A top World Food Program (WFP) official has urged Zimbabwe and surrounding countries to increase food production in light of the Russo-Ukraine war, which has led to further slashing of food prices.
The World Food Program is concerned that the Russia-Ukraine war has exacerbated food insecurity across southern Africa, WFP Southern Africa director Mengestab Hale told reporters after a meeting with President Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare on Friday. He said that the region should make concerted efforts to produce more of its own food.
“The SADC area has water, land, smart people, so we’re able to produce in the area,” Hale said. “Let’s diversify and produce for ourselves. Region governments are working together, with the SADC’s Executive Secretary coordinating efforts. We know there are challenges, but we know that through a cocktail of policies and interventions, we will overcome them.
President Mnangagwa did not speak to reporters after meeting with Hale.
Zimbabwe was once the breadbasket of the region, but agricultural production in recent years has remained well below the level of the previous century. The government said it will increase production from wheat this year so that the country can regain its food exporter status.
Just outside Harare, Ephraim Pasipanodya is among farmers who have been asked by the Zimbabwean government to increase a hectare of wheat crop this season. The target is to provide enough wheat by October this year to achieve self-sufficiency.
“Basically for the last two years, I had 200 hectares of wheat,” Pasipanodya said, “and this year I plan to harvest about 300 hectares of wheat (because) wheat, which is one of our major crops and is one of our crops. Which is actually imported.”
Agriculture ministry officials are visiting the fields, teaching farmers to increase production and providing seeds to farmers. The chief director of the Ministry of Agriculture, Obert Jiri, said the government had activated four programs that would target 75,000 hectares of wheat production.
“So we are going on a blitz to train farmers to be able to grow wheat because we understand that wheat is a technical crop,” Jiri said.
The Zimbabwean government has adopted the theme of “wheat self-sufficiency at all costs”, adding that the world is facing a wheat shortage due to the Russo-Ukraine War.
Thereafter, officials will target the country’s main corn crop, which will arrive in October-November. If the plans work, it would be good news for organizations like WFP, which have been feeding hungry Zimbabweans for years.