Zim uses food rations to rebuild infrastructure

Kuziva Gore, a young communal farmer from Tsenga village in the parched countryside of Mt Darwin District,...

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Kuziva Gore, a young communal farmer from Tsenga village in the parched countryside of Mt Darwin District, some 100km northeast of Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, has no difficulty explaining how food rations can help to rebuild roads and bridges.

Last year Gore and his family struggled to get his seriously ill mother to hospital because a dilapidated old bridge across a local river had become unusable.

She had to be transported 10km in an ox-drawn cart to the next bridge in order to reach the hospital in Mt Darwin.

"The damaged bridge, small as it was, could have cost my mother's life considering the delays it caused us," Gore told IRIN.

Today, thanks to a "food-for-assets" programme which helps vulnerable rural communities repair and develop essential local infrastructure in exchange for food aid, Tsenga's residents have reconnected themselves to the outside world by rebuilding the old bridge and repairing 8km of severely damaged road passing through their district.

The newly repaired bridge and road have allowed local vendors to bring down the prices of basic commodities and for public transport to return to the district.

In return for their work, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) provided food rations to scores of households in Gore's community which had been affected by a lack of rainfall during the 2010-11 farming season, while World Vision Zimbabwe provided building materials and technical support for the repair of the bridge.

Villagers in three surrounding communities have repaired about 20km of road through the same programme.

WFP-led initiative is easing the hardships of food-deficient communities while at the same time helping develop their capacity to fend for themselves.

Implementing partners - including Plan International, World Vision, Save the Children and community-based NGOs together with local authorities - identify assets in food insecure areas that communities can work on and provide funding and resources, while WFP gives food rations to beneficiaries from needy households who carry out the projects.

WFP country director Felix Bamezon told IRIN the programme was started in 2009 in districts with a track record of recurrent food insecurity with the aim of improving livelihood opportunities for vulnerable households and reducing their dependence on emergency food aid.