Muzarabani – In the wilting heat of Muzarabani, a far-flung area 300 kms north of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, it is hard to imagine that crops can survive. The area lies in Zimbabwe’s arid natural region IV which receives little rainfall and, when it does, is prone to flooding. This is a story of how one village, once dependant on WFP food assistance, has defied the odds and recovered after a series of droughts and floods.
In Zimbabwe’s dry areas, every day is about finding enough food to survive. Employment opportunities are hard to come by. However, an innovative partnership which provides food in exchange for work is making it possible for the poor and hungry to take their first steps out of the hunger trap. Known as the Productive Asset Creation Programme, it is an initiative of the UN World Food Programme, non-government organisations and the government of Zimbabwe.
Under the programme, community members, who are physically able to work, but food-insecure, are provided food assistance to help build or rehabilitate infrastructure that will increase household food security. Projects include irrigation schemes and earth dams that would benefit the whole community.
In 2013, WFP and World Vision assisted the community with rehabilitating an 18 km stretch of water pipe connecting Machaya and Museredza villages. Neighbouring villages along the pipe have built thriving community gardens producing vegetables and maize even during the dry period.
Prolonged dry spells
“I have no worries.” says Langton Nyakaringa (42), one of the participants. “I’m now able to produce food throughout the year for my family and for sale.”
Livelihood activities in Muzarabani are based on crop and livestock production. Crop yields have not been good due to prolonged dry spells. These dry spells even affected drought-resistant crops such as sorghum and millet. More than five cropping seasons have gone by with these communities failing to harvest enough to survive.
More resources required
“The beauty of this programme is that vulnerable households are given a chance to bounce back after droughts and floods, and build back critical assets” says WFP Country Director Sory Ouane. “WFP is committed to helping build resilient communities that can survive recurring shocks affecting their food insecurity.”
In 2013, WFP helped develop more than 300 community assets in 23 rural districts. However, activities for the 2014 cycle are at risk if WFP fails to secure the necessary funding. USAID and Switzerland made valuable contributions but more resources are required to allow WFP to scale–up its activities.