The Zimbabwe government is concerned with the under-utilization of dams across the country at a time when the country is facing food shortages as a result of drought, says Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Launching the country's Emergency Drought Response Programme here Friday, he said the government had also taken issue with farmers whose land was near water bodies but were not utilizing them.

"The uptake of irrigation water by some farmers has been worrying over the years, with dams such as Mazvikadei, Darwendale, Biri, Wenimbi, Rufaro, Nyambuya, Rusape, Ruti and others remaining under-utilized throughout the year," he pointed out.

"This is worrying taking into account the billions of dollars that Government invested in putting up the dams and the amounts that ZINWA (Zimbabwe National Water Authority) loses in maintenance costs.

"It is for this reason that Government has also taken issue with some farmers who have their land near water bodies, but are not utilizing it. These farmers may have to pave way for those willing to use water under the Command Agriculture."

Mnangagwa said the government continued to encourage farmers to pursue irrigation agriculture in place of rain-fed farming to avert frequent droughts being experienced as a result of climate change. "This will certainly improve our food security and help us mitigate the effects of droughts," he said.

United Nations representative Dr Jane Muita said the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), as the lead UN agency in water and sanitation issues, had so far provided safe water to more than 300,000 people through drilling boreholes and rehabilitating piped water schemes.

"The intervention has also promoted hygiene, which is critical if we are to avoid major disease outbreaks," she said.

Dr Muita, however, said funding for the water programme was still depressed. "Out of a total funding requirement of 38.8 million US dollars, only 5.6 million USD have so far either pledged or received, translating to only 14 per cent of the total requirements," she said.

Like a number of other southern African countries, Zimbabwe did not receive adequate rainfall during the 2015/16 rainfall season, which led to crop failure and inadequate water supply for people and animals.

National dam water levels are now averaging 42 per cent, down from the usual 50 per cent for this period time of year.