Cablegate: Humanitarian Assistance Field Observations

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
SUBJECT: Humanitarian Assistance Field Observations
in Zimbabwe; March 4-8, 2003


1. From March 4-8, (2003) USAID/AFR/SA Officer
(AIDOff) MacNairn conducted three field trips to assess
the delivery and impact of humanitarian assistance in
Zimbabwe. Events covered for these field trips
included a seed fair, a food distribution (also
attended by DCM Whitehead), and an interview with a
commercial farm worker. The seed fair and food
distribution proceeded smoothly, and the commercial
farm worker provided first-hand support for the
widespread allegations of corruption and political
manipulation of government food distributions. END


2. On March 4, AIDOff, accompanied by Catholic Relief
Services' (CRS) staff, attended a seed fair in Rudawiro
business center, Chigwarada Ward, UMP District in
Mashonaland East Province. The seed
fair voucher system is funded by USAID and the
Department for International Development-UK (DFID), and
provides beneficiaries in communal farming areas with
Z$6400 (about US$4.50 equivalent) worth of vouchers to
purchase seeds. In this particular case, vegetable
seeds were available (e.g., rape, cabbage, cucumber,
tomato, squash, carrot, bean, onion, spinach, etc.), as
the planting season for cereals has already passed.
This seed fair targeted 1200 beneficiaries within the
zone, covering roughly 80-90% of the total population
for the area. Beneficiary selection criteria for this
scheme included widows, child-headed households and
orphans, those chronically-ill, handicapped, or
otherwise destitute.

3. Pannar and Prime were the two seed companies
providing the seeds at this fair. Beneficiaries chose
which seeds they wanted, based on price and their
Z$6400 budget, and the seed companies collected the
vouchers. The seed companies then present these
vouchers for payment to CRS' partner NGO, in this case
Community Technology Development Trust (CTDT). CTDT
selects and registers beneficiaries based on set
criteria, organizes the seed fairs, prints the voucher
coupons, and provides other logistical support. CRS'
agriculture project manager provides technical
assistance and other support for the activity. The
seed fairs are a novel approach to food security in
that distributed seeds help to avoid the dependence
that direct food aid creates, the seed distributions
empower beneficiaries by allowing them to choose what
they want to grow, and the vegetables contribute to a
better-balanced, more nutritious diet, particularly
important for those suffering from debilitating chronic
illnesses, such as HIV/AIDS.

4. Training is provided by CRS and its partner NGO,
CTDT, to allow beneficiaries to save seeds from grown
vegetables for the next planting cycle. For some
vegetables it is much easier to save seeds, i.e.,
butternut squash and tomatoes, as opposed to cabbage
and rape, where it is usually easier to provide seeds
on a continual basis. Effective saving of seeds
through multiple growing cycles contributes to the
sustainability of the intervention. At this point, CRS
has focused its efforts on emergency relief
interventions with CTDT. CRS and CTDT expect that
future training for seed fair beneficiaries will make
them better able to implement seed replication
techniques, as all stakeholders prepare for the 2003/4
growing season.

5. It is expected that beneficiaries will consume
roughly sixty percent of vegetables grown, and sell the
remaining forty percent. CTDT will perform follow-up
visits to ascertain whether these above proportions are
generally correct, whether beneficiaries have planted
their purchased seeds, and productivity levels for
individual gardens. The area targeted for this seed
fair should be one of the more productive areas for
Mashonaland East, as numerous perennial streams run
through that part of the province, and water sources
should remain readily available after the rainy season
ends in April.

6. UMP District is served by World Vision with
international food aid from the World Food Program
(WFP), and the governmental Grain Marketing Board (GMB)
for other/commercial food supplies. World Vision is
expected to target two-thirds of the district
population for food aid in March 2003. Rudawiro
residents reported that GMB deliveries for the past 6
months have been erratic. Respondents
also reported that maize meal was being sold at the
official price of Z$560/50 kgs., but that only very
small quantities were available. Residents stated that
the recent doubling of the gas price (officially
Z$150/liter) meant that round trip costs by bus from
Rudawiro to Murehwa (Z$2000) and Harare (Z$4400) had
become onerously expensive.


