Zimbabwean Farmers Fear the Worst as Cattle And Crops Succumb to Drought
In the dusty village of Mafomoti, southern Zimbabwe, farmers have already lost cattle and crops in the severest drought to hit the nation in a quarter of a century. But the worst may be yet to come.
Midway through the farming season, the fields around the village are normally green at this time of the year but now they lie barren. Local people, who should be looking forward to the harvest in late March, are instead awaiting its failure and wondering how to make do with meager supplies of food aid.
The drought is likely to damage harvests across southern Africa and about 14 million people are at risk, the WFP says.
But whereas neighboring South Africa is wealthy enough to tackle the problem of food shortages, the impact is looking particularly serious for Zimbabwe where 70 percent of the population still survives on farming.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been struggling for five years to recover from a catastrophic recession that was marked by billion percent hyperinflation and widespread food shortages. Strained relations between President Robert Mugabe and aid donors such as the European Union have complicated matters.
Agriculture is critical to Zimbabwe’s economy, generating 30 percent of export earnings and contributing 19 percent to GDP. But a report by the government and international aid agencies last year said 16 percent of Zimbabwe’s population – which numbers 13 million – required food up to March 2016.
In drought stricken areas, emaciated cows root around the bare earth trying to find something to eat. Some livestock are too weak to stand while birds flock around the carcasses of dead donkeys.
Around Mafomoti 300 miles south of the capital Harare, 375 families have received aid which is expected to feed a total of 2,784 people.
Villagers said they were being forced to sell their surviving cattle, prized possessions in rural Zimbabwe which families usually keep to fund future family expenses such as educating the next generation.
Whereas food prices usually rise in times of