Able-bodied people in Zimbabwe’s drought-stricken districts have been helping themselves to aid meant for vulnerable groups and will now earn their keep under a massive food-for-work programme.
Eligible candidates will each receive 50kg of maize plus US$10 per month, with thousands benefiting.
Government has been assisting 600 000-plus households under the Vulnerable Food Assistance Programme which targets widows, orphans, the disabled and senior citizens.
However, an audit by authorities revealed that ineligible characters have been lining up for the free food and Government will incorporate these into the Productive Community Assets Programme.
The initiative has households that are already receiving aid after submitting lists of able-bodied members who are prepared to do community work.
District Drought Relief Committees and communities will identify infrastructure projects to be embarked on with guidance from District Development Fund engineers.
Five districts have piloted the programme with more to follow suit.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Minister Prisca Mupfumira told this paper last week that focus was on road rehabilitation, clinics and hospitals, among other key infrastructure.
“While our focus has been primarily on grain handouts to the vulnerables, we noticed that we have able-bodied individuals who can assist with community development.
“Under the food-for-work programme, which we are calling the Productive Community Assets Programme, communities will participate in developing infrastructure in return for grain.
“At the end of the day, we would have killed two birds with one stone: Furthering community development and feeding the needy.”
Minister Mupfumira said households would get a stipend to buy supplementary foodstuffs or mill grain.
“Communities working with our drought relief committees will identify projects that need attention. We will then get able-bodied people willing to participate in the projects into the work programme. Technical expertise will be provided by DDF and other Government agencies.
“We are hopeful that in terms of inputs such as cement, development partners will chip in. We are encouraged by the overwhelming willingness by communities to participate in the pilot projects that we have run.”
The number of food insecure Zimbabweans has risen steadily due to the El Nino-induced drought that depleted maize yields in most parts of the country.
In the week ending March 23, 2016, Government upped maize distribution by 1 465 tonnes to 7 903 tonnes, bringing cumulative food assistance since October 2015 to 74 333 tonnes.
“The Grain Marketing Board’s maize stocks have been declining over the past weeks and have been of concern given that more vulnerable households are now on the food assistance registers,” said Minister Mupfumira.
“However, there has been an increase in GMB stock, which stands at 87 464 tonnes as at 23 March. The GMB attributed this to the grain imports that were delivered by ZANAK, a Zambian distribution company. There is also IETC, a local company which delivered 14 00 tonnes of maize imported from Zambia,” she said.
Zimbabwe, like many African countries, is experiencing severe drought, which, according to experts, is linked to climate change.
More than half of South Africa’s 50 million-plus population faces hunger, and the government there needs at least R20 billion in food imports.
According to the Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee, about 2,8 million people in that country need food aid.
President Mugabe declared Zimbabwe’s 2015/16 farming season a disaster, with Government appealing for domestic and international assistance worth US$1,6 billion, covering food importation, safe water supply and micro-nutrient/under-five and school children feeding.
The appeal also targets irrigation infrastructure rehabilitation and production, livestock support and de-stocking and wildlife support.
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