What the government of Zimbabwe is doing about food access
What the government of Zimbabwe is doing about food access - Perspective
By Eddington Gororo
The accepted FAO definition for food security is when all people at all times have
physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet
their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Thus food
security has four pillars, namely: availability, access, utilization and stability of
Food availability is secured through local production, the market or trade. Even when
the food is available, the ability for households to access it depends on their
possession of the means to produce or income to buy the food, as well as social and
family relations that guarantee access to food. Social relations based access to food
is in the form of income remittances from family and friends, food vouchers, food aid,
subsidies and gifts. Thus access to food can be physical, social or economic.
The accessible food must be of good quality, safety, and cultural acceptability for it to
be utilised by the consumers. There must also be stable supply of food for each
person and household throughout the year and over many years. Households must
be able to cope with known shocks and hazards that diminish stability of food supply.
Individuals and households in the same may differ considerably with respect to
access to food. Why is this so? It can be related to differences in resource
endowments (land, labour, capital, cattle, etc.) to produce food, social and natural
disasters, lack of purchasing power (income) to buy food, food prices, or poor social
and family relations.
According to the World Food Program (WFP), about 4.1 million Zimbabweans were
estimated to be food-insecure at the peak of 2016’s lean season. Major contributors
to limited access to adequate food include climate-related shocks, widespread
poverty, HIV/AIDS, unemployment, economic instability, liquidity challenges, low
crop and livestock yields, poor access to markets by farmers and low dietary
For instance, over 27% of children less than five years in Zimbabwe are stunted or
have heights too low for their age, as a result of chronic malnutrition. The country
has been ranked 156 out of 187 developing countries on the Global Hunger Index,
which measures progress and failure in the global fight against hunger.
Given this scenario, it is worth asking: What is our government doing (if any) to
ensure that ‘All people at all times have physical, social and economic access to
sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences
for an active and healthy life?’ If not, what can the government do to mediate food
Notwithstanding severe challenges, the Government of Zimbabwe is committed to
ensuring access to adequate, diverse, safe and nutritious food by all its citizens at all
times. This policy goal is enshrined in the new constitution’s bill of rights and the
National Food and Nutrition Security Policy passed in 2014.
The Food and Nutrition Council (FNC) was established as a multi-stakeholder
platform to convene cross-sector stakeholder dialogue and coordination on food,
nutrition and health issues. Government policy in this regard tends to be oriented
towards the food policy direction of production, trade, and health goals compared to
In order to promote food self sufficiency through local production, the government
distributed land to landless citizens and all those who had a passion to farm through
the Land Reform Program which was started in the year 2000. In this exercise, over
300,000 families were resettled and given the means of production in the form of
land. Production has been boosted through such interventions as the Farm
Mechanisation Program, Presidential Inputs Scheme and recently, Command
Farmers face competition from cheaper imported food commodities. However, the
government has continued to balance trade in food commodities and local
production by protecting Zimbabwean farmers through import quotas, tariffs and
other restrictions on imported food commodities, particularly wheat flour, chickens
and milk; guaranteed prices for the staple maize and wheat; and input subsidies
(seed and fertiliser).
Health goals are guaranteed through nutrition interventions integrated with health
services, water and sanitation; ensuring that food meets Public Health legislation and
international standards for quality and safety; food fortification; as well as school
feeding schemes to reduce malnutrition and stunting in children.
The socio-economic measures are designed to protect disadvantaged members and
communities and to respond to disasters such as drought and floods, and include
school meals, food distribution to elderly and disabled people who cannot produce
food themselves, and food aid to communities in need.
In order to ensure that its policies become a reality, the government uses a
combination of governing modes, notably: hierarchy, markets and self-organizing
networks. Government is responsible for food access through various pieces of
legislation; food distribution and aid in times of crisis. In addition, food is freely traded
in the country through supermarkets, shops, vending stalls and farmers markets, and
this is how a lot of people access it. Self-organising networks include those of
development agencies, non-governmental organisations, civil society, households
and private businesses involved in ensuring access to food. Private sector
businesses are responsible for input supply, services, finance, trade, processing,
value addition, and marketing of food commodities around the country. Civil society
and non-governmental organizations help through food aid, nutrition gardens, agro-
financing, training and skills development, and linking farmers to markets and value
chains. The farmers themselves and their communities are also self-organising in
various farmer organisations, commodity associations and clusters and work
together in many ways.
Lastly, what are the instruments that government has at its disposal to use in
ensuring access to food by all? Government is particularly using its authority,
nodality and treasure. Government uses the instrument of nodality through collection
of health and nutrition status information children and other groups, crop yield
assessments and market price data through many organisations such as ZIMSTAT,
Agriculture Marketing Authority (AMA), NGOs, farmer associations, among others.
Government also has authority to use various legal instruments to regulate food
trade, price governing for staples such as maize and wheat, food labelling, food
safety and quality, and food fortification. Implementation is through government
ministries responsible for labour and social services, health and child care, and
agriculture; ZIMSTAT and FNC. Some situations require government to use its
treasury to fund input subsidies for farmers, food for work, food aid in times of
drought and provide social safety nets for vulnerable groups, rural and urban
dwellers. However, the government in most cases lack sufficient resources to
implement these programs throughout the country.
In conclusion, the government of Zimbabwe is indeed doing something about food
access for its citizens. Interventions include direct support to farmers to enhance
food production, social protection of vulnerable groups, building resilience,
humanitarian assistance in disaster situations, enforcing legislation to ensure healthy
diets, and supporting the work of development partners and other stakeholders.
About the author: Eddington Gororo is an academic and researcher working for
Chinhoyi University of Technology. Through his blog, he purposes to offer a
discussion forum about how Zimbabweans can farm for yield, profit and the future in
order to support food systems and land-based livelihoods.