Panafrican News Agency

Zimbabwe's agricultural sector losing US$126 million per year to bad weather -WB

Harare, Zimbabwe (PANA) -  The World Bank says Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector loses US$126 million per annum due to production risks largely associated with drought and other weather-related events,

In its report titled ‘Zimbabwe: Agriculture Sector Disaster Risk Assessment’ made available to PANA, the World Bank said the country could better manage agricultural production risks.

“Zimbabwe loses approximately US$126 million each year on average due to production risks that could be better managed. These losses represent 7.3 percent of agricultural GDP (gross domestic product).

“Losses in years when production risks are high can escalate to virtually catastrophic levels. For example, losses in the drought year of 2001 were estimated at US$321 million, and in 2008, when agriculture was seriously affected by drought and financial restrictions, losses escalated to US$513 million,” the World Bank report read.

These losses are significant, considering that agriculture accounts for 11 percent of the total GDP and is the main source of livelihood, employment, and income for around 67 percent of the Zimbabwean population.

“The most important agricultural risk in Zimbabwe is drought. It affects agricultural production and food security… Increasingly frequent and severe droughts in southern and western Zimbabwe are making these areas unsuitable for rain-fed maize production, highlighting the need to reconsider the boundaries and crop suitability patterns established for Zimbabwe’s agro-ecological zones,” the World Bank report read.

The World Bank report was developed by a team led by Azeb Fissha Mekonnen, the Agricultural Specialist of the Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank.

According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a multi-partner initiative for improving food security and nutrition analysis and decision-making, between February and May 2019 it found that 2 878 957 rural citizens in Zimbabwe were food insecure.

This comes as drought conditions have persisted in most parts of the country which has increased the proportion of temporarily and permanently wilted crops in the current 2018/19 season.

This has been especially true in the typically dry southern, eastern, western and extreme northern parts of Zimbabwe.

“Crop production for the 2018/19 season is likely to be below average across all provinces, and significantly below average in typical deficit-production areas where a high proportion of households are expected to have no harvest,”

FEWS NET, the United States Agency for International Development, leading provider of information and analysis on food insecurity, said.

“Seasonal livelihood strategies continue to be constrained as a result of the poor seasonal rainfall and on-going macro-economic hardships. The green harvest which typically provides relief to poor households during this time of the year is not available across most parts of the country.”

FEWS NET found that despite the presence of humanitarian assistance in most districts, food consumption for poor households remained poorer than normal across most of the country.

Worsening matters was the “continued high and increasing prices of basic food commodities including maize grain and maize meal,” FEWS NET said.

Zimbabwe's agriculture is widely diversified, owing to diverse agro-climatic conditions that make it possible to produce over 20 types of food and cash crops as well as poultry, pigs, and dairy and beef cattle.

“The most important agricultural commodities are the staple food grains that constitute the basis of local diets—maize, wheat, small grains (millet and sorghum), groundnuts, and beans— and export and cash crops (mainly tobacco, cotton, sugarcane, and horticultural crops),” the World Bank report read.

“Four of these commodities play particularly critical roles. Maize is the main staple food crop and therefore at the center of national food security. Groundnuts are critical for household nutrition. Tobacco is the major agricultural export commodity, contributing 25.2 percent of agricultural GDP in 2016, accounting for over 50 percent of agricultural exports, and representing an average of 29 percent of the country’s total exports in 2016 and 2017."

The World Bank report continued by stating that "cotton is a crop of strategic importance for promoting inclusive economic growth, poverty alleviation, rural development, and food security in Zimbabwe, because in various regions cotton production offers the main link to markets and is a key component of livelihood strategies among isolated and vulnerable rural households”.

The report went on to state that after tobacco, cotton is Zimbabwe’s second or third (together with sugar) largest agricultural foreign exchange earner, contributing 12.6 percent to agricultural GDP.

Agricultural output through the years has shown considerable volatility, due mainly to drought and bad weather conditions for crop growth resulting in high losses in the agricultural sector.

“In summary, Zimbabwe should start transitioning away from its current reactive strategy for managing disaster and agricultural risks and move toward a proactive integrated risk management strategy that combines improvements for managing risk at the farm level, risks transfer mechanisms and effective catastrophic risk management strategy,” the World Bank report read.

To undertake this World Bank report, the team used an established participatory methodology developed by the bank that prioritizes agricultural risks across a set of representative agricultural commodities.


-0-   PANA   RA   7Apr2019