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Africa

Food insecurity still uphill challenge in Zimbabwe

As the UN marks World Food Day, more than 2 million people face hunger in Zimbabwe. The world body says it is working with the southern African nation to ensure that its food insecurity becomes a thing of the past.

The children may be able to recite a poem for visitors at Jotsholo Primary School some 700 kilometers (434 miles) from the Zimbabwean capital Harare, but this is still the region worst affected by the country's food crisis. Most of the 2.2 million Zimbabweans who depend on food aid live here. It has been like this for more than a decade.

Before the turn of the century, Zimbabwe, with its fertile farmland, was the breadbasket of southern Africa, exporting wheat and corn to the rest of the continent and beyond. But the agriculture second nose-dived in the early 2000s, a development which critics attribute to President Robert Mugabe's land reform program which targeted white farmers.

David Phiri is the head of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Zimbabwe. He told DW that the country had the potential to regain its status as southern Africa's bread basket, but political will was needed and he thought that the "Zimbabwean government has shown that it has political will."

Cannot afford to buy food

But Zimbabwe is still a net importer of food. With unemployment hovering at around 80 percent, many people can't afford to buy food. They are dependent on hand-outs from donors and Zimbabwe's cash-strapped government.

A worker carries relief food from a truck, Saturday Sept. 7, 2002 during food distrubution by the World Food Program in Nhwali in the South Western part of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's hunger crisis, which threatens 6 million of its 12.5 million people, was caused by a terrible drought in the middle of the growing season and the government's land reform program, which has caused chaos in the argriculture based economy, according to the World Food Program. (AP Photo/Karel Prinsloo)

Aid from the World Food Program arriving in Zimbabwe in 2002

As the country marked World Food Day, one Zimbabwean Tabeth Ncube told DW there was a lot of hunger around. "My suggestion to the government for us to avoid starvation is that it must ask us to do some menial jobs locally and then give us handouts at the end of the month," she said.

Another Zimbabwean, 72 year-old Albert Sibanda refuted suggestions that they were to blame. "It is not that we are lazy. We depend on natural rains and they have been erratic. There isn't enough rain," he observed.

Before the destruction of commercial agriculture in Zimbabwe, farmers depended on irrigation to mitigate the effects of drought. That is now history.

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