Cablegate: Growing Food Insecurity In

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. There is still great uncertainty about
both the quantity of maize (corn) produced in
Zimbabwe during the past season and the
magnitude of imports by the GOZ. Regardless
of the quantities, however, re-distribution of
in-country stocks from surplus to deficit
rural areas is an immediate problem. Those
who have already consumed their own harvest
must travel to the nearest surplus area to get
maize, either through purchase or barter. The
price they pay reflects local production - the
cost is higher in or near deficit areas. Food
for Work programs implemented by the NGO
consortium operating under the name C-SAFE
improved food availability in eight districts;
but the most vulnerable households, who lack
able-bodied workers, could not directly
benefit. The expansion of school feeding, the
core activity of the international community's
planned program to combat household food
insecurity, has been largely paralyzed by the
delay in written approval from the Ministry of
Education, despite persistent attempts by the
World Food Programme and individual NGOs to
obtain permission. The humanitarian
environment will remain extremely challenging
over the coming months, as we approach the
March 2005 Parliamentary elections. The
international community's ability to
effectively address the needs of the most
vulnerable in this environment is questionable
at best. End Summary


2. During September, the USAID/Zimbabwe Food
for Peace (FFP) Food Monitor traveled through
14 districts of 5 provinces and talked with
residents about maize availability, prices and
access. He covered areas of deficit and
surplus production. The following summarizes
his findings. An informal discussion with the
World Food Programme about data collected in
September by its Vulnerability Assessment and
Monitoring unit, which are being summarized
for reporting, confirmed the findings.


3. While the aggregate maize production in
the country is still undetermined, inquiries
in different parts of the country show great
disparity in individual household production
due to patchy rainfall patterns, differences
in soil fertility and varying access to
inputs. Generally, production was higher in
large parts of the provinces of Mashonaland
and Midlands. Production was poor in most of
Matabeleland, Masvingo and Manicaland.

4. Within a geographic area, newly resettled
farmers produced more than farmers on communal
lands or older resettlement areas. This was
due largely to better soil conditions in newly
resettled areas and because the new farmers
received loans of seed and fertilizer from the

5. In deficit areas, some households used up
their production as early as May. Large
numbers in deficit areas had nothing left
after September. All of their maize was not
necessarily eaten. Some farmers, even though
they faced a deficit, sold maize to satisfy
immediate cash demands, e.g., to pay medical
bills, to repay a loan, or to cover school

6. In surplus areas, a number of farmers
produced many times what they needed for their
own families. Some sold part of their surplus
to the parastatal Grain Marketing Board (GMB)
to assure eligibility to borrow inputs for the
coming season or to avoid seizure where the
GMB was policing heavily. Others who would
have liked to sell to the GMB did not due to
lack of transportation. Some sold to private
traders. Most farmers in surplus areas still
held more than they needed for their own
consumption this season. They will use the
surplus to pay for labor during the coming
agricultural season, to sell later when prices
are higher, or to keep a reserve to assure
food security next year.


7. In September, the official GMB selling
price for maize grain was Z$32,000 per 50 kg.
In the rural areas, most households purchased
maize from sources other than the GMB (mostly
direct from farmers), purchasing by the bucket
(17.5-20 kg). Reports for September from the
FFP Food Monitor and World Food Programme
(WFP) monitors indicate wide variation in the
availability and price of unmilled maize grain
across the country. Prices relate directly to
local production, i.e., higher where
production was poor (Z$20,000-40,000 per
bucket), and lowest where production was best
(Z$10,000-15,000 per bucket).

8. In deficit production areas, few GMB
depots were selling maize, even those with
small stocks of locally purchased grain.
There was no evidence of significant movement
of grain from the surplus rural areas to the
deficit areas. In the southern part of the
country, erratic deliveries to GMB depots had
brought in only small quantities that
disappeared in a day, leaving latecomers with
nothing. Residents near one depot in Chivi
district reported that the last GMB delivery
brought in old stock of yellow maize that was

9. The urban markets of Harare and Bulawayo
have been well stocked with maize meal (ground
maize), indicating that the GMB has sold some
grain to the private millers who supply these
cities. In September, the price of maize meal
in the urban markets was in the range of
Z$12,500-13,000 per 10 kg, much lower than the
August price of Z$20,000.

