The United States meets immediate food needs of more than one million Zimbabweans

Ambassador Brian A. Nichols

Oped- The United States meets immediate food needs of more than one million Zimbabweans

Harare: January 31, 2020- Zimbabwe’s food security situation is growing ever more precarious as millions of Zimbabweans require food assistance.  The United States Government is committed to helping Zimbabweans face this challenge.  As part of this commitment, the United States is meeting the immediate food needs of more than one million Zimbabweans who require assistance now.

In my travels around the country, Zimbabweans have told me how they spend significantly more on food while eating less both in quantity and quality than last year.  To alleviate suffering, the American people provided Zimbabweans some US$370 million in healthcare, humanitarian, and development assistance in 2019 (See interactive presentation on U.S. assistance)

Of the US$370 million, the U.S. government provided more than US$122.9 million in humanitarian assistance in 2019.  This includes life-saving food assistance for more than one million Zimbabweans to meet their dietary needs before the next harvest.  This funding also supported emergency response for approximately 133,000 Zimbabweans whose lives were upended by Cyclone Idai.

Because we know that transitioning communities from food aid to sustainable development takes time, we provided US$45.4 million in longer-term development assistance to tackle the root causes of food insecurity and poverty and to strengthen resilience for generations to come.  This includes creating and repairing dams, irrigation systems, and dip tanks throughout the country, with more than 1,700 of these community assets built or rehabilitated since 2011.  It also includes assisting smallholder farmers grow more nutritious food for their families, sell their surplus, and make money, ultimately putting them on a path to self-reliance.

I am continually inspired by the Zimbabweans who benefit from U.S. assistance.

Jane Mukupe’s story illustrates the success of our support to banana farmers in the Honde Valley.  Jane first received U.S. assistance in 2012 with an initial investment of 200 improved variety banana plants on her 0.1-hectare lot.  Today, she maintains more than 3,000 plants on 1.5 hectares, five years after our support ended.  What started as a small U.S. government-supported project aimed at transforming the lives of 660 small-scale banana farmers has positively transformed the food security, nutrition and resilience of over 25,000 people in eastern Zimbabwe, some of whom advanced from earning US$200 a year to as much as US$10,000 a year.

With U.S. training and support, agricultural entrepreneur Francisca Paramu grew her dairy business earnings from US$34 per month in 2016 to more than US$1,500 in December 2019.  Her company, Wapasi Dairy in Gweru, now provides greater nutrition to her community and beyond.

As a former recipient of emergency assistance, Catherine Dukute planted drought-resistant sorghum with U.S. support in 2018.  She harvested one ton the first year — the most of all the farmers in Buhera district, where the average yield is less than 300kg per hectare.  With our support, the World Food Programme bought sorghum from Dukute and more than 100 other smallholder farmers in Masvingo, Chivi, and Buhera districts.  These farmers once received U.S. food assistance.  Today, they help feed other Zimbabweans by selling their surplus production to benefit other food insecure families.

Our commitment to Zimbabwe endures in times of plenty and scarcity.  The United States opened the first embassy in Harare when Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980.  Since then, the United States has remained Zimbabwe’s largest bilateral and humanitarian donor.  Since 1980, we have contributed more than US$3.2 billion to improve food security, strengthen health services, support economic resilience, and promote democratic governance.

Poor rains from the last growing season only partially explain why there are millions of hungry Zimbabweans.  As Foreign Affairs Minister Sibusiso Moyo wrote in a January 28 opinion piece for a local daily: “In the longer term, economic mismanagement, policy missteps and the scourge of corruption have also yielded the current crisis.”

As laid out in the government’s own joint reports with the United Nations, World Bank and African Development Bank Zimbabwe must implement a transparent, market-based agricultural policy to reverse a decades long slide in farm productivity.

Agriculture accounted for over 20 percent of the economy a generation ago when Zimbabwe exported food throughout southern Africa and to Europe.

However, its contribution has now declined to about 10 percent.  With the causes diagnosed and Zimbabwean policymakers voicing support for change, we encourage the Zimbabwean government to carry out reforms swiftly to end the cycle of hunger.

For those who assert that international restrictive measures contribute to Zimbabwe’s food security problems, empirical evidence gives lie to that argument.  Regardless, the Government of Zimbabwe has the power to implement meaningful economic and political reforms that would address international concerns and obviate sanctions.

As Zimbabwe faces its worst drought in decades, the United States continues to stand with the people of Zimbabwe to strengthen food security, promote inclusive economic transformation, and support a more prosperous future.

Originally published in the Zimbabwe Independent