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Cablegate: Food Security Assessment Conducted in Zimbabwe

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

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 05 HARARE 002826

SIPDIS

AIDAC

USAID/W FOR DCHA/OFDA FOR HAJJAR, KHANDAGLE AND MARX,
DCHA/FFP FOR LANDIS, BRAUSE, SKORIC AND PETERSEN, AFR/SA
FOR POE AND COPSON, AFR/SD FOR ISALROW AND WHELAN
STATE FOR AF/S DELISI AND RAYNOR
NAIROBI FOR DCHA/OFDA/ARO FOR RILEY, MYER AND SMITH,
REDSO/ESA/FFP FOR SENYKOFF
GENEVA PLEASE PASS TO UNOCHA, IFRC
PRETORIA FOR USAID/DCHA/FFP FOR DISKIN, DCHA/OFDA FOR BRYAN
AND FAS FOR HELM
ROME PLEASE PASS TO FODAG
AIDAC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAID PREL US ZI
SUBJECT: FOOD SECURITY ASSESSMENT CONDUCTED IN ZIMBABWE


-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC)
conducted an assessment of food security in Zimbabwe between
December 2 and 6, 2002. A preliminary report on the
assessment is expected o/a December 18, 2002. Monitoring
teams conducted focus group interviews in 62 villages
throughout Zimbabwe. Two USAID Food for Peace Officers
participated on the VAC as observers, visiting five
districts. Results for these five villages show a
deterioration in food security and increasingly stretched
coping mechanisms. Insufficient seed distribution and late
rains have led to a small percentage of arable land being
planted. Zimbabwean government maize distribution has been
insufficient to meet demand, forcing people to rely more on
wild foods and humanitarian assistance. There were many
allegations of corruption in the distribution of government
maize, but not for political purposes. Humanitarian food
assistance is critical to meet the food needs of the
population of the villages visited. There is some concern
about the randomness of the villages chosen for the
assessment, as some were chosen by ward councilors, rather
than by the VAC. END SUMMARY.

-------------------------------------------
VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT CONDUCTED
-------------------------------------------

2. Between December 2 and 6, 2002, the Zimbabwe
Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) conducted an
assessment of food security throughout Zimbabwe. (Note: The
VAC consists of representatives from the World Food Programme
(WFP), the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWSNET), the
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Government of
Zimbabwe (GOZ) through the National Early Warning Unit and
agriculture extension services, and international and local
non-governmental organizations (NGO). End Note.) This
assessment is a follow-up to the VAC assessment conducted in
August 2002, and is intended to investigate the predictions
of the &Emergency Food Security Report8 published on
September 16, 2002. Therefore, this shorter and less
comprehensive assessment will be used in conjunction with the
August findings to refine food assistance targeting in
Zimbabwe. A preliminary report on the findings of the
assessment is expected o/a December 18, 2002.

3. The VAC assessment did not include a nutritional survey
component in spite of the recommendations that followed the
August VAC. The United Nations Children,s Fund (UNICEF) has
not been able to receive the necessary governmental
permissions to conduct a nutritional survey. UNICEF has made
plans to conduct a nutritional survey during January 2003,
however, the data gathered is expected to be reported at too
late a date to assist in food targeting during the hungry
season.

4. The VAC assessment was conducted by twelve teams in 62
villages within 43 of the 57 districts and all eight
provinces of Zimbabwe. The wards where the villages are
located were randomly selected from each of Zimbabwe,s food
economy zones. Information was collected through interviews
with focus groups composed of village headmen and both male
and female community members. The size of the focus groups
ranged from between nine and eighteen members. An additional
female-only focus group was also interviewed. Unlike the
August assessment, no individual household interviews were
held. Each assessment team consisted of two to three members
from WFP, FEWSNET, GOZ, and the NGOs. In addition to the
twelve assessment teams, two roving teams moved around the
country in order to get a more complete picture of the
country as a whole and to ensure consistency of the interview
process across teams.

