Cablegate: Zimbabwe Humanitarian Crisis: Joint Ffp/Ofda

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.






E.O. 12958: N/A


1. (SBU) Summary: This cable reports findings of
joint visit by REDSO/FFP and OFDA/ARO reps to
Zimbabwe to review humanitarian crisis, including
participation in FAO/WFP crop and food supply
crisis will be much worse due to the minimal
carryover stocks, the continuing impact of poor
economic policy management and the so-called "fast-
track" land reform program. Of particular concern
is the impact of continuing prohibitions of
private sector imports and foreign exchange
controls. A combination of urgent economic policy
reforms and humanitarian assistance is needed now
to avert the advent of a large scale famine that
would have grave social and economic impacts on
Zimbabwe and the region. End summary.

2. (SBU) Overview of situation: Historically a
breadbasket for the Southern African region,
Zimbabwe is now in need of massive food imports
and humanitarian assistance. This staggering
reversal has been brought on by a combination of
commercial farm invasions in the guise of land
reform, poor economic policy management, and
drought. Production on commercial farms has
fallen dramatically, and many communal farming
areas, particularly in the South and East, have
experienced near total crop failure. The hunger
season, which would normally end with the maize
harvest in April/May, has instead been extended
and deepened. There is a lack of maize available
for sale in local markets, and even individuals
with funds are finding it increasingly difficult
to obtain food. While the climatic severity of
this year's drought may be less than that of 1992,
the food security crisis will be much worse due to
the minimal carryover stocks, the continuing
impact of poor economic policy management and the
so-called "fast-track" land reform program. Of
particular concern is the combination of
continuing prohibitions on private sector imports
and GOZ foreign exchange controls. A combination
of urgent economic policy reforms and humanitarian
assistance is needed now to avert the advent of a
large scale famine that would have grave social
and economic impacts on Zimbabwe and the region.

3. (SBU) Crop and food supply assessment mission:
FAO and WFP led a multi-agency crop and food
supply assessment mission in Zimbabwe from April
23 to May 10. On May 9, the assessment team
debriefed donor representatives on its preliminary
findings (assessment details were reported in
September). A final written report of assessment
findings should be released by WFP/FAO before the
end of May. REDSO/FFP rep participated in part of
the field portion of the mission, traveling to
Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces.

4. (SBU) Crop production estimates: The
assessment mission concluded that maize production
levels are even less than the 600,000 mts
previously estimated, perhaps around 500,000 mts,
this compares to a normal year production of over
two million mts. Annual domestic consumption
requirements are over 1.8 million mts, leaving a
maize import requirement of roughly 1.3 to 1.4
million mts. The assessment mission also forecast
that wheat production would fall to about one-
third of last year's harvest of about 330,000 mts.
The poor winter wheat crop is due to the dramatic
reduction of acreage planted on commercial farms,
and is a direct consequence of uncertainty created
by the GOZ's fast track land reform program and
commercial farm invasions.

5. (SBU) Effects of drought: Poor rainfall has
affected most of the country, with the effects of
drought on crop production most pronounced in the
Southern and Western provinces of Masvingo and
Matabeleland (areas assessed by REDSO/FFP rep),
where a long dry spell in January/February (midway
through the growing season) led to widespread crop
failure. Many households and communities observed
during the assessment mission had virtually no
harvest al all. Most maize in these areas is
grown by communal farmers, with commercial farms
focused more on ranching. Given the dry climate,
these areas are not self-sufficient in maize
production even in normal years, and most farm
households normally supplement crop production
with market purchases. Livestock, remittances,
gold mining, and farm labor are among key income
sources. The one bit of good news is that
livestock has not been seriously affected.
Pasture and water conditions are expected to be
adequate for the rest of the year, assuming normal
rains next season. In this respect the drought is
less severe than the 1992 drought, which caused
heavy cattle losses.

6. (SBU) Fate of commercial farm workers:
Commercial farm invasions have caused loss of
employment and displacement for many farm workers
and their families. Over 2000 commercial farms
are reported to have been taken over to date, and
an additional 3,000 are slated for fast track
takeover by the end of August 2002. In most
cases, farm workers on invaded commercial farms
have been chased off the land with little or no
notice, sometimes with only the personal
possessions they could carry, or were wearing.
While it is difficult to get a firm grip on the
numbers, a conservative estimate is 40-50 workers
per farm and 3-4 persons per farm worker family.
By this calculation, the numbers of dispossessed
and now internally displaced farm workers and
family members would be around 300,000 people.
This number is expected to rise dramatically over
the next several months when additional 3,000
farms are slated for fast track takeover.

