Cablegate: Food Assistance in Newly Resettled Areas

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. The World Food Program recently wrote to the major
international donors requesting their concurrence with a
proposal to provide food assistance in the newly
resettled areas, i.e., the former commercial farming
areas that were subject to the Government of Zimbabwe's
fast-track, often violent, land reform program. This
request followed closely the release of a Human Rights
Watch Report that criticized international donors for
allegedly politicizing food assistance by not allowing
distributions in newly resettled areas. Devising an
effective means of providing food assistance to the most
vulnerable populations in these areas, without giving
support to Zimbabwe's failed land reform program, is a
complex matter that raises a host of practical and policy
concerns. This cable analyzes three options for
responding to this sensitive issue that the mission has
discussed extensively at post with the European Union and
the British High Commission. Based on these discussions,
this cable recommends that the USG allow the World Food
Program to pilot a small food assistance effort in newly
resettled areas on a trial basis, subject to a number of
stringent conditions and additional assurances regarding
how the program would be implemented in a transparent and
non-political manner without supporting the fast-track
land reform program or rewarding lawlessness. End


2. Zimbabwe is in its third year of a complex food
security crisis brought about by a combination of
economic mismanagement, disrupted agricultural production
due to the chaotic and often violent invasions of
formerly white-owned commercial farms, and erratic
rainfall. The food security crisis is further compounded
by the country's high HIV prevalence rate (currently
estimated at around one quarter of the adult population).
The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee, led by
the World Food Program (WFP), estimated in April 2003
that 5.5 million Zimbabweans (nearly half of the total
population of 11.6 million) will need food assistance in
the July 2003 to June 2004 agricultural year. To meet
these needs, WFP has appealed to international donors for
452,900 metric tons (mt) of food, less carryover stocks
from last year of 106,815 mt, for a total net new
requirement of 346,085 mt. A revised vulnerability
assessment is tentatively scheduled for December 2003,
but WFP has already informally advised post that the
total number of Zimbabweans requiring food assistance may
rise, resulting in WFP increasing its appeal to donors.

3. To date, virtually all international food assistance
to Zimbabwe has been distributed in communal areas, rural
parts of the country populated almost exclusively by
black Zimbabweans and organized with traditional village
structures of chiefs and headmen. WFP, through its
implementing partner (IP) non-governmental organizations
(NGOs), is providing food assistance in communal areas in
47 of the countries 57 rural districts. The USAID-funded
C-SAFE program, a consortium of World Vision, CARE and
Catholic Relief Services, is covering 9 rural districts;
and Save the Children/UK covers the remaining rural
district with funding from Great Britain's Department for
International Development (DFID). The Government of
Zimbabwe's (GOZ) food assistance is managed as a cash-for-
work program, under which able-bodied persons work on
public works projects and receive cash with which to
purchase food from the GOZ's Grain Marketing Board (GMB).
Although the GMB imported substantial amounts of cereals
for its cash-for-work program in the 2002/2003
agricultural season (estimated in excess of 700,000 mt),
there are numerous, credible allegations that significant
portions of these stocks were diverted from their
intended purpose due to corruption and/or politicization.
A number of these allegations are detailed in a recently
issued Human Rights Watch report entitled "Not Eligible:
The Politicization of Food in Zimbabwe."

4. The GOZ's land reform program is divided into two
schemes: A1 and A2 (see reftel). Under the A1 land
reform scheme, subdivided plots were redistributed to
small-holder farmers with average plot sizes of around 30
hectares each. The August 2003 report of the Utete Land
Commission found that 127,192 farmers were allocated a
total of 4,321,080 hectares of land under the A1 scheme,
contrary to earlier GOZ assertions of 300,000 farmers.
Under the A2 scheme, 2,198,814 hectares were
redistributed to "new commercial" large-scale farmers.
According to the Utete Commission, only 7,260 farmers
have taken up their farms under the A2 scheme, despite
official claims of 54,000 beneficiaries. As described in
reftel, the A2 scheme has been the subject of substantial
controversy, with plots allocated on the basis of
cronyism, and numerous violations of GOZ policy
prohibiting multiple farm ownership and setting maximum
plot sizes. Traditional village structures are absent in
these former commercial farming areas, under either the
A1 or A2 schemes. Our best information is that these
areas are largely governed by hastily established
political committees that include war veterans and other
individuals who participated in the land invasions.