------------------------------
DETERIORATION IN FOOD SECURITY
------------------------------

5. The USAID Southern Africa Regional Food for Peace Officer
(FFPO) and the Zimbabwe FFPO participated in the VAC
assessment as observers on one of the roving teams. The
FFPOs visited a total of five villages in the districts of
Kwekwe and Gweru in Midlands province, Umzingwane in
Matabeleland South province, and Tsholotsho and Hwange in
Matabeleland North province. While the five villages visited
represent too small a sample to draw conclusions about the
current state of food security in all of Zimbabwe, it is
clear that there has been a serious deterioration in food
security in the villages visited.

6. Each of the five focus groups reported insufficient
access to maize or maize meal. Zimbabwean government
distributions through the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) have
not been sufficient to meet demand. Maize was sometimes
available through the local (black) markets, but the prices
were too high for 85 to 90 percent of the village
populations. When GMB maize was available, the focus groups
reported that the official price ranged between 555 and 580
Zimbabwean dollars per 50kg sack. They reported that the
local market price for a 50 kg sack of maize was 6,000
Zimbabwean dollars, over ten times the official price.

---------------------------------
COPING MECHANISMS STRETCHING THIN
---------------------------------

7. In each of the villages visited, the focus groups
reported that their coping mechanisms were severely
stretched. Of the five villages, three reported increased
sales of livestock over the same period last year to raise
money for food. The remaining two villages reported
decreased sales because they had already sold most of their
livestock. All villages reported a decline in the price of
livestock because of the increased number of livestock on the
market. Three of the villages reported that they had no more
goats or chickens available to sell. The focus group in the
village of Mkwandala in Hwange district reported that up to
five cattle were dying each day within their ward due
insufficient feed and water caused by the drought.

8. All five focus groups reported an increased reliance on
wild fruits and roots as a substitute for maize. In two
villages, the majority of the population was relying on meals
of cabbage and tea. There were several anecdotal reports of
families becoming sick from improper preparation of poisonous
wild fruits and roots.

9. To raise money, villagers reported resorting to irregular
forms of income. All villages reported a rise in number of
cases of theft and three villages reported an increase in
panning for gold. Prostitution was reported on the rise in
each of the villages. In Mkwandala in Hwange district, the
most desperate of the villages visited by the FFPOs, one
woman was quoted as saying, "if I had a daughter, I would
send her to the city for employment," a euphemism for
prostitution.

----------------------------------
POOR PROSPECTS FOR 2003 MAIZE CROP
----------------------------------

10. In the five villages visited by the FFPOs, only 10 to 30
percent of the population had already planted the majority of
their land for this agricultural season. The focus groups
reported that they planned to plant less land than in past
years due to insufficient access to seed / agricultural
inputs and the late rains. All of the focus groups reported
that they feared that the little maize seed that had already
been planted would be unable to grow to maturity due to
continued drought. All groups expected to have to rely on
assistance to make it through the hungry season.

------------------------------------
GMB MAIZE DISTRIBUTIONS INSUFFICIENT
------------------------------------

11. Each of the five focus groups reported that the GMB had
made deliveries of maize to their villages between September
and November. In no case, however, was the quantity of maize
sufficient. Four of five villages reported only one delivery
of GMB maize during this time, and even this one delivery was
insufficient to meet the needs for one month. For example,
in the village of Sikombingo in Gweru district, the focus
group reported that only 15.5 sacks of maize (50 kilograms
(kg) each) were made available for purchase in their village
during the three-month period. Dividing each sack four ways,
only 62 of the total 110 households were able to purchase
12.5 kg each. The village of Mkwandala in Hwange district
received one distribution of GMB maize in September that was
made available to most households, but has received nothing
since. Only the village of Mbambangamandla in Tsholotsho
district reported three distributions of GMB maize since
September. Even these distributions, however, were
insufficient as only 34 of 125 households were able to
purchase half a sack (25 kg) of maize at each distribution.

