This is despite Robert Mugabe’s rhetoric on political rallies that his country would not take aid from the West.
The grant of more than £50,000 will provide 118 families and three primary schools with seeds and conservation farming techniques for a year. Midlands province is one of the worst affected regions of Zimbabwe; UN assessments show that it is on the brink of a severe food crisis.
‘The timing is key,’ says William Anderson, Christian Aid’s country manager in Zimbabwe, talking to The Zimbabwe Mail. ‘We are entering the planting season for the next harvest and unless we seize this window of opportunity people will have no food. We will start to see people dying of starvation.’
The UN has warned that half of the country’s population will soon be in need of food aid and medical assistance. John Holmes, the UN’s humanitarian chief, called for urgent measures to provide seed and fertiliser for next year’s harvest to avoid millions more people becoming reliant on aid.
Christian Aid is providing special drought-tolerant seeds. These will be combined with farming techniques that preserve water and improve the soil’s capacity to retain water. Christian Aid has been using these techniques in Zimbabwe for some years now – in parts of arid Matabeleland farmers have improved their yields by as much as 50 per cent.
‘Soil is the main asset of 80 per cent of people in the communal areas so unless proper land management techniques are used, the cycle of poverty will never be broken,’ says Mr Anderson. ‘That is why this type of intervention is so crucial for the immediate and long term benefit of the farming households we work with.’
The funds will also improve nutrition for those persons living with HIV and will provide alternate sources of income with the sale of surplus produce.
Zimbabwe has a catalogue of the dire statistics: over 85 per cent of the population is unemployed, 90 per cent are living on less than £1 a day and 15 per cent of adults are living with HIV with some 3,500 dying every week of related diseases.
Zimbabwe has the lowest life expectancy in the world: 34 years for men and 32 for women.