5. The only notable international assistance being
provided in the newly resettled areas are efforts to feed
and comfort former commercial farm workers who have
become displaced (IDPs) by the GOZ's fast-track land
reform program. The International Organization for
Migration (IOM) recently started a program to assist IDPs
with funding from USAID/OFDA and possible additional
funding from the Swedes. DFID is implementing a similar,
small-scale program through a local NGO called the Farm
Community Trust of Zimbabwe (FCTZ). Because donors,
including the UN, have not been allowed unimpeded access
to these newly resettled areas, and the GOZ has
stonewalled for more than a year on the UN's attempts to
conduct any type of comprehensive survey, there is no
reliable data on the status of the former farm workers or
the newly resettled farmers. Nonetheless, given the
limited number of reported population movements, the UN
estimates that 50-70% of commercial farm workers have
likely remained on the farms where they were previously
employed or on neighboring farms.

6. The UN believes that the former farm workers are
among the most vulnerable population in Zimbabwe. Recent
assessments by C-SAFE, SADC and Save the Children/UK
suggest that food insecurity may be as prevalent in the
newly resettled areas as in communal areas. Both
populations are affected by hyperinflation and the
general macro-economic deterioration, shortages of
agricultural inputs, drought conditions, and inadequate
draught power. While these assessments have not
adequately quantified the food needs in resettlement
areas, they have raised concern about increasing
vulnerability that is not being addressed by
international food assistance. Based on a desk study of
these recent assessments, WFP estimates that 500-600,000
people in the newly resettled areas require food
assistance. Absent reliable data, WFP's best guess is
that 10-20% of this total vulnerable population consists
of newly resettled A1 farmers (and their families),
whereas 80-90% would be former farm workers (and their
families) on both A1 and A2 land. This would mean that
the vast majority of vulnerable people not being assisted
in the newly resettled areas are former farm workers (and
their families) who were victims of the GOZ's fast-track
land reform program.

7. On October 27, 2003, WFP wrote to the major
international donors requesting their concurrence with a
proposal to provide food assistance in the newly
resettled areas. WFP proposes to pilot a small
assistance effort at two food distribution sites in the
newly resettled areas, using the same vulnerability
criteria it uses in communal areas, to gather more
reliable data on vulnerability and to test the waters to
see if assistance can be provided in a transparent, non-
political manner. WFP's request followed closely the
widely publicized release of a Human Rights Watch Report
that criticized international donors for not allowing
distributions in newly resettled areas. In addition to
criticizing the GMB for political bias, corruption and
lack of transparency, the Human Rights Watch Report
asserts that international donors have politicized food
aid by excluding vulnerable populations in the newly
resettled areas from eligibility.

8. Devising an effective means of providing food
assistance to the most vulnerable populations in the
newly resettled areas, without giving support to
Zimbabwe's failed land reform program, is a complex
matter that raises a host of practical and policy
concerns. Post has discussed these issues extensively
with the European Union and the British High Commission
(including DFID), both of whom have concerns similar to

-- First, all major donors, including the U.S., have
insisted that the nature and extent of vulnerability in
the resettled areas must be established before feeding
programs can be authorized, as is ordinarily the case in
humanitarian assistance programs. Because donors have
not been allowed unimpeded access to these areas, it has
not been possible to assess the degree and extent of food
-- Second, the GOZ's failure to disclose the level
and coverage of GMB food distributions in the resettled
areas, or any of its projected food imports, has
prevented proper planning and coordination. Primary
responsibility for feeding Zimbabweans must rest with the
GOZ and it is important that international donors not
fill every gap, which would alleviate the GOZ of its fair
share of the burden.
-- Third, the absence of traditional village
structures in the newly resettled areas means that WFP's
current methods for beneficiary selection/registration
and food distribution could not be used to ensure a
transparent and non-political program. Because of the
continued presence in the newly resettled areas of
persons who employed violence and/or intimidation to
acquire land, more stringent methods would have to be
used to guarantee that assistance programs remain non-
partisan. In particular, so as not to reward lawlessness
or bail out the GOZ's disastrous land reform program,
special precautions would have to be taken to exclude
from beneficiary lists those who engaged in acts of
violence, intimidation or the illegal occupation of land.

--------------------------------------------- ---------
--------------------------------------------- ---------

9. Option 1: Inform WFP that the US cannot consider
contributing to a new program in the newly resettled
areas until existing programs have been adequately
resourced. To date, WFP has received pledges for only
43% of its total net appeal of 346,085 mt. The current
appeal only contemplates assistance in the communal
areas. Expanding its program to cover the newly
resettled areas, to feed an estimated vulnerable
population of 500-600,000, would require additional
resources. Moreover, WFP expects soon to conclude a
vulnerability assessment for urban areas, which have also
experienced increased food insecurity, necessitating even
more resources. The lack of clarity regarding expected
GOZ food imports and uncertainty concerning pledges from
other major donors (such as the South Africans) make it
difficult for WFP or the donors to plan for an expansion
of food assistance efforts. This option would, in
effect, postpone a decision on the issue until WFP could
provide adequate information on its total resource needs
and expected contributions from other donors. By
deferring the decision, however, this option would
unnecessarily delay responding to vulnerable people in
the newly resettled areas, most of whom are believed to
be innocent former farm workers.