-------------------------------------------
NO REPORTS OF POLITICAL MANIPULATION OF GMB
FOOD DISTRIBUTIONS
-------------------------------------------

12. None of the focus groups that the FFPOs observed made
any allegations of political manipulation of food distributed
by GMB. In each case, the groups reported that the
distribution lists were drawn up on a first-come first-served
basis. While there were no reports of political
manipulation, there were numerous allegations of GMB maize
being sold on the local market by corrupt GMB officials.

------------------------------------------
LOCAL OFFICIALS PRESENT DURING FOCUS GROUP
INTERVIEWS
------------------------------------------

13. It is not surprising, however, that there were no
allegations of political manipulation of GMB food
distributions. In four of the five focus groups observed by
the FFPOs, either the ward councilor (a political position)
or his designee was present during the interview. In one
village, the councilor,s designee was a war veteran. Given
the presence of these political figures, the focus group
members were not likely to feel free to speak of political
manipulation.

-------------------------------------
SCHOOL FEEDING MITIGATES DROPOUT RATE
-------------------------------------

14. Four of the five focus groups reported that
supplementary feeding programs for children were being
implemented by NGOs in their villages. Two kinds of programs
are being implemented, those which target children under
five, and those which target students in the primary schools
themselves. The focus groups reported that school dropout
rates had reached as high as 70 percent because of hunger or
the need for child labor. Because of the recently started
school-based wet feeding programs in two of the villages,
however, the majority of children have returned to school.
(NOTE: Wet feeding is when beneficiaries receive porridge to
be eaten on site rather than receiving dry cereal to be
prepared at home. END NOTE.)

-----------------------------------
FOOD ASSISTANCE CONSIDERED CRITICAL
-----------------------------------

15. Three of the five villages reported receiving general
distribution of humanitarian food assistance through the WFP
implementing partner in these districts, the Organization of
Rural Associations for Progress (ORAP), a local Zimbabwean
NGO. The remaining two districts had not yet begun to
receive any assistance. The focus groups in the three
villages receiving food assistance insisted that there was no
manipulation of NGO-provided food assistance. These three
villages reported that the food aid was critical to their
survival especially since they did not expect to receive
sufficient assistance from GMB. While they claimed that they
understood the principle of targeting the most vulnerable for
assistance, the focus groups insisted that they were all poor
and vulnerable, and, therefore, all should be eligible for
assistance.

---------------------------------------------
CONCERN ABOUT RANDOMNESS OF ASSESSMENT SAMPLE
---------------------------------------------

16. In order to ensure full cooperation from local
authorities with the implementation of the VAC assessment,
the Provincial Administrators (PA) and District
Administrators (DA) were informed in advance that the
assessment would take place. The PAs and DAs were provided
with the location of the district and ward within which the
interview would take place. The actual selection of these
wards was made randomly by the VAC prior to the beginning of
the assessment, ensuring representation of wards in each of
Zimbabwe,s different food economy zones.

17. Prior to each focus group interview in each village, it
was necessary for the monitoring team to pay a courtesy call
to the DA. Following this meeting, the monitoring team would
go to the center of the chosen ward and meet with the ward
councilor or drought relief committee. In three of the five
villages visited by the FFPOs, the ward councilor or the
drought relief committee had chosen the actual village within
the ward that was to be the subject of the interview. In at
least these three cases, the randomness of the sample used in
the VAC was compromised. Because the actual site of the
interview was not randomly selected in these three cases, it
is possible that the data collected will not be
representative. If each of the 62 villages in the survey
were chosen by ward councilors who wanted to show only the
best or worst-case villages, the picture developed by the VAC
would be skewed. It is even conceivable that these villages
could have been prepped in advance for political reasons.
WFP has given assurance that the number of villages not
chosen by the VAC is small, and does not adversely affect the
results of the survey.
SULLIVAN

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