Urgent support for Agric sector: FAO

Devastation of Cyclone Ana

Albert Chavhunduka

The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) has reported that at least 3000 people were affected and a total of 14 338 hectares of land flooded after heavy rains induced by Tropical Storm Ana.

Heavy rains were recorded around the country between 23 and 26 January which mainly affected the provinces of Mashonaland East, West and Central and Harare Metropolitan province which was moderately affected.

The tropical storm left a trail of destruction after it destroyed schools, bridges and roads and impacted all agriculture sectors.

In a report titled ‘Rapid Geospatial Agriculture and Livelihood Impact Analysis of Flooding in Zimbabwe between 17 and 28 January 2022’ FAO indicated that a total of 5 923 hectares of land were inundated with flood water in the affected provinces of Mashonaland West (3403 ha), Mashonaland East (966 ha), Manicaland (919 ha) and Mashonaland Central with a total of 635 ha.

Masvingo province was the most affected with a total area of 8 415 hectares. According to the report, Chiredzi (2083 ha) was severely impacted by the floods as a results of the incessant rains which were experienced since the beginning of the season and not necessarily from Tropical Storm Ana.

In its report, FAO credited the decline in crop output and area planted not only to the tropical storm but also to the poor rains received at the start of the 2021/2022 season and warned of a national fall in cereal production this season.

“In addition to the impact of Tropical Storm Ana, poorly distributed rains and below average amounts at the start of the season between October and December 2021, are likely to have caused a decline in the area planted with cereals and curtailed yield potential. Overall, national cereal production is expected to fall in 2022 compared to the high outturn in 2021 and the losses caused by tropical storm Ana are foreseen to result in localised shortfalls in cereal production in the affected provinces,” read the report.

However, the report indicated that the storm and floods experienced in the Mashonaland provinces which is dominated by cereal and cash crop production, will have minimal effect on the national output.

“These are typical surplus producing areas of the country. The storm and floods are expected to have caused crop losses. However, the area flooded only represents a small proportion of the total domestic cropped area and therefore the crop losses are anticipated to only have a minimal effect on the national output,” read the report.

In a recent rapid response assessment carried out by the Department of Civil Protection, some farmers lost up to 80 percent of crops due to flooding especially in Mashonaland provinces.

FAO in the report, made several short term recommendations to government that should be taken to support the recovery and rehabilitation of the agricultural sector particularly in the most affected areas of Mbire, Mt Darwin and Muzarabani.

The organisation urged government to make available the provision of agriculture inputs to which include short season seeds, fertilizers, planting material and hand tools and restoration of main rural supply routes to market areas for improved food accessibility.

FAO further advised the implementation of follow-up more in-depth agriculture damage and loss and food food security assessment to estimate more accurately the impact of the tropical storm and inform recovery, resilience and development interventions.

The recommendations included mid-term measures (up to 6 months) to promote the restocking of livestock lost which included cattle, small ruminants, sheep,goats, pigs and small poultry.

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