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Cablegate: Worsening Hunger, Dwindling Harvests

VZCZCXRO5892
RR RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHSB #0714/01 2211307
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 091307Z AUG 07
FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1769
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY
RUEHBS/AMEMBASSY BRUSSELS 0232
RUEHOR/AMEMBASSY GABORONE 2205
RUEHLG/AMEMBASSY LILONGWE 1848
RUEHTO/AMEMBASSY MAPUTO 0946
RUEHMR/AMEMBASSY MASERU 0133
RUEHMB/AMEMBASSY MBABANE 0518
RUEHOT/AMEMBASSY OTTAWA 0189
RUEHSA/AMEMBASSY PRETORIA 5316
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 0078
RUEHWD/AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK 1586
RUEHTN/AMCONSUL CAPE TOWN 0557
RUEHDU/AMCONSUL DURBAN 0116
RUEHJO/AMCONSUL JOHANNESBURG 0514

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 000714

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

AF/S FOR S. HILL
NSC FOR SENIOR AFRICA DIRECTOR B. PITTMAN
USAID FOR L. DOBBINS AND E. LOKEN
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAGR EAID ECON PGOV PHUM WFP ZI
SUBJECT: WORSENING HUNGER, DWINDLING HARVESTS

REF: HARARE 00712

HARARE 00000714 001.2 OF 002

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

1. Recent international NGO estimates indicate 4.1 million
Zimbabweans will need food aid between November 2007 and
April 2008, out of a total population estimated at 9-10
million. The UN World Food Program (WFP) plans to assist 3.3
million Zimbabweans, and C-SAFE, a consortium of US-sponsored
NGOs, will provide food for at least 800,000. International
NGOs, including WFP, have reported limited political bias in
food aid distribution and monitor the process to ensure
transparency. The government's own food distribution program
through the Grain Marketing Board is widely recognized as a
political exercise to reward government supporters and punish
opponents.

------------------------
PROJECTING POOR HARVESTS
------------------------

2. The national requirement of about 1.8-1.9 million metric
tons (mt) of grain was not met by April-May 2007 harvests of
799,000 mt of maize and 126,000 mt of millet and sorghum.
USAID and farmers groups previously estimated winter
(October) wheat harvests would range from 78,000 mt to
135,000 mt, but the government-controlled Herald newspaper
recently warned that farmers may harvest only 40,000 mt or
less. Given the uncertanties in both population and crop
estimates, WFP anticipates that slightly more than 1 million
tons of food imports and food aid will be required in the
coming months.

--------------------
AFFECTED POPULATIONS
--------------------

3. WFP's food distribution program in June 2007 was already
reaching some 300,000 Zimbabweans a month, focusing on
HIV/AIDS affected households and school children in
high-density urban areas. The latest (June-July) crop and
food supply assessment mission by UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) and WFP estimated a much higher number --
some 3.3 million -- will need food aid by November of this
year. Subsequent upward revisions for the November-March
"hungry season" indicate that at least 4.1 million people
could face severe hunger before April 2008. WFP plans to
provide food to 3.3 million of that number, and the
US-sponsored Consortium for the Southern Africa Food Security
Emergency (C-SAFE, comprising Catholic Relief Services, CARE,
and World Vision) plans to provide food to at least 800,000
people. (Note: In the past five years, USAID has delivered
more than 700,000 mt of food aid valued at more than US$400
million to Zimbabwe, making the US the largest donor of food
assistance to Zimbabwe. WFP has received more than US$170
million from the US in FY 2007. Other donors to the WFP's
Zimbabwe program include the U.K., European Union, Canada,
Japan, Ireland, Sweden, African Development Bank, Germany,
the Netherlands, and New Zealand. End note.)

4. The worst-affected provinces are in the drought-ravaged
south of the country, including Matabeleland South,
Matabeleland North, and Midlands. Food shortages are also
severe in Manicaland and Masvingo.

----------------------
IMPORTS ON THE HORIZON
----------------------


HARARE 00000714 002.2 OF 002


5. The Zimbabwe government contracted with Malawi to purchase
400,000 mt of maize, or about 40,000 mt a month for ten
months beginning May 2007, according to WFP. Of this number,
116,000 mt were received as of August 3. Unconfirmed reports
also indicate Zimbabwe has contracted to purchase 200,000 mt
of maize from Tanzania, and perhaps additional maize from
Zambia. Informal markets and cross-border trade are expected
to bring in at least 61,000 mt of various grains.

-------------------------
FILLING THE GAP: FOOD AID
-------------------------

6. Assuming these purchases are completed as planned,
Zimbabwe will require at least 442,000 mt of food aid
including 352,000 mt of cereals and grain in the coming
months, according to USAID and WFP estimates, and additional
non-cereal food assistance will be needed. Pledges have been
received for slightly more than half of this amount as of
August 1.
---------------------------------------
SELECTION BIASES: BOTH SUBTLE AND OVERT
---------------------------------------

7. WFP works with international and local NGOs in compiling
lists of beneficiaries before food aid is brought to the
distribution sites, and in monitoring the distribution
process to try to ensure honesty and transparency. ZANU-PF
has pressured some NGOs to alter food recipient lists to
favor party supporters (see Reftel), and food aid has been
denied MDC supporters in Matabeleland South, Manicaland, and
Mashonaland West, according to the Zimbabwe Peace Project
(ZPP). In addition, a senior official of the National
Association of NGOs (NANGO) reported that some local NGOs
have had "sporadic" confrontations with security forces bent
on impounding relief shipments destined for drought-stricken
areas. Also, NGOs are required to have food distribution
sites approved by the government well before the aid is
delivered. This enables government representatives to visit
the sites before the food-delivery dates, often to praise
"the government's generosity" in making the food available to
needy residents.

8. Politicization of the government's own food distribution
program through the Grain Marketing Board is explicit and
undisguised. For example, the Zimbabwe Election Support
Network (ZESN) in February reported that the president of the
Council of Chiefs had threatened to withhold food from
villagers who supported the opposition in Chiredzi South
by-elections last February. ZESN reported similar threats by
the Chief before the rural district council elections of
October 2006, when he warned that villagers who failed to
support ZANU-PF would be expelled.

--------------------------------------
ZIMBABWE'S RESPONSE TO THE FOOD CRISIS
--------------------------------------

9. The Zimbabwe government has refused until now to make a
formal appeal for food aid and, at the national level, has
only grudgingly acknowledged any need for foreign assistance.
Information Minister Ndlovu said in mid-July that US food
donations would be accepted only as reparations for damage
done to the people of Zimbabwe. "It is just a gimmick,"
Ndlovu said, "to soothe themselves of their guilt." Despite
the negative rhetoric, however, some regional officials and
local NGOs have expressed gratitude for the generosity of the
US and other food donors.

DHANANI

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