Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has declared the El Niño induced drought a state of national disaster as millions of people face hunger. In a press statement released on Friday by the Local Government Public Works and National Housing Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, Mugabe has “declared a State of Disaster in regard to severely affected areas in communal and resettlement lands of Zimbabwe effective from 2 February 2016”.
The declaration seeks to ensure that urgent priority be given to mobilisation of resources to “alleviate suffering from impacts of drought”. Minister Kasukuwere said preliminary indications are that the food insecure population has risen to 2 444 000, or 26% of the population. This is after the cropping season started late in all provinces with some parts having as much as 75% crop write-offs. “Over 95% of the country has received less than 75% of what they would have received by this time of the year,” said Kasukuwere. He added that dam levels are decreasing due to the poor rainfall season and the national average is currently 51.1% full. “Boreholes are drying up particularly in the southern provinces and 31% are non functional,” said Kasukuwere adding that livestock have to move in excess of five kilometres in search of water. “Cumulative livestock deaths as a result of the drought are currently at 16 681 with Masvingo Province being the highest at 6 566.”
Mugabe’s declaration of “State of Disaster” comes as the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe called on the country to reduce over-reliance on rain-fed agriculture. “In line with the Climate Resilient National Water Resources and Irrigation Master Plan that the government is implementing, there is scope for government to dedicate more efforts towards establishment and resuscitation of irrigation infrastructure across the country in order to increase irrigable land,” said the RBZ in its 2016 Monetary Policy Statement presented on Thursday. “The development of irrigation infrastructure allows farmers to supplement rain fed agriculture and permits continuous crop production and facilitates increased productivity.”
Zimbabwe has a huge potential to improve agriculture activities through irrigation given the existing dams scattered across all provinces. While the capacity of water bodies was enough to irrigate 330 000 hectares in 2012, utilisation was estimated at only 78 204 hectares in 2015.