10. In deficit areas, residents traveled to
the nearest surplus areas to buy or barter
their labor for maize grain. The distances
they must travel increase as the stocks
diminish of those farmers who reside in nearby
pockets where production was better. Some
farmers in these pockets still had a surplus,
but our Food Monitor found that most were
holding the remainder to pay for labor during
the upcoming agricultural season.

11. Even in the provinces where production
was best, there were pockets where erratic
rains or poor soil conditions resulted in
little or no maize harvest. Compared to those
living where production was generally poor,
residents in these pockets are better off
because they find more opportunities to work
for food. A few communities in deficit areas
organized purchases from the GMB, but the
quantities they managed to acquire were
insufficient to meet their needs.

12. The sources of cash for maize purchased
by rural households vary according to local
opportunities. Some households sold cash
crops (particularly cotton). Others depended
on sales from their gardens, casual labor,
cutting and sale of thatch, handicrafts, beer
brewing, gold panning, charcoal making, or
small trade. In some locations, informants
expressed concern that their opportunities for
casual labor will diminish in November and

13. Over the past five months, Food for Work
(FFW) activities operated by CARE and World
Vision under the USAID-supported Consortium
for Southern Africa Food Security Emergency (C-
SAFE) provided the majority of households in
targeted wards in eight maize-deficit
districts with about one month's maize supply
of cereal, beans, oil and corn soy blend.
However, despite C-SAFE and community efforts
to find low-intensity tasks for weaker
workers, many of the most vulnerable
households did not benefit because they
included no able-bodied member capable of
working. Local authorities prohibited FFW
activities planned by the third C-SAFE
partner, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), due
to local political disputes unrelated to CRS.
As the agricultural planting season approaches
in November, and farmers are occupied with
tending their own fields, FFW activities in
rural areas will fall off drastically.

14. So far, many households that cannot
access enough maize are substituting other
starchy foods, especially potatoes and sweet
potatoes, or eating more vegetables and less
starch. Some report that they have already
reduced the number of daily meals from three
to two.


15. Because of the GOZ's refusal to allow
free food distribution to vulnerable
households, the international community
planned to alleviate household food insecurity
by expanding emergency school feeding in the
districts where food insecurity is greatest.
This would assure that all children aged 3-14
years in these areas could access at least one
nutritious meal daily.

16. The World Food Programme (WFP) actively
pursued the approval of the Ministry of Social
Welfare (MSW) to expand school feeding for
several months. At the end of August, the GOZ
shifted responsibility for food aid from the
MSW to relevant line ministries - in the case
of school feeding, to the Ministry of
Education (MOE). WFP immediately opened new
negotiations and, recently, individual NGOs
began negotiating independently. Although WFP
received verbal consent in early September as
the new school term opened, as of late October
CARE is the only NGO to receive written
approval. Without written approval, provincial
and district authorities have been unwilling
to allow the expansion of emergency school
feeding. Hence, at midterm, the program has
not expanded. The GOZ's proposed NGO bill
that, if enacted, would substantially restrict
NGO activities, is a significant complicating
factor in these negotiations. (Reftel)


17. As the 2003/2004 harvest is consumed,
household access to maize in areas where
production was low is becoming increasingly
difficult. Opportunities to work for cash or
maize have dwindled. They will likely improve
only when the new agricultural planting season
begins in November, and farmers who had
relatively better production release more of
their surplus to pay workers.

18. The GMB lacks either the will or capacity
to move local surplus to the deficit areas
and, regardless of the officially controlled
price, local availability is the key
determinant of maize prices, making it most
expensive in areas where households are most

19. Long delays in obtaining written approval
from the Ministry of Education for expanding
school feeding have severely hampered the
international community's attempts to
alleviate food insecurity. The likelihood of
increasing restrictions on NGOs is another
worrying prospect. Zimbabwe's acute
humanitarian crisis of 2002 and 2003 has
evolved into a situation of deepening and
expanding poverty, necessitating a protracted
response to save lives and secure livelihoods
of the most vulnerable. With GOZ obstruction
expected to increase as we approach the March
2005 Parliamentary elections, the
international community's ability to
effectively address this complex humanitarian
situation is questionable at best.


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