The Government of Zimbhas declared the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic a national disaster and has introduced several urgent and essential health-related measures, including a national lockdown, now partially eased.
The effects of these essential COVID-19 measures are having repercussions on the country’s already fragile situation and are expected to impact agricultural livelihoods and food security. Supply chain disruptions are likely to result in limited access to agricultural inputs and further increases in food prices, adding to the ongoing hyperinflation. Access of vulnerable pastoralists to grazing land may be hindered. The impact on formal and informal market structures will continue to reduce the ability of smallholder farmers and traders to sell produce and generate income.
Zimbabwe had already been facing widespread food insecurity prior to the pandemic. The impact of COVID-19 is expected to have a multiplier effect on the already fragile food and nutrition situation in Zimbabwe, where 45 percent of the rural population (4.3 million people) already face acute food insecurity at crisis or worse levels.
Rainfall deficit have already jeopardized agricultural activities in the 2019/20 main cropping season. Poor availability of pastures and limited access to water have negatively impacted livestock, causing the death of approximately 66 000 cattle, especially in Masvingo and Matabeleland South provinces.
The expected further deterioration in food insecurity due to the combination of COVID-19 impacts, existing vulnerabilities and challenges posed by the upcoming dry winter season, triggered FAO to launch an anticipatory action project, with support from the Government of Belgium. The project will provide over 1 270 vulnerable livestock farmers with dry season livestock feed in areas where rangelands are in very poor condition and where livestock feed markets have been disrupted by COVID-19. In addition, 2 000 farming households lacking the financial means to purchase agricultural inputs will receive a pack of drought resistant sorghum and cowpea seeds to support planting in the coming season. The project’s target area is the district of Hwange, classified in Emergency food insecurity (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Phase 4).
To ensure the best possible use of the seed packs, FAO agronomists will conduct a ‘Training of Trainers’ in Good Agriculture Practice for government extension workers and NGO staff, who will then transfer the capacities to lead farmers. FAO will implement the project in close collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
It is vital that anticipatory actions are undertaken now, to protect the food security and livelihoods of vulnerable farming communities affected by COVID-19, and avoid a further deterioration of the food security situation in 2021.