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Faith Nyasuguta 

Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has declared a state of national disaster in response to a drought that has severely impacted farm output in the country. 

This declaration follows similar actions taken in neighbouring Zambia and Malawi last month, where poor rainfall has led to decreased production of staple crops like corn, contributing to higher food prices that have disproportionately affected impoverished households. 

The El Niño weather pattern, characterized by warmer ocean temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific, has worsened the situation, leading to crop failures in most Zimbabwean provinces since November. Hotter regions have particularly suffered, with crops like maize declared a complete loss.

Addressing the nation in Harare on Wednesday, President Mnangagwa revealed that over 80% of Zimbabwe received below-normal rainfall, leading to a significant cereal deficit. He emphasized the need for imports to supplement the country’s food supply, estimating a requirement of $2 billion to mitigate the impact of the drought.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Zimbabwe has lost 12% of its planted corn farmland due to the dry spell. Annually, the country consumes approximately 2.2 million tons of grain, with the majority allocated for food consumption and a portion for livestock feed. 

Plans to export surplus corn and wheat from previous harvests to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo have been suspended, marking a missed opportunity for Zimbabwe’s first corn exports since 2001.


In response to the crisis, neighbouring South Africa has warned of the potential need to import corn for the first time since 2017 due to its own drought challenges. President Mnangagwa reiterated the government’s commitment to prioritizing winter cropping to bolster reserves and collaborating with the private sector to import grains.

The humanitarian impact of the drought has been dire, with agencies like the World Food Programme stepping in to assist vulnerable populations. Between January and March, the programme provided food aid to 270,000 individuals in four districts. The severity of the situation has prompted calls for increased donor support to address the urgent food needs.

Beyond Zimbabwe, the drought crisis has reached critical levels across southern Africa, with countries like Botswana, Angola, Mozambique, and Madagascar also grappling with food shortages and hunger.


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Faith Nyasuguta

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