Conquering food insecurity is a global political and economic challenge. It has to be the focus of every Matabeleland political movement, and it can be achieved. Causes of human starvation often have a human component and are hardly unforeseen. Eliminating hunger off the face of earth is possible but you must have a leadership willing to prioritise investment in appropriate technologies. Some countries are chronic cliff-hangers when it comes to food security yet some parts of the world throw away tonnes of surplus food annually. The gap between the haves and have nots is astounding, while millions of children are still dying annually of hunger and related diseases in the developing world, in the developed world people live in post-scarcity societies.
The fact that Africa happens to be home to many territories perennially incapable of feeding themselves is beyond all decent contemplation. More than a lack of food, this is a case of injustice, African leaders have a problem of an unhealthy obsession with political power where they only use it to keep it not to empower the public; improving infrastructure and food security is never a priority.
A poignant question is often asked of Africa time and again: ‘Why Africa is so rich yet Africans are so poor?’ Describing the scenario as a ‘leadership scandal’ would be the apt response; already in 2022 at least 50m people across seven Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) countries (Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda) are expected to face high levels of acute food insecurity, and to our amazement, among candidates to fill the food security gap is a country in the middle of a devastating war, Ukraine.
Starvation is never accidental, so to be surprised or even trying to justify famine is bad leadership; famine is not inevitable but a result of food crisis not being addressed in time, and the question we ask and need to address is: ‘Why is Africa exposed to food crises more often than other regions in the world?’
There is no magical solution, leaders must take responsibility and act. Our political leadership needs to focus on increasing the capacity for vulnerable communities to cope with drought. Governments must improve access to food for vulnerable public – women, babies and young children, the elderly and infirm. If it is possible for leaders to stay hunger free during the worst of droughts, it must be possible to protect whole communities from famine.
We implore all groups and individuals fighting for the freedom of Matabeleland to focus not only on political freedom, but embrace a holistic approach; it is essential to recognise that freedom goes beyond political freedom to the right to be free from starvation. No one should die from lack of food in Matabeleland. While the semi-desert conditions in our region do increase the risk, they are no cause for food insecurity, inadequate leadership is.
As we fight against socioeconomic and political marginalisation within Zimbabwe and for control over our territory, it is essential not to take our eyes off food security for without food security, political security is insecure. The majority of territorial conflicts experienced in vast tracks of our continent today are both caused and a cause of food insecurity.
We do appreciate agriculture development is paramount for sustainable food security, and we must start broadening our political scope to develop a vision to promote agriculture production, build smart local and international partnerships so that in an independent Matabeleland chronic drought does not inevitably translate to chronic hunger; in this day and age and with access to technology, we need to be able to feed our people regardless of natural conditions.
Our political system, institutions and policies need to be humane driven and localism be central to implementation of activities; solutions to hunger and starvation must be kept in our agenda and locals be a significant part of that. Solutions go beyond the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project, among other interventions which though very important in improving agriculture production and output, and increase food security, need further interventions to improve access.
This takes us to the power distribution where decentralisation and localisation become core to our politics; we recognise the essential caring role played by women in our community and cannot overemphasise the need to improve their dignity. It is a socio-political disgrace that women remain one of the most vulnerable population groups with regards to famine; we need to focus on building a system that empowers women, protects the most vulnerable members of the community: babies, young children, the elderly and the infirm.
Food donations to Africa from the international community only bring temporary relief from starvation, they are not a permanent solution to the continent’s food supply, and we must not normalise begging for food from other nations; we must never be comfortable with being fed by other people if we have any sense of pride in ourselves. We must learn to produce our own food if we are to achieve real freedom, for those who feed you also get to control your meal portions; it is a fact that those who do not learn to do for themselves and have to depend solely on others for survival never obtain any more freedom in the end than they had in the beginning.