Zimbabwe declares state of disaster in face of serious drought

Zimbabwe’s president declared a state of national disaster, as the southern African country suffered a severe drought linked to the El Niño weather phenomenon, raising the spectre of hunger for millions.

Zimbabwe is the third country in southern Africa to declare a state of natural disaster, after Malawi and Zambia, in connection with the drought. « I declare a state of national disaster due to the El Niño drought, » said Emmerson Mnangagwa at a press conference.

The main purpose of this measure is to release exceptional resources to deal with the crisis. « No Zimbabwean should go hungry, » continued the President.

More than 2.7 million people will be short of food due to poor rains, and grain harvests are expected to feed just over half the population, warned the head of state. Unable to obtain supplies from traditional suppliers in Zambia and Malawi, Zimbabwean millers have imported GM maize from South Africa.

In March, small-scale Zimbabwean farmers in the affected areas told AFP that they were already struggling to feed their families, after their harvests failed and food prices soared.

Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector was severely weakened by Robert Mugabe’s post-independence land reform, which saw thousands of white farmers evicted from their land and redistributed to under-equipped and under-trained black farmers.

The government is now encouraging farmers to reorient crops towards more resistant cereals such as sorghum, and is counting on the construction of two dams launched in 2018 in the Kanyemba region, but delayed by the covid.

In early March, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that generally dry weather conditions in early 2024 in southern Africa associated with the El Niño climate phenomenon « are expected to exacerbate food insecurity ».

Keneth Ononga

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