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Postscript to 'Nutrition in commercial farms'

As co-editor of Field Exchange, and having just completed an evaluation of the CSFP in Zimbabwe for ODA, Jeremy had the following comments on this piece.

This interesting article raises a number of issues. Perhaps the most important is "what do you do when chronic problems lead to levels of malnutrition that would normally justify an emergency response?" We see more extreme examples of this in places like northem Sudan where levels of wasting are perennially high. This is because in many areas environmental, socio-economic and political factors make it almost impossible to achieve food security irrespective of whether there is a drought or not. A question that is almost continually asked in this type of situation is whether it is right to support populations with emergency measures in what is effectively an unsustainable situation?.

Although conditions are far less serious and life- threatening in the commercial farms in Zimbabwe than in areas like northem Sudan, the same sort of question arises. "Is it legitimate to provide emergency relief when the nutritional problems being seen are due to chronic factors like poverty, poor farmer/worker relations, etc?". A valid question raised by the author follows on from this; If these farms are supported with emergency relief every time there is a drought (which is quite frequent in some parts of the country) then isn't there the risk that some of the chronic problems will never be addressed?"

I think it might also be useful to stand back a little and think about the overall role of the CSFP in Zimbabwe's response to recurrent problems like drought and then to think about whether expanding the CSFP to commercial farms really makes sense.

There have been a number of evaluations of the CSFP in recent years (findings of'the most recent one will be reported on in the next issue of Field Exchange). One big problem with the CSFP is that it usually takes place in the context of an inadequate emergency general ration. During the big drought induced emergencies of 1992-3 and 1995-6 general ration provision was very poor for all kinds of reasons, e.g. not enough food or logistic resources, budgetary problems and availability of only one food commodity. This meant that the CSFP was not really supplementing anything but actually complementing an inadequate general ration. This in tum raised real questions about the efficacy of the CSFP as it was likely that much of the ration acted as a substitute meal for the child. In other words, if the household was very food insecure, the meal would have replaced the meal that the child would have been given at home, so that there was no net increase in the child's food intake. If this was happening then why set up a separate distribution system to target children? Because of this, there is a growing sense in Zimbabwe that resources may be better devoted to supporting general ration provision in future and rationalising the CSFP where possible. Clearly, expanding the CSFP to commercial farms would not fit in with this kind of policy.

Recent evaluations have highlighted more specific problems with the CSFP which also call into question the appropriateness of this form of emergency response within Zimbabwe. Findings of one of the most recent evaluations will be summarised in the next issue of Field Exchange. Given the likelihood of recurrent droughts in Zimbabwe, it will be interesting to see how overall emergency response strategies change in the next few years. Clearly, the debate about the most appropriate response is going to continue and we will do our best to keep readers up to date with changes as they occur.

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Reference this page

Jeremy Shoham (1997). Postscript to 'Nutrition in commercial farms'. Field Exchange 1, May 1997. p15. www.ennonline.net/fex/1/postscript