Zimbabwe acknowledges it was not ready for drought caused by El Niño

Water drop to dry cracked land metaphor lack of rain, water crisis, Climate change and Environmental disaster

Zimbabwe’s government has openly admitted to being unprepared for the severe El Niño-induced drought currently affecting southern Africa. Finance Minister Mthuli Ncube, during his appearance before the joint Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance and Industry and Commerce of the country, disclosed the necessity to rearrange the 2024 National Budget to fight drought consequences. This adjustment involves shifting funds from various allocations to cover essential food imports to mitigate the risk of hunger across the nation.

The drought, having significant impacts across the southern African region, has led some countries to impose bans on maize exports. In response to the escalating crisis, President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared the drought a state of national disaster, with the government now seeking to raise US$2 billion to provide aid to over seven million food-insecure citizens.

“We didn’t know how severe the drought was,” Minister Ncube stated, acknowledging the depth of the crisis was much greater than anticipated. He outlined potential strategies, including utilizing unallocated reserves and considering borrowing to cover the unforeseen expenditures necessary to combat the drought’s effects.

In addition to financial strategies, the government has taken steps to open borders for grain imports by the private sector to ensure sufficient food supplies are available. This is part of a broader effort to stabilize the agricultural sector, which has seen a significant underperformance, with a reported 70% decrease in expected maize yields.

Despite these measures, the situation remains dire, as several non-governmental organizations and United Nations agencies had previously warned about the impending food insecurity. FewsNet, a food security arm of USAid, predicts that the 2024 harvest will be poor and the food situation will worsen due to high food prices. Neighboring countries, including Zambia and Malawi, have also declared the drought a national disaster, with Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema reporting that the agricultural sector’s devastation has left more than one million families in need of food aid.

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