U.S. Re-Aligns Food Assistance to Zimbabwe

Ambassador Wharton during a tour of a WFP food distribution site in Matabeleland North recently
Ambassador Wharton during a tour of a WFP food distribution site in Matabeleland North recently

The United States this week announced that it was completing a process of realigning its food assistance support to Zimbabwe to foster a stronger foundation for long term food and nutrition in Zimbabwe. On Wednesday, Ambassador Wharton joined senior government officials to celebrate the successful launch of two flagship programs- ENSURE and Amalima- designed to ensure implementation of an variety of food and security programs.

The U.S. government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Food for Peace office provided a combined total of $100 million over five years starting in 2013.

“Through these two new projects, ENSURE and Amalima, the American people will support an innovative approach towards ensuring food security and nutrition in Zimbabwe,” Ambassador Wharton told delegates who included senior government ministers at the launch of the projects on Wednesday. “Since 2009 we have changed the focus of our assistance to increased resilience and foster a stronger foundation that will promote and sustain long term food and nutrition security,” said Ambassador Wharton, whose government has committed over $2.6 billion in humanitarian assistance to Zimbabwe since 2002.

Two partners, World Vision and CNFA, will implement the programs in Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, and Matabeleland South provinces.
Two partners, World Vision and CNFA, will implement the programs in Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, and Matabeleland South provinces.

The programs incorporate the need to join food assistance with the promotion of economic growth opportunities and an increased emphasis on nutrition and hygiene. Two partners, World Vision and CNFA, will implement the programs in Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, and Matabeleland South provinces.

It is estimated that the programs will assist more than 500,000 vulnerable Zimbabweans to improve their nutritional status, increase their agricultural productivity and economically viability, and become more resilient in the face of economic and natural disasters between 2013 and 2018.

The two programs will complement Zimbabwe’s comprehensive food and nutrition security policy launched in 2013. Several government ministers attended the launch. They included Dr Ignatius Chombo, who is also acting minister of agriculture, who hailed the programs for aligning with national food security priorities and pledged government’s commitment to “closely and transparently” collaborating with the implementing partners in ensuring success of the programs.

“Government will take a lead in resuscitating and strengthening the relevant local structures that shall be involved in the projects such as the District Food and Nutrition Security Committees,” said Dr Chombo who is also Minister of Local Government. He said that food and nutrition have been development priorities of the Zimbabwean government since independence and “enshrined Government’s economic blueprint, the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-economic Transformation (ZimAsset).” “The focus of the two programs is clearly consistent with and supportive of our strategic objectives contained in ZimAsset and the Food and Nutrition Security Policy,” he added.

The latest Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) annual report projects that 2.2 million of Zimbabwe’s 13 million people may be food insecure during January and March peak hunger season this year. The majority are children and women in rural, subsistence farming communities.  This is an increase in needs over last season that is largely attributed to climate conditions and poor agricultural production.

However, the Amalima and ENSURE projects will target districts in four provinces- mainly Manicaland, Masvingo, Matabeleland North and South. George Kembo, director of the Food and Nutrition Council, explained that the districts were selected on the basis of information gathered that indicated that there were high levels of poverty and malnutrition in the selected districts.

Among other activities already taking place in the targeted areas are health and hygiene practices training as well provision of supplementary food rations for just over 220,000 women and children. Training on diversification of livelihood options to promote productivity among smallholder farmers is also being undertaken and small grain production is expected to increase by more than 120,000 metric tons and calf birth rates by 75 percent. The projects will improve water, sanitation, and hygiene by introducing water purification technologies; rehabilitating water points at primary health clinics; and creating and training community health clubs.

In addition to the agriculture interventions, the two projects will help prepare hundreds of communities through training and the development of community-managed disaster risk reduction and modern early warning systems.

ZIMVAC figures over the past decade show that the number of Zimbabweans requiring humanitarian food assistance has generally declined since its peak in 2009 when USAID and other international partners provided food aid to more than half the country’s population.

Since 2002, USAID- Zimbabwe has managed funded several food security programs in Zimbabwe most of which have focused on emergency relief and recovery. Between 2002 and 2010, C-SAFE led by World Vision and the implementing partners- the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and CARE spearheaded the U.S. response to the 2002-2004 drought that affected the southern African region.

Between 2010 and 2013 the U.S. support the Promoting Recovery in Zimbabwe (PRIZE) project led by CRS with ACDI/VOCA and CARE. The support was a follow on from the earlier programs and was designed as a response to the 2008/2009 economic crisis which saw Zimbabwe recorded some of the highest inflation figures and the collapse of the local currency.

The Amalima and ENSURE programs have significant development components that are expected to steer Zimbabwe to self-sufficiency in food production– ZimPAS© February 21, 2014.