Cash Helps Drought-Stricken Farmers In Zimbabwe

Southern Africa is suffering a food crisis, with over 27 million* people facing hunger over the next six months. 

In Zimbabwe 1.5 million people are not able to access the food they need to be healthy. WFP's David Orr met hundreds of farmers in Sasula, central Zimbabwe, who have lost all of their crops to drought, leaving them without food and destroying their livelihoods. As they waited to receive cash distributions from the World Food Programme, they shared their stories and explained why this year has been such a difficult one.

*Source: Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)

“We didn’t have a good harvest because the rains came late, and by then the crops were wilting,” explains Dumazile Moyo, who is married with four children. “I harvested only three bags of maize and two bags of millet, not enough to feed my family.”

“I harvested only three bags of maize and two bags of millet, not enough to feed my family.”

Dumazile Moyo, close up
Dumazile Moyo. Photo:WFP/David Orr

She is one of an estimated 1.5 million people currently facing hunger in Zimbabwe. WFP launched an operation in October to give food or – where market conditions allow – cash assistance to the most vulnerable of these.

Cash has several advantages: it allows recipients to choose their own food; it injects money into the local economy; and, crucially for both donors and humanitarian organizations, it costs less to transport than food commodities. 

A WFP recipient receiving cash to buy food.
Photo:WFP/David Orr

The distribution in Sasula takes place in the local church – other distributions in the area are held in a municipal office and outdoors in the shade of a tree. Registered recipients have their identities checked by representatives of WFP’s partner organization, ADRA, before lining up to receive their allocation: US$9 per family member. The money is handed out by guards from a local security firm under the watchful eye of a community leader.  

“Life is tough now,” says Frank Zivengwa, married with six children, who is also waiting for assistance. “I can only survive by doing labouring jobs in other people’s fields. Sometimes I make bricks to sell.”

A group of women carrying shopping bags
Photo:WFP/David Orr

Those who qualify for cash assistance must do eight hours of training per month in climate-smart agriculture and another eight hours putting those lessons into practice in their fields, working on water harvesting or irrigation systems. For the rest, it will be up to nature to ensure there is enough rain to nourish the crops. 

“We’re hoping for a better harvest next season so we won’t be stressed again about not being able to feed our families,” says Priscilla Mudyanavana after cooking a meal with the food she has bought at a local shop.

The forecasts, however, are worrisome. It is predicted that the current global El Niño weather event is likely to herald yet another season of reduced rains across southern Africa.  

Learn more about the Cash and Vouchers intitiative