Zimbabwe may face drought again in 2020, UN warns

A Zimbabwean farmer stands in her farm lamenting the poor harvest of maize which is the country’s major staple./cfr.org

Poor rainfall and the worsening economic crises may lead to a bleak 2020 for Zimbabwe especially the millions of people already grappling with an intermittent drought in the country, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

“This season’s rains are again late and inadequate, with planted seeds having failed to germinate in many areas,” the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said in a statement.

WFP said “forecasts of continuing hot and dry weather in the weeks ahead signal another poor harvest in April, putting lives and livelihoods at risk.”

Due to the severe challenge, the UN body said it needs $200 million in the first half of next year to assist 4.1 million Zimbabweans, a Reuters report said.

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Soaring inflation, shortages of foreign exchange, fuel and electricity have brought back memories of the hyperinflation of a decade ago, amid criticism that President Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to turn around the economy.

Output for the staple maize fell 50% to 900,000 tonnes this year, according to official data. The government has said it plans to import 800,000 tonnes to make up for the deficit.

Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube said the government will spend $133 million next year on subsidies for maize meal to keep the price of the most consumed food affordable.

Facing soaring prices for seeds, fertiliser and chemicals, some farmers have reduced planting during the summer cropping season that started in November, farmers’ unions said.

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A majority of Zimbabweans live in rural areas and survive on farming. But the southern African nation has only had one year of normal rainfall in the past five, according to WFP officials.

The economic crisis has led to growing political tensions, with police clamping down on dissent, leading to opposition claims that Mnangagwa is reverting to the harsh tactics seen under the late Robert Mugabe’s rule.


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