Zim’s parliamentary watchdog urges investment in agriculture to fight hunger

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The Zimbabwean government has been urged to fully invest in agriculture, revamp its outdated technology and farming methods to curb hunger and meet the nutritional requirements of its people.

Parliamentary watchdog Veritas said in a statement Friday that the government needs to also adequately equip and empower rural women with land and incentives as they constitute the bulk of small-scale farmers that feed at least 67 percent of the Zimbabwean population.

Its statement came as Zimbabwe joined the rest of the world in commemorating the UN World Food Day on Oct. 16 under the theme: “Healthy Diets for a #ZeroHunger World”.

The theme promotes Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) number two which seeks to end world hunger and malnutrition by the year 2030.

The goal is to make countries rethink how they grow food, how they share food and how they consume food.

The theme also calls for promotion of sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers, access to land as well as technology to improve production.

The parliamentary watchdog said the theme was appropriate particularly for Zimbabwe which is facing growing hunger due to effects of erratic weather patterns and an economic crisis.

“As the theme mandates states to guarantee access to food, the Zimbabwean government is encouraged to address the food price crisis and take measures for food to be affordable and accessible to all,” Veritas said.

According to the World Food Programme (WFP), 63 percent of Zimbabweans live below the poverty datum line with 27 percent of children having stunted growth because of unbalanced diets.

The WFP also says that up to 5.5 million people will be food insecure in Zimbabwe by January 2020.

At present, Zimbabwe is ranked 109th out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index, indicating that the hunger situation in Zimbabwe is serious. One in four children under the age of five are said to be vitamin A deficient, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), while 60 percent of women are said to be anaemic in the country.

“Following this mandate and keeping in line with the requirements of the theme, the Zimbabwean government is reminded that investment in agriculture is crucial. At present, the lead program in agriculture is Command Agriculture. As the government carries out this program and land audits, it is reminded that land distribution is to be free and fair, without prejudice and without favor,” Veritas said.

It also said Zimbabwe must rethink the farming methods that are currently in use, noting that the time to re-strategize is now in the wake of unreliable weather patterns.

“With the ever changing climate, Zimbabwe needs to adapt and change present outdated methods and technologies to be able to meet the hunger and nutritional requirements of its people. Adapting new methods is one way of tackling the crisis we are in but transparency in initiatives and incentives is also another area we need to focus on and improve in order to reduce malnutrition and hunger overall,” Veritas said.

It noted that with as much arable land as Zimbabwe has, hunger and malnutrition should not be part of its narrative.

“It is time to steer the narrative from a begging basket back to being the breadbasket,” Veritas said.