MORE than 200 000 households in Manicaland are in dire need of food aid as indications of a poor harvest become more visible with each passing week in most parts of the province.
Manicaland Provincial Administrator, Mr Fungai Mbetsa, confirmed that more than 200 000 households desperately need food aid after failing to harvest anything from their fields.
He said the grain loan distribution programme was already in motion, with some parts of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera and Makoni having started receiving aid under the scheme.
"It is very true that some families failed to get anything from the fields. In fact, we are looking at more than 200 000 families across the province who are in dire need of food aid.
"Yes, there could have been some few areas which are expected to get a better harvest, but the majority need aid. Areas like Honde Valley and some parts of Makoni District received betters rains that could enable them to get a better harvest, but most of the areas are in trouble. The situation is bad, to say the least.
"However, we have since started moving in and giving assistance to those in need under the grain loan programme.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“I am sure that families in some parts of Chipinge, Chimanimani, Buhera and Makoni have started receiving aid under the programme.
"In fact, in Chipinge 1 000 tonnes have already been distributed so far to beneficiaries. In other areas, we are still working out the modalities and urging people to organise themselves to allow a smooth distribution process. Families are getting 50kg maize-meal per household," said Mr Mbetsa.
A snap survey by this newspaper in some parts of the province revealed that hopes of a meaningful harvest are now paper thin.
In Chipinge South constituency, most families have lost all hope and are now looking up to relief aid from donors as well as the Government.
Prominent businessman and former legislator for the area, Cde Enock Porusingazi, called for immediate intervention to avert starvation.
"We are faced with a huge challenge to feed all the families that are in need of food aid. Most of the families are not expecting anything from the fields and they are now pleading for assistance," said Cde Porusingazi
The Government reintroduced the grain loan scheme in which communal farmers access grain from the Grain Marketing Board and repay after harvest.
The scheme is expected to benefit 600 000 households in grain deficit areas for the next four months across the nation.
This came after the Cabinet realised that the weather across the country indicated that some households would not be able to harvest enough grain.
Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development Minister, Dr Joseph Made was recently quoted in the Press, saying some farmers could not harvest crops early enough to cover for the food deficit.He added that the Cabinet found it necessary that besides the traditional assistance to vulnerable communities, those able to farm be assisted with grain.
Dr Made said the scheme would benefit communal, old resettlement, small-scale and A2 farmers.
"A household will be assisted with a 50kg bag of maize per month," he said. "We will review it if there is need for more grain."
Minister Made said Manicaland Province will get 96 000 tonnes of grain, Mashonaland Central 78 000, Mashonaland East 76 000, Mashonaland West 70 000, Masvingo 94 000 and Matabeleland South and Matabeleland North 48 000 tonnes each.
"A total of 511 collection points have been established and farmers will be notified through the media soon," he said.
Dr Made said an inter-ministerial committee, which he would chair, would implement the scheme.
Members of the committee are Local Government, Rural and Urban Development Minister, Dr Ignatius Chombo, Minister of Transport, Mr Nicholas Goche, Minister of Labour and Social Welfare, Ms Paurina Mpariwa and Finance Minister, Mr Tendai Biti.-Manica Post