Zimbabwe is a low-income, food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 countries according to the 2013 UNDP Human Development Index. Currently, 72 percent of the population lives below the national poverty line (less than US$ 1.25 per day). Some 30 percent of the rural poor are considered to be ‘food poor’ or ‘extremely poor’. Although the prevalence of HIV has been reduced, it still remains high with nearly 15 percent of adults living with HIV – many of whom also suffer from malnutrition due to food insecurity.
Zimbabwe’s 2013/14 agricultural production is estimated to be 1,456,000 metric tonnes (mt)—an increase from the 798,500 mt produced in the previous agricultural season. Consequently, the food security situation has improved compared to previous years. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC), led by the Government with support various partners and WFP, recently published the 2014 Rural Livelihoods Assessment report. The ZimVAC report identified approximately 6 percent of the rural population—equivalent to 565,000 people—will be in need of food assistance at the height of lean season between January and March 2015. This estimate is down from the 2.2 million food insecure people during last year’s lean season.
Despite this decrease, food and nutrition security remains fragile and subject to natural and economic shocks in Zimbabwe, with chronic and persistent rates of undernourishment. One third of Zimbabwe’s children are stunted, or short for their age. Additionally, the country continues to face economic stress with implications on food security, especially for vulnerable groups in rural areas. Due to deflation, household incomes are likely to remain low and liquidity challenges affect aggregate demand for goods and services, especially for poor households. Barter will be a common form of exchange. In the case that grain is used for such transactions, household food stocks are likely to get exhausted at a faster rate.
Meanwhile, rural poverty has increased from 63 percent in 2003 to 76 percent in 2014. Most households in the rural areas are net food buyers: they do not (for a number of reasons) produce enough food to meet their needs through to the next harvest season. Consequently, they rely on markets and other non-farm sources such as casual labour to bridge the food gap to the next season. As such, a number of people in rural areas will struggle to meet their daily food needs.