Farm workers, like other poor groups, have often lacked food security. They spent the bulk of their incomes on food and in the late 1990s food prices began began to rise steeply. In 2000-2002, food security was undermined, partly by disruption resulting from land invasions, and partly by a devastating drought in the 2001-02 season. The production of food, in particular the staple, maize, slumped. Zimbabwe’s maize requirements amount to about 2.5 million tonnes a year, and in a good year such as 1996, output was estimated at 2.6 million tonnes (ZHDR, 1999). In 2000-2001, the maize harvest was about 1.8 million tonnes, leaving a substantial shortfall — in part because a strategic grain reserve of 500,000 tonnes had been run down. The farm disruptions of 2000-2001 certainly contributed to a decline in maize output. It is projected that this could decline further, from about 800,000 tonnes produced in the commercial farming sector in 2000 to about 100,000 tonnes in 2002-03. It will be difficult for the communal areas and the new resettlement and A2 holdings to make up the shortfall.
This chapter assesses food security among farm workers and the coping strategies that they are using to survive in a decidedly difficult environment in which HIV-AIDS has attained the status of an epidemic. The chapter then pays particular attention to the special circumstances and needs of the elderly, orphans, migrants and women. It also examines conditions faced by former farm workers in the burgeoning informal settlements founded in the wake of the fast-track programme.