Thanks to the generous support of the United States, WFP continues to deliver timely emergency relief whilst building the resilience of those most affected by the scourge of drought in Zimbabwe.
By Sophia Robele
Having felt the brunt of a poor harvest last year, Tobias Mumpande – a farmer and father of three from Hwange district in Zimbabwe – had pinned his hopes on an improvement this season. When hardly any rain fell during the most recent planting period – a consequence of the global weather event known as El Niño – he began to lose hope about his family getting enough to eat.
“It’s been even worse than last year,” says Tobias. “The last time it was this bad was in 2008. We tried to plant, but our seeds would just rot since there wasn’t enough rain.”
However, some relief did arrive in the form of food assistance from WFP, thanks to a large contribution from the Government of the United States, through its Agency for International Development (USAID). Thanks to this, Tobias and his entire household began receiving monthly rations of sorghum, beans, and vegetable oil in November 2015.
Before this, his family had relied only on ever-dwindling food stocks left over from the previous harvest and whatever small amounts of food they had been able to buy in local markets.
“We supplemented what we harvested last year with some income from selling tomatoes in a community garden,” says Tobias, “but the wells all dried up and the garden could no longer grow anything.”
While not a permanent solution, the food assistance from WFP has helped sustain his family for now and will prevent them from resorting to selling their livestock. While the rainfall situation throughout the country has started to improve in recent weeks, the planting window has effectively closed, making it unlikely the crop damage can be reversed. The effects of El Niño have already pushed some 2.8 million Zimbabweans into food insecurity, a number expected to rise over coming months and into next year.
263chat Interviews some of the beneficiaries of WFP programs
Beyond addressing immediate food needs, USAID continues to be a key donor to WFP’s Productive Asset Creation programme. Through the creation or rehabilitation of assets such as irrigation schemes, dams, and gardens, this helps communities build their resilience to climatic and other shocks that threaten food security – ultimately, it is designed to reduce vulnerable households’ dependence on food assistance.
While the USAID contribution enables WFP to start its 2016/17 El Niño Response in April in the most food insecure districts, an additional US$200 million is still required to allow WFP to reach 2.2 million people by the peak of the 2016/17 lean season.
Since June 2015, USAID has donated a total of US$50 million to WFP’s drought response in Zimbabwe.