The European Union (EU) has given Zimbabwe $2,4 million to help farmers alleviate the impact of the lean season that peaked from January to March 2017.
Once the bread-basket of the region, Zimbabwe has since 2000 struggled to feed its people due to droughts and President Robert Mugabe’s seizure of white-owned farms to resettle landless blacks, which badly affected commercial agriculture.
Ambassador Philippe Van Damme, EU head of Delegation in Harare, said with 70 percent of Zimbabweans living in rural areas and mostly surviving on farming, supporting agriculture would speed up economic recovery.
The money would be paid out through the EU’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) and comes barely five months after the EU had allocated another $8 million from the reserve of the 11th European Development Fund to address the impact of the crises through various resilience building initiatives.
This latest allocation brings the total contribution by the EU and its member states to combat this crisis to approximately $114 million, which will help assisting some of the most vulnerable among the 4,1 million people that have become food insecure during the peak of the lean season and therefore in need of humanitarian assistance.
Recent flooding has only exacerbated an already fragile situation.
“The EU has shown continuous solidarity with the people of Zimbabwe in the face of successive hazards and consequent humanitarian challenges,” Van Damme said.
“The worst has been avoided and we now have to prepare for the future, building more resilient communities against future climate shocks and other hazards.
“Through cash transfers initiatives we have contributed to prevent most vulnerable people to fall into chronic destitution while maintaining functioning markets; it is now important to strengthen capacities and coping mechanisms of these communities, improving, among others, their livelihood base systems, farming productivity and market linkages as well as better prepare them in case of new future disasters.”
This additional funding will ensure the EU’s implementing partners, including the UN World Food Programme and Save the Children, continue and increase the geographical reach of actions started in 2016 until the end of the lean season.
The Save the Children project targets over 58 000 affected people in four districts with humanitarian food assistance through mobile cash transfers. The WFP project targets over 67 000 beneficiaries, assisting them also through cash transfers. With this latest top-up, the EU has mobilised $27,5 million for measures to alleviate the El Niño-induced drought, such as cash-based responses and emergency livestock initiatives.
The EU member states, of which eleven are represented in Harare, have bilaterally since 2015 also provided a total of $86 million for relief programs; in particular by contributions from the United Kingdom/DFID, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden and Italy across a number of key sectors such as food assistance, water and sanitation, nutrition and overall support to livelihood systems.
Responses modalities are based on market assessment with a strong emphasis on the use of initiatives based on cash transfers.
The sizeable total contribution by the EU and its member states is in direct response to the declaration of a state of emergency by the government of Zimbabwe and the subsequent appeal for humanitarian assistance in February 2016.
Zimbabwe revised upwards to $188 million its emergency aid appeal last month after floods devastated large areas of the country.
Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko reported that government was now seeking $188m for a flash appeal for Zimbabwe, a sharp increase from the $100m sought earlier.
Van Damme said the EU’s response was further proof of the continuing commitment to strengthen Zimbabwe’s coping mechanisms regarding shocks such as the El Niño-induced drought. It said it was also contributing to the United Nations’ Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP April 2016 to March 2017), for which a total of $352 million has been requested.
Since imposing sanctions in 2002 over electoral fraud and human rights abuses, the EU has eased measures to encourage political reform in Zimbabwe, although it has kept its ban on Mugabe and his wife Grace, as well as an arms embargo.
The EU accusations have been denied by Mugabe, saying the bloc was leading the West in trying to remove him from power as punishment for the land seizures.