10. Option 2: Allow WFP to provide targeted assistance
in newly resettled areas with resources other than those
contributed by the U.S. government. Under this option,
we would inform WFP that we would raise no objections to
a targeted food assistance program in newly resettled
areas that is done in a transparent and non-partisan
manner, using non-USG resources. This option would
require WFP to obtain additional resources from other
donors to carry out the proposed assistance, which WFP
believes may be possible. One potential contributor
would be South Africa (although post has not fully
explored this with the South African High Commission).
South Africa provided approximately 58,000 mt of cereals
through WFP for the 2002/2003 season, but has not yet
pledged assistance for the 2003/2004 season. As South
Africa is reportedly considering providing its 2003/2004
assistance through the GMB, which would be of significant
concern to many donors, an additional advantage of this
option is that it could encourage South Africa to
continue providing its resources through WFP. Although
this option side steps many of the issues, due to the
complexities and political sensitivities entailed in the
other options, it may allow for the swiftest response to
increasing vulnerability in the newly resettled areas.
This option, however, would represent a significant
departure from the traditional approach to managing
international humanitarian assistance programs. The U.S.
and other donors ordinarily subscribe to an entire
humanitarian assistance effort and do not attempt to
"wall off" parts of the assistance program with which
they have concerns. Unsubscribing to part of the food
assistance effort in Zimbabwe would potentially set a bad
precedent, could expose us to public criticism and would
weaken our negotiating position with WFP and other donors
regarding the management and oversight of the overall
food assistance program.

11. Option 3: Allow WFP to pilot a food assistance
effort at two distribution sites in A1 newly resettled
areas, subject to stringent conditions and additional
assurances to satisfy the donor concerns described in
paragraph 8. WFP has consistently maintained that it
cannot in good conscience do a survey to assess
vulnerability in the newly resettled areas without being
prepared to provide food assistance because the
vulnerability assessments in and of themselves raise
community expectations. This option would enable WFP to
begin food distributions on a trial basis, gather more
reliable data on vulnerability, and test the waters to
see if assistance can be provided in a transparent, non-
political manner. WFP and its NGO implementing partners
would select the pilot sites based on preliminary
information regarding need and the amenability of local
authorities to the program. Under this option, prior to
commencing assistance, WFP would have to assure donors
that it has:

-- (a) obtained a guarantee from the GOZ of
unimpeded access to the newly resettled areas (to assess
the nature and extent of food insecurity, to select and
register a targeted group of the most vulnerable
beneficiaries, and to effect and monitor food
-- (b) developed a plan for management of the
beneficiary selection/registration and food distribution
processes that puts its implementing partner NGOs in full
control, rather than politically created committees, and
specifies how they will respond when problems inevitably
arise (including procedures for the immediate suspension
of distributions);
-- (c) clarified the criteria for beneficiary
selection, taking into account the unique circumstances
of the former commercial farming areas, to target food
distribution to the most vulnerable while excluding from
eligibility perpetrators of violence, intimidation or
illegal acts (such as illegal land occupations); and
-- (d) obtained a commitment from the GOZ/GMB to
coordinate distributions, including a commitment to
provide information regarding GMB import and distribution

Post proposes to communicate these conditions to WFP in a
letter responding to its request. The letter would also
specify that this must be a phased approach, allowing the
US and other major donors to evaluate the pilot effort
thoroughly before agreeing to any expansion to other A1
areas or to A2 areas. Post also proposes to allow WFP to
commence immediately therapeutic and wet feeding programs
to the most vulnerable in newly resettled areas, without
any need for further assurances.

12. If adopted, option 3 would effectively respond to
the concerns outlined in paragraph 8. This option,
however, may be difficult to implement because the GOZ
may not agree to the conditions without protracted
negotiations. If the GOZ does agree, it could be
difficult to identify persons to be excluded from
eligibility due to their past participation in violence,
intimidation or illegal acts. We would have to be
prepared to accept the possibility that some such
individuals may slip through the cracks of any system we
devise and receive food aid. Moreover, making such
distinctions could become divisive and exacerbate
tensions within already fragile communities. This option
could also leave the US open to criticism that we have
excluded individuals from eligibility for humanitarian
assistance on grounds other than need. We would have to
be prepared to respond publicly to such criticism that we
are taking a principled position of not rewarding
violence and lawlessness, while trying to respond
effectively to the humanitarian needs of the innocent
victims of the GOZ's chaotic land reform program.

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