THE United States Agency for International Development food security department, FEWS NET, says typical livelihoods for this time of year are being severely impacted by the negative macroeconomic environment.

BY TATIRA ZWINOIRA

In its new food security update, FEWS NET reported that the macroeconomic environment has continued to witness food bartering in some communities as most villagers struggle for cash.

“Typical livelihood activities for this time of the year are severely being impacted by the negative macroeconomic environment, last season’s below normal harvests and poor progression of the 2019/20 rainfall season. On- and off-farm cash and in-kind casual labour opportunities are very limited and payment rates are below normal, taking away a significant seasonal income source,” part of the update reads.

“Petty trade has increased. However, household incomes are very low and unpredictable due to poor demand as a result of poor disposable incomes on the markets. Bartering for grain or other basic food commodities is being reported in some communities, involving, for instance, livestock (large and small), household assets and garden produce. Some household members are migrating for labour as a coping strategy to purchase food and other basic needs.”

This comes as FEWS NET has noted continued inflationary pressures as prices of most goods and services further increase, some in United States dollar terms, as the end of 2019 approaches.

“The new Zimbabwe dollar (ZWL) notes and coins as well as bond notes and coins remain in short supply in the formal markets. Parallel market exchange rates and interbank market rates for the US dollar increased by about 10% in December from the November rates, averaging ZWL$21 and ZWL$16,5 (electronic or mobile transfers) to the US dollar, respectively,” part of the update further reads.

“The (Zimbabwe dollar) in the parallel market is selling between 40% and 55%, affecting most poor households whose incomes are very low and quickly depreciating.
The demand for cash is high as cash payments for goods and services are generally cheaper than electronic and mobile money payments (especially in the informal markets).”

According to the food security department, some goods and services are only available for cash, despite its scarcity.

Meanwhile, coins that are less than $1 are increasingly being rejected in the formal and informal markets as inflation increases.

“Fuel and electricity shortages continue, contributing to the high pricing of goods and services. The government re-introduced the maize meal subsidy in early December following the near doubling of prices at the end of November after the government had indicated plans to remove the subsidy starting January 2020,” FEWS NET
said.
“Though some outlets have reduced maize meal prices, others have not yet done so in response. Maize meal shortages are being reported across most markets following the announcement to remove the maize grain subsidy.”

As a result, FEWS NET reported that most markets are without maize grain at a time imports are slow as a result of foreign currency shortages.

In its outlook, FEWS NET said some poor households will experience challenges accessing food due to significantly below average incomes.

Two weeks ago, the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) in Zimbabwe completed its last cash distribution of 2019, which supported some 19 000 vulnerable residents in Harare’s dormitory town of Epworth.

According to WFP, 2,2 million people of the eight million who are facing severe hunger live in urban areas, which is why for the first time the UN agency is disbursing cash to urban areas.

“WFP’s revised emergency response plan hopes to provide mobile cash transfers to 200 000 of them. Currently, funding for 100 000 has been secured. WFP is seeking funds to assist an additional 100 000 people,” WFP said in a statement.

The funding is coming from the UK’s Department for International Development and the European Union’s branch of European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations.