enough, organisations that have proffered help in feeding affected people have seen their efforts hampered, again by emotional political monkey tricks. The government has decreed that food can only be distributed through Zanu PF’s political structures. Headmen who are known to be the party’s men on the ground, by free will or by coercion, have been given the responsibility to distribute food. Naturally they are doing this on a partisan basis.

So until we correct our politics Zimbabwe will continue to the backward nation it has become.


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