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HomeNewsRural Zimbabweans Pin Hope on WFP as El Nino Induced Drought Worsens

Rural Zimbabweans Pin Hope on WFP as El Nino Induced Drought Worsens

Some families are having one meal per day to save the food so that it sustains them until the next distribution. However, World Food Programme representative and country director, Francesca Erdelmann promised that they will continue to support the most vulnerable community in Zimbabwe during this lean season to make sure that food insecurity is reduced...

A historically dry February has resulted in severe water stress for crops across most parts of the country. The 2024 harvest is expected to be very poor and impact household food access through the post-harvest period, along with high food prices and limited access to income-earning opportunities leading to crisis outcomes in typical deficit-producing areas in Zimbabwe.

Thousands of rural Zimbabweans who are suffering from the effects of the eminent El Nino induced drought are seeing a ray of hope after World Food Program distributes food AID in Mangwe, Matebeleland South among other four districts in the country.

Gogo Philomina Ncube narrates how hunger is wracking havoc in Matebeleland (youtube.com)

75 year old gogo Philomina Ncube, walks towards her home with a smiley face, carrying her package of food that she and other villagers shared from the aid.

As soon as she takes of the sack of beans of her head, gogo Ncube breathed a sigh of relief that at least she and her two grandchildren have something to eat.

“The donors are God sent my child,” she started the conversation as was filming her arriving at her home. She continued with her story after she had took few gulps of water that her eldest grandchild, Hedrick had brought to her. It seemed like she had woke up early to be the first in the queue at the distribution center.

“Last night we ate porridge without sugar or salt and we slept, we had no food to eat. We are so grateful for this aid that has come, if it was not for food progam (sic), I was just going to watch the sun going down, without any idea of what to give to these children, in fact people were going to see dead bodies at this homestead,” she said while we were laughing as I was correcting her, “It’s called World Food Programme gogo”. We laughed again.

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I was there for the story, but I could feel the absent of food at that homestead. After some minutes of resting, gogo Ncube took me around her homestead showing me her fields and the kitchen, where at the center of it there was showing that there was a fire which was last lit last night, the kitchen hut was cold.

I asked her if she had eaten anything for the day she said no. “I had no food my child, I was waiting for this aid and I am starting to prepare it so that my grandchild who went to school will come back to find food because he slept on only porridge last night,” she said.

The distribution comes after a survey and 2.7 million people have been declared food insecure across the country and the WFP has so far allocated four districts, Mangwe, Buhera, Mwenezi and Rushinga, covering 230 000 people.

World Food Programme representative and country director, Francesca Erdelmann promised that they will continue to support the most vulnerable community in Zimbabwe during this lean season to make sure that food insecurity is reduced.


Grain market supplies are expected to be below normal across the country throughout the outlook period. Low market supply and high demand will keep grain prices higher than the five-year average, with the seasonal decline in prices in the harvest and post-harvest periods unlikely to occur.

 Most households are likely to rely on maize meal due to its likely higher availability than maize and traditional or small grains. A higher-than-normal national cereal deficit is expected to lead to above-normal grain imports throughout the outlook period. South Africa will likely continue to be the main source of maize imports.

Water and pasture conditions are going poor, especially in typically low rainfall areas following cumulatively below-average rainfall that has limited pasture regeneration through the rainy season.

Aaron Hangwa, whom I caught up while he was waiting for his turn to receive the food said that this year’s drought is likely a re-occurrence of the unforgettable 1974 drought.

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“We are likely to have another 1974 drought my child, if they do not continue giving us food we will die. We are now in March but we last saw rains last year and all the crops dried up, we did not harvest a single grain,” he said.

He also pleaded with the WFP to continue supporting them, he said all the domestic animals have died due to shortages of water.

Villagers also said that poor livestock body conditions, particularly for cattle, are leading to higher-than-normal livestock deaths in the dry season as the limited pastures deplete and high prices limit access to supplementary feeds. Poor water availability and access are also negatively impacting household engagement in casual labor, construction-related activities, vegetable production and sales, and other livelihood and coping activities.

The high and likely continued increase in exchange rates will likely keep ZWL prices well above normal, with price rises also likely in USD as the high production and transportation costs are passed onto the consumer.

An increase in the cost of living is increasing the proportion of households unable to afford basic food needs despite food commodities being generally available on the market. For gogo Ncube and other villagers in Mangwe, who mostly use Pula, Botswana currency because of their closeness to the Plumtree boarder post said that the exchange rate is skyrocketing daily.

“100 Pula can only buy a packet of mealie meal now, it is no longer enough to buy more goods like it used to do, the situation is really bad now,” she said.

Poor households are likely to increasingly engage in consumption and livelihood-based coping strategies to meet their food needs. Government, donors, humanitarian partners, and other stakeholders should prepare for high food assistance needs throughout 2024, with a likely need to further scale up humanitarian assistance in late 2024 and early 2025, given an anticipated earlier-than-normal start of the 2024/25 lean season.

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Journalist based in Harare

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