EDITORIAL COMMENT: Long-term food security measures key

President Mugabe has been consistent since independence when it comes to providing food for the people in times of drought. But we note with concern that each time the country is faced with natural calamities such as droughts and floods that reduce yields, detractors wish for the worst. It is, however, President Mugabe’s principled stand on food security at household level that has always put such detractors to shame.

As he has always done, President Mugabe over the weekend once again reassured those in dire need of food this season that they will not starve. It is a reality that many parts of the country were this year affected by drought and floods which left villagers badly exposed.

Other areas received good rains at the beginning of the season, but experienced moisture stress at a time their thriving crop needed rains. In some areas, continuous rains led to widespread flooding which destroyed thousands of acres of crops, thus leaving people in need of food assistance.

Yet in other areas, there was a combination of both floods and drought. This combination of negative factors has left the country faced with a huge crop deficit necessitating imports to supplement the little that has been harvested in areas that did well.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development, the country is facing a deficit of 700 000 tonnes of maize this season. The grains need to be imported as fast as possible as some households are already struggling to meet their daily requirements after exhausting stocks from their last harvest.

That is why we welcome President Mugabe’s message assuring Zimbabweans in drought stricken areas that Government will not let anyone starve as food relief will be availed to cushion them from hunger.

The President’s message was relayed by Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs Minister Cde Cain Mathema during a Zanu-PF campaign rally at Dlamini area in Tsholotsho North over the weekend.

Zimbabwe has been experiencing devastating droughts after almost every 10 years, but in all these instances no one has died of hunger.

In recent years, the droughts have been increasing in frequency due to the effects of climate change. As a result most countries in the region face a grain deficit, necessitating imports.

President Mugabe’s assurance means financial resources can quickly be mobilised by Government for grain imports to cover the deficit.

This demonstrates that President Mugabe is a people’s man who is always ready to respond to people’s immediate needs.

Yes, the private sector and non-governmental organisations can also play their little role, but such matters cannot be left to them. It is the Government of the day which must lead the way.

What is needed from now going forward is for the country to have long-term plans to deal with weather swings that some have linked to climate change.

Deliberate efforts by all Zimbabweans can help reduce the burden on Government when it comes to food imports.

Part of the answer lies in the country maximising its irrigation by adopting better water harvesting techniques.

Farmers are often the hardest hit by changes in weather patterns and as such they need to help the Government reduce the severity of such eventualities by developing irrigation systems.

In the short-term, food security can also be improved by farmers growing drought-resistant crop varieties and early maturing grains or a mix. These don’t require much outlay besides changing attitudes as a form of adaptation to the vagaries of nature.

This is one of the decisive ways in which people can lessen the burden on Government resources.