7. On March 6, AIDOff accompanied Embassy DCM
Whitehead, observed a CRS food distribution in Sanyati
town in Kadoma District. 1219 families received
rations for this general distribution. This represents
100% coverage for this initial CRS food distribution in
this area (as opposed to 75% coverage in most other
program areas). Beneficiaries patiently organized
themselves in small groups of 50 or so people, based on
their home areas, and waited for their turn to receive
the monthly ration of 10kg. bulgur wheat and 1 kg.
pinto beans. No oil was available for this
distribution, and bulgur wheat
was a new food commodity for beneficiaries. CRS
distributed handouts in English and Shona
explaining how to cook the bulgur wheat, and
promised to follow up to determine whether
beneficiaries were properly cooking the bulgur,
and whether they liked the commodity.

8. Beneficiaries appeared to be happy upon receiving
the bulgur wheat. Initial reports received indicated
that beneficiaries liked the commodity and did not have
difficulty cooking the bulgur wheat. However, follow
up will be required to determine if this new food
commodity is truly accepted by the beneficiaries.

9. Grain Marketing Board (GMB) maize meal deliveries
at Sanyati, were also reported to be erratic, with
widely varying amounts reported to be delivered over
the past several months. One villager alleged that the
GMB has reduced deliveries to Sanyati because CRS is
now distributing food in the area.

10. The primary and secondary schools in Sanyati
town do not provide meals for students. The headmaster
for each respective school reported
lowered attendance because of the recent food shortages
- 45% decrease at the primary school
and 30% at the secondary school. Both headmasters also
expected attendance to increase in the coming week,
once these initial food distributions had
been completed.

11. GOZ officials turned out in force for this
distribution, likely due to the DCM's presence
and the fact that this was the first CRS
distribution for this area. GOZ officials present
for the distribution included the local Kadoma
West Member of Parliament (ZANU-PF), the District
Administrator, the Deputy District Administrator,
representatives from the Ministries of Education
and Social Welfare, at least 8 policemen, and the
two headmasters. NOTE: This was in contrast to the
Rudawiro seed fair where no local government officials
were visible. End Note. The distribution
appeared well-organized and efficiently run,
with no overt political posturing evident during
our visit. The MP invited the DCM to a virginity
certification ceremony to take place in his district in
the following week. The DCM respectfully declined the

12. The Sanyati area borders the Munyati River,
and cotton is the predominant crop in this
lowveld area. The maize harvest for this area
is expected to be about 40% of normal.


13. A credible commercial farm worker was
interviewed on March 8 in Manicaland Province.
The main points from this conversation include:
- GMB maize is widely being sold at inflated
prices of Z$2000/20 kgs., rather than the
official Z$560/50 kgs. Price.
- many people know that maize meal is being sold
at inflated prices on the black market, but individuals
are unwilling to complain, as they
fear reprisals from local authorities involved
in the illegal practice.
- newly-resettled farmers in the area were
typically coming from outside the province, were
not from communal areas, and typically had little
farming experience.
- newly-resettled farmers were positively favored
in receiving GMB maize at the official price.

14. The commercial farm worker relayed a
further story where a neighboring commercial farm
was prevented from planting maize at the beginning
of the rainy season in 2002, because it was
occupied by war veterans. The commercial farmer
then recently attempted to buy GMB maize meal for
his 75 workers as he had no maize to feed them
from his farm. Officials selling the GMB maize
said that he could only purchase one bag of maize
meal at the official price for himself, rather
than the 75 bags that he wanted, as his farm
workers were perceived to be MDC supporters, and
thus did not `qualify' for GMB maize at the
official price.

15. The commercial farm worker also commented that the
national youth service centers were contributing to the
spread of AIDS, because little education or controls
were being provided for the trainees.
Finally, he noted that inflation was destroying
the purchasing power of the average commercial
farm worker. The official minimum wage for
commercial farm workers is Z$7500/month plus
benefits, which translates to US$5/month at the
current parallel market rate. Many commercial
farm workers on resettled farms make less than
the official $7500 wage.

16. CRS' innovative seed fair strategy appears
to be popular and highly successful, and should
be encouraged. Follow-up evaluations should be
conducted to determine sustainability, and the
actual percentages of consumption and sales for
the vegetables grown. Although the bulgur wheat
distribution went well, it remains to be seen
if this new food commodity is truly accepted by
the beneficiaries. Follow-up will be required
here, too. The farm worker commentary provides
first-hand corroboration for the widespread allegations
of corruption and political
manipulation of government food supplies.
End Comment. SULLIVAN

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