africa zimbabwe maizeBad governance, not drought, causing hunger in Zimbabwe!

It can not be denied that the 2023/24 agricultural season is one of the worst in Zimbabwe. This is largely due to the frighteningly low rainfall experienced as a direct result of the El Niño weather pattern that has affected most parts of the southern African region. It is a painful sight watching the miserable dry shriveled crops in most fields throughout the country.As a result, according to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization), an estimated 3.5 million Zimbabweans, mostly in rural areas, are facing acute food insecurity this year.

The government of Zimbabwe is already in panic mode, seeking food assistance from several partners to help circumvent any potential disaster. Already, countries such as Russia, the US, China, and UN agents are in the process of sending food aid, mainly in the form of grains and cereals.

However, we need to be brutally honest with one another.
  • What is the real reason millions of ordinary Zimbabweans are facing starvation?
  • Can we genuinely blame the El Niño induced drought
  • – or is the cause somewhere else totally divorced from the weather or climatic change?
For this, we need to look at a few case studies.

How are countries located in deserts faring when it comes to food security.

Let us remember that most places in the Middle East, for instance, receive far much less rain than we do here in Zimbabwe.

  • In fact, the UAE (United Arab Emirates) gets an average 140 – 200 mm of rainfall per annum.
  • Qatar receives less than 100 mm each year, and Saudi Arabia has less than 150 mm.
  • On the other hand, in a normal season, Zimbabwe gets between 550 – 900 mm each year.

Yet, despite the fact that the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia perennially receive such little rainfall, their populations are never under any danger of hunger.

Actually, the UAE is ranked first in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region and 23rd in the world in its food security [based on the GFSI (Global Food Security Index)]. Qatar is number one in the entire Arab world and 24th in the world.

What about Zimbabwe?

In most seasons – not just this year when there is a drought – we are ranked somewhere near the bottom.

  • In other words, it really does not matter whether we have a good rainfall season or not, Zimbabweans are always in danger of hunger.
  • During the 2022/23 season, more than 3.8 million people in rural areas faced food insecurity at peak.
  • Remember, the 2022/23 rainfall season was arguably one of the best this country has witnessed in years – with the Zimbabwe government even boasting of bumper harvests, particularly of wheat.

Why, then, are we seemingly always facing starvation?

Yet, those in deserts are considered some the most food secure in the world?

This all boils down to the quality of leaders in power.

These countries, as the UAE, Qatar, and Saudi Arabia, are governed relatively well, as their leaders ensure that their national resources are utilized to uplift the citizens’ standard of living. They really do not have much in terms of these resources, largely depending on petroleum and natural gas. Nevertheless, these are managed faithfully and for the good of the entire population. In so doing, the government (together with the private sector) import more than enough food for everyone – which every citizen is able to easily afford due to their high standard of living.

In Zimbabwe, nonetheless, in spite of massive deposits of platinum, lithium, diamonds, gold, black granite, chrome, nickel, and many others – we are some of the poorest people on the planet.

In the same breath, we have the highest inflation in the world – making basic commodities overly expensive for millions. We have some of the best farming land in the world, yet millions of Zimbabweans still rely on rain-fed agriculture, making them vulnerable to the vagaries of the weather.

The ZANU PF administration has practically done nothing in ensuring that our rural folk have productive land that is adequately serviced, particularly with reliable water supply.

  • Where are our vast mineral resources going?
  • Who are they benefitting?
  • Each year, Zimbabwe loses over US$3 billion to smuggling, illicit financial transactions, and other corrupt activities.
  • In all this, very few, especially in the ruling elite (and those connected to them), are ever brought to book.
  • They can live in insulting opulence whilst flaunting this ill-gotten wealth in front of poverty-stricken Zimbabweans.
  • That is why doling out highly expensive luxury cars to friends is never a problem for them!

Is it then surprising that Zimbabwe is ranked the 149th least corrupt nation out of 180 countries, according to the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International? Those are shameful statistics, for which our leaders should be very embarrassed… if they had any conscience at all. On the other hand, the UAE is ranked 26th in the world – with Qatar at 40th and Saudi Arabia at 53rd.

As much as these figures are far from impressive, however, they should tell us why, even with very limited resources, they are more developed than Zimbabwe. That is the reason, despite being in a desert, their citizens are never food insecure. In other words, whether a nation has plenty to eat or is on the verge of starvation has very little to do with rainfall patterns.

It has, nevertheless, a lot to do with the quality of leaders in the particular country. Zimbabweans are staring starvation in the face because of a corrupt and incompetent regime.

El Niño or not, we will still be hungry.