7. (SBU) As yet, displaced farm workers and their
families have not begun to congregate in makeshift
camps or descend masse to larger urban areas. It
is believed that some have moved to neighboring
farms, that others are still on the invaded farms
themselves, and that still others have either
blended into communities, or moved in with
relatives in other urban and peri urban areas. It
is anticipated that the problem of displaced
workers will be most serious in the area of
Mashonaland in the north, which accounts for an
estimated 80% of all commercial farm workers.
Assessing the gravity of the problem has been
complicated, since those seeking to analyze the
situation (e.g., the FAO/WFP assessment mission)
have been unable to visit affected areas due to
restrictions or intimidation by government and/or
so-called "war veterans". To date, only limited
numbers of displaced farm workers have assembled
in group sites. OFDA/FFP reps visited two of
these sites near Harare, where NGOs are providing
food, shelter and other assistance to
approximately 270 displaced workers and family
members. As the number of farm invasions
continues to increase, it is likely that the
numbers arriving in such sites will rise

8. (SBU) Economic policy effects: Have
compounded the problems caused by drought and the
invasion of commercial farms. Economic policies
that have discouraged crop production and greatly
restricted the country's capacity to import maize.
Key among these policies are food price controls,
the monopoly of the GOZ's Grain Marketing Board
(GMB), and foreign exchange rate controls.

9. (SBU) Market access to food: In past years,
when crop performance was poor, rural households
could satisfy their food needs with purchases in
local markets - and, in particular sales from the
government's Grain Marketing Board (GMB) where
maize was usually readily available and
affordable. This is no longer the case in many
areas, since access to maize in local markets and
from the GMB is increasingly difficult. In all
the areas visited, including the cities of Harare
and Bulawayo, maize is increasingly in short
supply, with a marked drop off in availability
since the election. While the GMB's official
prices remain reasonable (despite a recent
increase), very little maize can actually be
bought at this price. GMB's imports have been
inadequate for meeting demand, and much of their
supplies are going through traders or "insiders"
who are reselling at prices above the official
prices. No surprisingly, it is alleged that
affiliation with the ruling party is a determining
factor in who gets direct access to GMB supplies.
Given the government policies prohibiting both the
import of and wholesaling of food by the private
sector, privileged traders with access to GMB
supplies can readily take advantage of the
situation to charge prices double, triple or more
than the official price. At one rural GMB depot
(visited by REDSO/FFP rep), women had been queuing
for several days, waiting to purchase maize that
had not even arrived yet. There was wheat
available at the depot, but it was twice as
expensive and thus unaffordable. In other places,
many consumers have no access to maize from GMB
and must either rely on private traders or
substitute other food. This scarcity of maize in
markets will only get worse as the year
progresses. With a limited supply of foreign
exchange, the GOZ is expected to be able to
purchase only about a quarter of the cereal import
requirement, leaving a consumption gap of
approximately one million mts.
10. (SBU) Health/nutrition concerns: UNICEF, WHO
and related NGOs are reporting serious
deterioration of the health service network in
Zimbabwe, as well as the general health of people.
Many health workers have left the country or are
doing other jobs, and NGOs report that remaining
health post personnel are desperately in need of
training. Health posts and clinics also lack
basic medicines. In particular, cholera has been
reported, since accessing medicine for treatment
of cholera is difficult. DFID and EU have
recently provided several million USD to WHO and
UNICEF for medicines. In addition measles
vaccination coverage has fallen from 70-80% in
previous years to only 43% in 2001. Problems of
inadequate health services are reportedly worse in
rural areas than in urban areas. UNICEF and WHO
have been working with the GOZ Ministry of Health
to conduct health and household surveys in 24 of
59 districts, data from which should be available
soon. However, OFDA rep expressed serious
concerns about the quality and reliability of the
survey work being done.

11. (SBU) Food aid needs: While food aid has
already helped to mitigate the food availability
problem in many areas, food aid alone will not be
able to meet this large consumption gap, nor
should it be expected to. Availability of donor
resources, logistical constraints, and the limited
capacity of NGOs to effectively implement and
monitor large scale food aid distributions are all
factors that will limit the scale of the food aid
response. To be effective, the food aid response
must be accompanied by reversal of GOZ policies
that have closed import and wholesale markets to
the private sector and severely restricted access
to foreign exchange. It is essential that
commercial imports be dramatically increased so
that the bulk of consumers that have economic
means can obtain food in local markets and thereby
allow emergency food aid to be targeted only to
households that lack purchasing power.

12. (SBU) Political manipulation of humanitarian
aid: Donors are very concerned about the
potential (and actual) political manipulation of
food aid and other humanitarian assistance. There
are reports of humanitarian aid being directed
only to pro-ZANU/PF supporters and to government
officials "attaching themselves" to food aid
deliveries in order to gain political support from
beneficiaries. USG and other donors are therefore
emphasizing that close "external" monitoring
(i.e., monitors outside of the implementing
agencies themselves) is essential to ensure
effective targeting of resources and minimizing
political manipulation of donor aid.

13. (SBU) GMO maize acceptability: As of the end
of May, the GOZ had not accepted the 10,000 mts of
U.S. yellow maize that has been allocated for
Zimbabwe from the regional shipment of 30,000 mts
of yellow maize (plus other commodities) that is
expected to dock in Dar Es Salaam around May 26.
(Note: This shipment has been rerouted to other
regional beneficiaries). The GOZ's refusal is
based on concerns about the maize being
genetically modified (i.e., GMO). It is unclear,
however exactly what the GOZ is concerned about,
since they have switched back and forth between
risks of contamination of local (hybrid) varieties
and risks to EU export markets (even though the EU
denies any prohibitions on GMO-fed beef).

