The 25th of March 2014 cleared a dark cloud that had hang over Mbire following floods which wreaked havoc crops early this year leaving close to 7 000 people facing starvation. Incessant and heavy rains experienced in most parts of Zimbabwe from mid-January to mid-February 2014, hit Mbire District, Mashonaland Central Province of Zimbabwe resulting in the floods which caused loss of lives and livelihoods.
On 25 March ActionAid Zimbabwe made available 7.5 tonnes of early maturing maize seed benefitting 750 households to avert potential hunger in the area In addition, ActionAid distributed livestock chemicals in the form of veterinary kits benefitting 15 wards in Mbire where there is a large population of cattle. The chemicals will be used for dipping and dosing cattle and will prevent them from contracting waterborne diseases that may occur as a result of the floods.
I attended the distribution of the maize seed and chemicals in Mbire as part of the ActionAid team to witness the handover of the goods. There were songs of joy from the recipients and I heard many voices saying “at last we can sleep and we have hope of waking up the next morning and seeing the sun shining” .
Christine Kaponya (78), a widow who looks after six orphaned grandchildren, ecstatically danced as her name was called out to receive the maize seed and tears of joy rolled down her cheeks. Christine’s field was marooned in February 2014 leaving dry stems of maize as the only evidence of the work she put in her field. Upon receiving the maize seed, she shouted with an electric smile “zvangu zvaita” meaning my problem is solved.
I interviewed Carlington Karota (18) of Tanaka Village in Ward 5, Mbire who is one of the child heads to receive the maize seed. Through his faint voice, I pictured grief and pain around him. He is looking after two of his brothers who are both under the age of 14 and he is the head of the family. Following the death of his father in 2010, Carlington was left to look after his young brothers as his mother remarried. The floods destroyed Carlington’s matured maize crop leaving him and his brothers without food.
“I have been doing casual jobs such as fetching water for people so that I could get food for my brothers. I have received 10kgs of maize seed which I will plant and am hoping that by the end of the next two months I will get a bumper harvest ,” said the hopeful Carlington.
Lewis Nyamushamba, Councillor for Ward 16 of Mbire said: “If planted now (March 2014) the maize is expected to be ripe within two months. Because of the availability of water along the rivers where we plant, the crops will mature quickly and people will soon have food to eat in May and they will harvest in June.”
Geographically, Mbire District is located in the Mid-Zambezi Valley which receives below normal rains of less than 400mm a year. Some people in Mbire live near rivers so that they can easily access water. Their crop fields also happen to be situated not very far from the rivers. In most cases the rains received in this area are received once a year and are not distributed across a normal rainfall season hence the need for people to plant crops near the rivers.
With support from the Mbire District Civil Protection Unit, ActionAid Zimbabwe and its Partner Lower Guruve Development Association (LGDA) carried out a rapid needs assessments from the 26th -27th February 2014 to ascertain the extent of the floods damage and community needs. At least 1499 households with a total population of 6895 people were affected by the floods. Although very few permanent homes were damaged, temporary settlements and crop fields near rivers were swept away. A total of six flood related deaths were recorded, while 1041.2 hectares of cereals and 1509 hectares of cotton were destroyed. The affected communities are mainly reliant on rain-fed agricultural production as a source of livelihood.
During the needs assessments, the communities prioritised the provision of maize seed (in order to meet their longer term food security requirements) and veterinary equipment and dosing chemicals given the prominence of livestock production in securing people’s livelihoods in Mbire District.