She was in the country on the invitation of the government and she met the Minister of Finance and Economic Development, the Minister of Local Governance and Public Works, the Minister of Health and the Director of Food and Nutrition. She also met members of the civil society in Harare and visited Masvingo where she met many stakeholders in the agricultural sector. She also met with the.
Legal and institutional structures and policies relevant to the right to food
The Special Rapporteur commended Zimbabwe for the institutional protection of human rights to food and nutrition especially the Constitution of Zimbabwe which explicitly guarantees the right to adequate food in Article 71.
Ms Elver further commended Zimbabwe for adopting the following policies that guarantee the right to food:
- National Nutrition Strategy,
- The Transitional Stabilisation Programme,
- The Zimbabwe Agriculture Investment Plan,
- The Comprehensive Agricultural Policy Framework
- The National Policy on Drought Management and
- The Food Deficit Mitigation programme.
She particularly praised the Presidential Inputs scheme program which she said guarantees household food security through the provision of maize seed and fertiliser targeting smallholder farmers irrespective of agro-ecological region. She however noted that sometimes the inputs reached the farmers late for the maximisation of the inputs.
Ms. Elver also noted that Zimbabwe has a history of providing subsidies for basic services including food items and agricultural inputs. However, she cautioned the government on its new policy that seeks to put an end on blanket subsidies and adopt targeted subsidies. She said it was unacceptable to put an end to the food subsidies for staple food of low income families.
Regarding the land reform programme, the Special Rapporteur said the programme did not yield the government’s intended outcomes. She said the programme structurally weakened the country’s agricultural infrastructure and immensely led to the country’s deteriorating social and economic conditions especially the right to food.
She highlighted that there is no security of tenure or respect of property rights as confiscation of land discourages long term investments.
Poor agricultural productivity
Ms Elver’s other observation was that Zimbabwe’s current severe food insecurity and poverty is as a result of poor agricultural productivity. She emphasised that the performance of agriculture is a key determinant of rural livelihood resilience and poverty alleviation.
Climate change, drought and flood
She also noted that the recurrent extreme weather phenomena was destroying agricultural productivity and livelihood in Southern Africa. However, she said that these were predictable as they happen more often. She advised that the damages could be lessened if the government adopts disaster risk management, early warning systems and climate and ecosystem friendly production methods which are widely available in Zimbabwe.
Economic sanctions and conditionalities
Ms. Elver expressed concern on the negative impacts of the economic sanctions and conditions and their indirect costs on the overall civilian population, particularly on the right to food.
She further observed that although sanctions may be targeting certain individuals they create a very adverse environment for business, international trade and foreign investment. She said they lead to the rise of corruption, uncertainty, and food insecurity and unemployment for most vulnerable people in the country. In that regard, she noted that sanctions worsen existing inequalities and do not have any actual impact on their intended targets. She also castigated ZIDERA for inhibiting access lines of credit.
In her concluding remarks the special Rapporteur pointed out that Zimbabwe is slowly degenerating into a man-made starvation. She said this was caused by political polarisation, economy financial problems and erratic climatic conditions. She observed that this situation was happening yet the country boasts of large mineral reserves.
She therefore advised that good fiscal governance could change the fortunes of the country, especially its right to food. She called on the government to fulfill the obligation of the right to food by providing food assistance during the period of food insecurity, and ensure that social safety nets are established for the vulnerable groups of society without discrimination.
In the long term, she implored the government to provide an enabling economic environment for the people to realise their potential. Furthermore, she asked the government to adopt necessary measures to reduce the country’s dependence on food importatation especially maize. She encouraged the government to initiate a master plan for a sustainable and nutritional food production system to guarantee food security which should be regarded as national security.