Govt intensifies drought relief efforts

THE Food for Work programme, recently re-introduced by Government to boost people’s welfare while promoting community development kicks off next week amid calls for water tight systems to cub misuse of the aid funds or distribution of food to undeserving elements.
This follows reports that the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and the District Development Fund (DDF) have been diverting funds allocated to them by Government for the distribution of food aid to the needy.

Both the GMB and the DDF have allegedly been using the money to repair vehicles, pay allowances and settle debts. Under the programme, beneficiaries get food in exchange for labour. Beneficiaries are expected to work for a maximum four hours per day and will receive food rations based on the number of hours worked. Reports of food aid being abused with able-bodied people helping themselves to food meant for vulnerable groups have been widespread.

Last week, resettled villagers in Ward 25 of Zvimba East constituency in Mashonaland West held a series of meetings in which Food for Work beneficiaries were identified.

A committee comprising traditional leaders and members of the community made a tour of the ward as it identified both the beneficiaries and the areas that the beneficiaries will work on. Those who are not capable of working will receive food aid under the drought relief programme.

The community was upbeat that the programme will address some of the nagging development issues.
“I am excited about the programme. Both the community and the beneficiaries will benefit. Our roads are in a bad state and I am sure this programme will ensure they are rehabilitated,” said Joshua Mbayo of Sunnyside Farm.

Mr Ngoni Kanyasa, the local councillor said the programme will go a long way in the development of the area.
“We have already identified both the beneficiaries and the areas they will work on. The beneficiaries will re-fill gullies, rehabilitate community dam walls and roads. This programme will go long way in developing our area,” Mr Kanyasa said.

Mr Israel Pasi Kawanzaruwa, a local headman, said efforts must be made to make sure that food aid is given to deserving people.
“There have been reports in which food aid is being given to undeserving people. In our area, we have a committee whose mandate is to make sure that beneficiaries are thoroughly vetted. Food must be given to people who deserve it,” Mr Kawanzaruwa said.

Apart from transforming rural livelihoods, the programme also ensures that the objectives set in the economic and social blueprint Zim-Asset, are achieved. . The beneficiaries will rehabilitate roads, repair boreholes and establish nutrition gardens, among other things.Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira is on record saying that focus is on road rehabilitation, clinics and hospitals, among other key infrastructureDistrict Drought Relief Committees will identify infrastructure projects to be embarked on with guidance from District Development Fund engineers.

Calls have, however, been made for the programme to prioritise productive activities that seek to achieve food security and reduce aid dependency.

Speaking during the launch of the programme, Local Government, Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere said the programme should be designed in a manner that promotes productivity, particularly irrigation to ensure the country is self-sufficient in terms of food requirements.Government is also assisting more than 600 000 households under the Vulnerable Food Assistance Programme.

The programme targets widows, orphans, the disabled and senior citizens.In February, Government declared the El-Nino induced drought a national disaster after most parts of the country suffered a crop failure due to the shaortage of rains..

Government has since appealed for domestic and international assistance to the tune of US$1,6 billion which will cover food importation.

An estimated 2.8 million of the 9.4 million rural Zimbabweans are currently facing food insecurity.
Zimbabwe is facing one of the worst drought in close to two decades.

Government has so far secured about $200 million to import grain and Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa said $7 million would be directed towards irrigation development, targeting 11 290 hectares.

The need for food aid is, however, not only confined to Zimbabwe.
According to the United Nations, the world is facing unprecedented levels of humanitarian need.
The United States Agency for International Development (USAID), which recently mobilised $20 million in additional funding to help feed people affected by drought in Zimbabwe, puts the number of people displaced by conflict at approximately 60 million people.

According to USAID, this is the largest amount ever recorded.
More than half of South Africa’s 50 million-plus population faces hunger and at least R20 billion is needed to import grain in that country.

Similarly, the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee project about 2,8 million people in that country need food aid until the next harvest in 2017.

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