ZNA complements Govt efforts in assisting ministries, communities
IN fulfilment of one of its constitutional obligations of offering military aid to civil ministries, the Zimbabwe National Army is assisting the Ministry of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development in distributing grain donated by the Government to hunger stricken communities around the country.
Throughout the country the army formations collect grain from Grain Marketing Board depots and distribute to designated districts falling in their particular areas of responsibility. Headquarters 1 Infantry Brigade under Brigadier-General Augustine Chipwere operating in the areas of Matabeleland region have distributed food in Binga (Lusulu, Siyanzundu, Chunga) Hwange, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Gwanda and Beitbridge, to mention a few.
“So far 1 750 tonnes of grain has been distributed and the army vehicles covered 30 000km,” said the then Deputy Commander 1 Infantry Brigade, Colonel Mpulaeng Siziba, who was the Programme Co-ordinator.
This is not the first time the ZNA has partnered the Government in assisting ministries and communities in times of need. The history stretches back to the drought of 1992 and in 2000, after Cyclone Eline. The ZNA assisted with the transportation of grain to remote parts of the country as well as assisting the Ministry of Transport in reconstruction of damaged bridges for example the Tokwane river bridge in Bulilima in Matabeleland South built by 1 Engineer Squadron.
In an interview with the ZNA Magazine, Mrs Betty Sibanda the councillor of ward 18 in Lupane under Chief Mabhikwa in Matabeleland North said most people are surviving on livestock. “We are happy with the army (ZNA) for bringing the food to the hunger stricken communities most people were surviving on livestock, be it selling or consumption due to serious food shortage,” said Mrs Sibanda.
The El Nino-induced rainfall patterns contributed to the food shortages as many farmers lost their crops. Some gave up producing on their land due to the erratic rainfall. The most drought hit areas are Matabeleland North and South, Midlands, Masvingo and Southern Manicaland. However, the late rains that pounded Zimbabwe were a welcome relief for some especially in Mashonaland East and West and central who salvaged their crops in a largely drought season.
Under the drought relief programme, communities all over the country had launched the Food for Assets programme as a way of mitigating hunger. Selected non-labour constrained beneficiaries will work for four hours per day for a total of 15 days per month and receive 50kg monthly grain allocation while labour constrained households like the elderly, disabled and child headed households will receive free grain.
According to the government’s economic blueprint, Zim-Asset, under the food security and nutrition cluster, Zimbabwe should be a self-sufficient and food surplus economy and re-emerging as the “Bread Basket of Southern Africa.”
Military vehicles queue as they wait to load drought relief grain to different parts of the region at the Grain Marketing Board Bulawayo Depot. Picture by Private Wellington Gakanje