Food production in Zimbabwe has been devastated by a combination of economic and political instability, and natural disasters. Recurrent droughts, a series of poor harvests, high unemployment (estimated at more than 60%), restructuring of the agriculture sector and a high HIV/AIDS prevalence rate – at 13.7 per cent, the fifth highest in the world - have all contributed to increasing levels of vulnerability and acute food insecurity since 2001. This situation has necessitated large-scale humanitarian food assistance operations in the country.
While the end of hyperinflation in 2009 had positive effects on food availability in the marketplace, Zimbabwe continues to battle poor liquidity and high unemployment rates. Despite some progress, challenges remain in attracting large-scale investment.
The 2012 Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), which estimates the nation’s annual food insecurity levels, predicts that more than 1.6 million Zimbabweans will be unable to access sufficient food during the peak hunger period, January – March 2013. This is the highest level of food insecurity in the past three years. WFP is responding with a Seasonal Targeted Assistance programme to help food-insecure households in 40 of the country’s 60 rural districts. Meanwhile, WFP continues to implement its year-round health and nutrition and social safety net programmes. These include support to malnourished HIV/AIDS and TB patients and their households, pregnant and nursing mothers, children under five, home-based care patients, and forced migrants from neighboring countries.
At 1,076,772 mt, Zimbabwe’s total cereal production for the 2011-12 production season is one third lower than the previous year. The reduced cereal production was mainly due to a reduction in the amount of land given to maize cultivation (19% less than the previous year), the late start of rains in most areas, prolonged dry spells especially in the southern half of the country, late distribution and poor access to seeds and fertiliser. Poor agricultural practices, lack of diversified livelihoods and persistent macro-economic challenges characterized by a rise in the cost of living have also contributed to the current food and income security crisis.