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Food sovereignty in Zimbabwe is a human rights issue

13 Jan 2021 at 12:14hrs | Views
With Covid 19 is ravaging and weighing heavily on the socio-economic well being of Zimbabwe, there is a far worse pandemic bedevilling the country in the form food insecurity and food injustice.

Food security has been an issue of interest and for long hasn't been addressed, this has in turn resulted in food injustices in the communities.

Zimbabwe is a highly unequal country suffering from a vacuum of leadership, failed economics, colonialism and entrenched patriarchy, the most vulnerable in our society are bearing the brunt of these crises.

By and large women and children, in particular, live at the intersection of multiple crises and also act as shock absorbers for their communities.

Hunger as a case in point.

According to Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee ZimVAC: "nearly 3.4 million people in rural areas are projected to face Crisis or Emergency (IPC Phase 3 or above) food insecurity at the peak of the 2020/2021 lean season (January-March) and 2.3 million people in urban communities are estimated to be food insecure in 2021, according to the latest Integrated Phase Classification (IPC)",

"According to the 2020 rural ZimVAC assessment, households saw an average 51.5 per cent reduction in income compared to 2019, including due to COVID-19, while the IPC analysis highlights that an estimated 1.2 million people currently in IPC Phase 2 (Stressed) would be at least one phase worse were it not for the assistance they are receiving" reports ZimVAC.

These findings paint a gloomy picture.

Food crisis in Zimbabwe has to be addressed as an urgent human rights issue. The urgency to which the government should come up with concrete solutions to alleviate.

Before 2020, communities were already suffering from hunger, unemployment, violence, record drought 2018-19, political bickering and water shortages.

These challenges have been worsened, magnified and exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Food crisis particularly increased owing to the rising food prices, loss of income, record drought and lack of access to markets and general dwindling of reserves.

Covid 19 pandemic will pass, but the grand problem of hunger and food insecurity will remain.

We will still face food injustice and food inequality, this is another silent pandemic underwritten by the climate crisis.

Climate change predicament demands our attention, it is imperative to build systems which will help us solve the hunger crisis and in the long run empower communities allowing them to be resilient in the face of the climate crisis.

With the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent periods of lockdown, increased hunger coincides with mass unemployment.

Unemployment in Zimbabwe is reported to be over 90% and decline in active employment since the pandemic hit the country worsened the situation. The ongoing record drought had already entrenched communities' hunger crises way before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Hunger is a central and urgent challenge for this country — before, during and after the pandemic. Unfortunately, national food security programming does not have the capacity to address it. In the face of these concurrent crises, government-issued grants and food aid interventions have not been the effective solution promised.

Government aid processes have been marred by corruption, uneven implementation, politicisation and exclusionary distribution practices.

The government's approach, as well as that of the non-governmental agencies, has not only been limited in scope but also in intent, as it has neglected the need for a long-term solution to the hunger crisis.

There have been various food relief initiatives to local communities and beyond, but these do not solve the hunger problem either.

With rising unemployment, the climate crisis and consequent increase in hunger, these numbers will accelerate.

So, as the demand for food relief rises, the capacity to meet it will decrease. The food relief schemes offered are fundamentally untenable and unsustainable.

There is a glaring need to employ more food sovereignty-based initiatives to avoid falling into this trap of reliance on the current food system which will exacerbate the hunger crisis further.

Food-relief providers should consider including more long-term solutions to hunger in their initiatives, such as seeds, and training.

The government must implement a universal policy on food justice. This will decrease national hunger and consequently increase the standard of living for all.

In the long run, the only sustainable solution to the food crisis is food sovereignty: empowering people to produce their own food and create their own food systems. While land reform is part of the conduit for such production on the land lags behind and it's where efforts must be doubled.

This can be provided through meaningful long-term engagement between civil society organisations, small-scale farmers, and the private and informal food sectors.

Sustainable food solutions are key to mitigating the food crisis in Zimbabwe and making hunger an issue of the past.

After Covid-19, we cannot go back to normal, because normal was far from good enough, and it will certainly not be good enough in the face of the imminent climate crisis.

If the main purpose of government is to provide for the common security of its citizens, surely ensuring the security of the food system must be among its paramount duties.

Silobela constituency House of Assembly representative Mtokozisi Manoki Mpofu in his parliamentary submission implored the government to set aside sound budget towards irrigation systems development.

Hon Mpofu said that the food situations in rural Zimbabwe was deplorable and could only be mitigated largely by water harvesting and irrigation farming.

Improving agricultural infrastructure can unlock the much-needed food security solutions.

United Nations identified the food crisis as one of the primary and overarching challenges facing the international community today.

It is inter-related in complex ways to the current global economic crisis and the longer-term environmental and climate crises that stand before us.

The inability of a large proportion of Zimbabwe's households to reliably access the necessary levels of nutrition is a fundamental aspect of perpetuating cycles of poverty. Addressing food security and justice is long overdue.

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Source - Taruberekera Masara in Pretoria
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