By Shingai Nyoka

HARARE, March 17 — The number of Zimbabweans facing hunger this year is higher than previously expected as the country’s food security deteriorates.

Late rains, drought and floods have caused widespread crop failure around the country and Zimbabwean Vice-President Emmerson Mngangagwa has said that the authorities are mobilising funds to import grain to avert hunger.

Farmer Tsitsi Paradza and her husband sank all their money into their maize crop and now that its nearly time to harvest, they have nothing to eat. “Last year we harvested one tonne of maize, but that is all gone. This year, from what we can see, there is no food, these are just stalks, and we are going to experience famine,” says Paradza.

During the previous best of times and even before the country’s land reforms, the government looked to communal farmers to feed the nation. Now the tables are turned and this season many of the farmers will be looking to the government for food.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe’s rural population had needed food aid in the lean season between January and March, just before the harvest.

The report of the Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), had forecast that 600,000 people would need assistance, down from 2.2 million in 2014.

However, floods in the northwest, coupled with late rains and drought in the south, have wiped out about 300,000 hectares or close to a fifth of the crop of maize, the country’s staple food.

Some provinces report that 70 per cent of the crops have been wiped out and that many people will need aid in April, a time they were supposed to be able to feed themselves, and it is not just this harvest that is in doubt.

If nothing comes out of this crop, next season will also be in jeopardy. “I had to replant twice and wasted 12 bags of fertilizer and 120 US dollars hiring cattle to plough the land. Will I get that money back? I think not,” says farmer Amai Bango.

The national weather centre says the rainy season is over but many are hopeful that there will be some rain so they can save some of their crop.

The Southern African region is already in distress. Malawi, which has been affected by floods and even South Africa are likely to need to import maize as it increasingly becomes clear that the Zambian communal farmers are the hope for the region this season.