14. (SBU) Cereal alternatives: If the GOZ does
not agree to accept the maize allocated from the
regional stock, an immediate implication is that
the 10,000 mts of maize from the regional shipment
will have to be reallocated to other countries in
the region. (See note above). This will have a
major negative impact on the Zimbabwe food aid
pipeline at a time when distributions need to be
substantially increased. An additional
implication is that it will be necessary to
identify an alternative cereal for future
shipments. While GMO yellow maize meal (as
opposed to grain) is acceptable (and is already
being used) FFP/W has indicated that it will not
be able to supply meal in great enough quantities
to address the Zimbabwe crisis. A second
alternative would be immediate milling of yellow
corn that is not certified GMO-free upon arrival,
at GOZ expense. While traveling in the field,
REDSO/FFP rep queried many people about the
acceptability of sorghum. While it is clearly not
the preferred option, it appears that sorghum
would be an acceptable alternative to maize grain
in Zimbabwe (it could also be used in some other
countries in the region). The fact that sorghum
is less preferred could also have advantages for
targeting purposes.

15. (SBU) Addressing urban food needs: While
food aid activities are currently targeted only to
rural areas, the lack of maize in urban markets,
the resulting higher prices, and the general
decline and rising unemployment are causing
increasing food insecurity in urban areas.
However, distributing food aid in urban areas
through conventional distribution approaches would
be very difficult due to the large numbers
involved as well as the lack of NGO capacity.
Ideas are under discussion by WFP and donors on
how to channel food aid through the private sector
(e.g., subsidized sales). However, a prerequisite
for any such approach is GOZ enactment of a number
of policy changes to liberalize markets (as
described above). There is presently little sign
that GOZ will make such changes. It is also not
clear at this point that allocating substantial
amounts of emergency food aid to this type of
urban intervention would be the most effective use
of this scarce resource, as needs in rural areas
are currently more acute than in urban areas, with
the possible exception of the so-called "informal
settlements" areas. It is also unclear that
subsidized food aid sales would directly benefit
the most needy urban dwellers, who may have little
or no purchasing power. This issue does require
further consideration, however, and in particular
more attention must be directed to informal
settlements, where urban poverty is greatest.
16. (SBU) Future assessments and regional food
appeal: This cable does not provide specific
numbers on food aid and non-food aid needs. In
part this is because UN is not prepared at this
time to release specific numbers until completion
and analysis of the data and discussion at the
regional meetings to be held June 6 and 7.
OFDA/ARO and REDSO/FFP reps plan to participate in
these meetings and will subsequently report on
estimated levels of regional needs. In addition,
OFDA/ARO and REDSO/FFP are also planning for a
series of follow-up assessments to further refine
needs assessments and recommendations for

© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Covid: 250 Groups Urge WTO Chief To Ditch Pharma-Friendly Approach And Embrace Vaccine Patent Waiver

by Jake Johnson, staff writer An international coalition of 250 civil society groups on Tuesday urged the head of the World Trade Organization to embrace a temporary suspension of coronavirus vaccine-related patents, warning against pursuit of a voluntary ... More>>

Samoa’s Stunning Election Result: On The Verge Of A New Ruling Party For The First Time In 40 Years

Tamasailau Suaalii Sauni , University of Auckland and Patricia A. O'Brien , Georgetown University Samoan politics is on a knife edge. After the country voted in general elections on April 9, counting so far has resulted in a dead heat between the two ... More>>

Timor-Leste: UN Agencies Support Response In Wake Of Deadly Floods

United Nations agencies in Timor-Leste are supporting response efforts, as floods and landslides left widespread damage across the country, including in the capital, Dili. According to media reports, at least 21 people died in the country and many ... More>>

Focus On: UN SDGs

C40: UN Secretary-General's Remarks To Meeting With Leading Mayors Supported By Cities

UN Secretary-General's remarks to Meeting with Leading Mayors Supported by C40 Cities: “Advancing a Carbon-Neutral, Resilient Recovery for Cities and Nations” 16 April 2021 Thank you for joining me today, and for your commitment and leadership. Cities ... More>>

Awake At Night: S3-Episode 21: There Is Hope

Brazzaville visit to CSI Pilote du Diabete with Health workers at a local government clinic. 2018 - Photo: ©CSI/Dr. Soumya Swaminathan 'When it comes to a pandemic, it really needs global collaboration and solidarity because the pathogens and viruses More>>

UN: Growing Calls For Revamping Development Financing To Ensure Sustainable Global Recovery From COVID-19 Pandemic

Forum to highlight new initiatives to tackle inequalities exacerbated by pandemic With many economies reeling as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as inequalities continue to widen, world leaders will discuss options to unlock concrete investments ... More>>