By Nesia Mhaka
Japan has contributed US$1.25 million to the World Food Programme (WFP) to support food insecure communities in Zimbabwe that have borne the brunt of climate change shocks and the Covid-19 outbreak.
At least half of Zimbabwe’s population is food insecure due to consecutive droughts and a tanking economy.
The outbreak of Covid-19 last year has worsened the plight of vulnerable people.
Japan’s ambassador to Zimbabwe, Satoshi Tanaka, said the donation was meant to promote sustainable livelihoods.
“In collaboration with WFP, the government of Japan continues to deliver support from the people of Japan to the most vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe, focusing on improving their nutrition and building their resilience,” Tanaka said.
“We hope that this assistance will help to alleviate their hardships during the current humanitarian crisis and make them more resilient to climate shocks in the future.”
Francesca Erdelmann, WFP country director and representative, said Japan’s contribution would go a long way in alleviating hunger in Zimbabwe.
“This contribution will enable Zimbabwean communities to move out of food insecurity and towards sustainable livelihoods,” Erdelmann said.
“It will not only provide immediate access to food support for the most vulnerable, but will also sustainably address the long-term food security of rural communities by rehabilitating and building productive community assets such as small weir dams, nutrition gardens, cattle dip tanks and fish ponds.
“It will also go towards training the assisted communities in the management of these assets and in skills such as financial literacy, among others.”
A nationwide lockdown, which was introduced to slow down the spread of Covid-19 has precipitated massive joblessness in urban areas, while rural hunger has worsened due to a number of unemployed migrants returning to their villages and the absence of vital remittances they once provided.
Subsistence farming families, who make up three-quarters of Zimbabwe’s population and produce most of its food are also hurting because of a successive drought-hit harvest last season.
It yielded only 1.1 million metric tonnes of maize, the staple cereal and this in turn, presages even more severe hunger during this quarter, the peak of the “lean” season.
Japan’s contribution comes at a time when many people in the country are struggling to feed themselves as a result of successive droughts and a dire economic situation which has been exacerbated by Covid-19.
The support from Japan will assist 11,080 people in building community and household assets in the districts of Mount Darwin in Mashonaland Central and Matobo in Matabeleland South.
Some of the projects will include building of small dams, fishponds, dip tanks, and irrigated vegetable gardens and orchards.
It will also promote improved farming activities through water conservation activities, such as by filling gullies, making terraces and planting trees.
It will help to advance WFP’s shared efforts to protect and improve the food security of women, girls, boys and men in Zimbabwe.
For many years, Japan has contributed to food assistance and community resilience-building activities for vulnerable communities in Zimbabwe through WFP, with over US$ 23 million provided in funding since 2019.
It has also supported much-needed nutrition for expecting mothers staying at maternity waiting homes across the country.
In February this year, Japan contributed US$ 4.5 million to WFP’s Urban Food Security and Resilience-Building Programme, which is providing vulnerable and food insecure households in urban areas with monthly electronic vouchers (e-vouchers) for food.