BULAWAYO, ZIMBABWE - Some villagers in one of Zimbabwe's driest areas are appealing for food and fear their livestock, their source of livelihoods, will die due to a lack of water. The World Food Program is asking for funds to ensure food stability during the country's "lean season."
In the dry Matabeleland region, animals are not only a sign of wealth but a source of livelihoods; they are sold or exchanged for grain, especially corn, to prepare Zimbabwe’s main staple food – sadza or isitshwala – a thick porridge, which is served with a relish. Crops usually fail due to low rains, so they depend on domestic animals.
Standing next to a dry well, which they had dug to get water for their cattle, 29-year-old Mpumelelo Dungeni fears for his herd.
“This year’s drought has been severe. Our cattle are dying because there is not enough water to drink. We travel long distances for cattle to survive...We are appealing to the government to intervene and solve our water problem and food as well... It must fix our dam so that we can survive...We want food and water for us and our cattle to survive,” Dungeni said.
The villagers in this Gatsheni-Matopo area say the Mabigwe reservoir dried up, leaving them with no reliable source of water for their animals. Sixty-year-old Linah Mhlanga said she now walks for hours upstream with her cattle to find water.
“The donors keep saying they will come and fix the dam (Mabigwe reservoir), but they are not coming. There is no one who can come to fix it. So when the water is finished here we have to go further down there for the cattle to get something to drink,” Mhlanga said.
The World Food Program says it needs about $75 million to ensure food stability for Zimbabwe’s “lean season” for the next six months for dry places like Gatsheni-Matopo.
Eddie Rowe, the WFP director in Zimbabwe, told VOA that about 2.4 million people in this southern African nation need food aid because of unusually long dry spells during the rainy season.
“As we speak, we know that in almost every district, most of these households have run out of their harvests and now depend on the market and we all know the problem we are facing. not just a commodity availability problem, but prices in purchasing these basic commodities. In Zimbabwe, we have an estimated 28 percent of the rural population that is considered in a very challenging [situation] when it comes to access to and availability of food for this agriculture season 2018/2019,” Rowe said.
USAID's Food For Peace program has given $22 million to the WFP to ease Zimbabwe’s food insecurity.
As a result, places like Gatsheni-Matopo in Matabeleland probably will get decent meals. But their animals will need water – and more drought is predicted.