Accelerating human development in Zim

By Bishow Parajuli

10 April 2017, Harare - The Governments of China and Zimbabwe are undertaking, with the facilitation of the World Food Programme (WFP) the identification of priority areas for investment under the framework of South-South cooperation.

South South cooperation is a broad framework for collaboration among countries of the South in the political, economic, social, cultural, environmental and technical domains. Involving two or more developing countries, it can take place on a bilateral, regional, sub-regional or interregional basis.

Recent developments in South-South cooperation have taken the form of increased volume of South-South trade, South-South flows of foreign direct investment, movements towards regional integration, technology transfers, sharing of solutions and experts, and other forms of exchanges.

The facilitation of South-South cooperation by WFP comes hot on the heels of the launch of WFP’s first-of-its kind five-year Strategic Plan on 3 April 2017 to support food security programmes to the tune of $253 million for 2017-2021, a contribution to national initiatives to end hunger.

The cooperation and partnership between the sisterly countries of Zimbabwe and China is not a new phenomenon. Both countries enjoy deeply rooted historical ties. Ties strengthened by solidarity and friendship, as the recent generous over $25 million support of the Government and the people of the Peoples Republic of China provided to assist Zimbabwe combat the recent drought and flooding disasters attest.

Although the number of people living in extreme poverty dropped by more than half between 1990 and 2015 (from 1.9 billion to 836 million), too many people are still struggling to meet the most basic human needs.

Globally, an estimated 2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies, impeding human and socioeconomic development. More than 66 million primary-school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, 23 million in Africa alone.

Today, eradicating poverty in all its forms remains one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Here in Zimbabwe, we face the twin challenges of lingering food and nutrition insecurity due to recurrent droughts on the one hand, and flooding as a result of the effects of climate change, which have rendered 40% of the total population vulnerable.

According to ZimStat, the underlying poverty, affecting 76% of the population in general is the result of a protracted under-performance of the economy and the resultant high levels of unemployment and under-employment, particularly among the youth and women.

Rapid global economic growth and increased agricultural productivity in the previous two decades have reduced the proportion of the world’s undernourished population by almost 50%. Many developing countries previously affected by famine and hunger can now meet the nutritional needs of the most vulnerable. Much more is needed, however, to end hunger and eradicate poverty by 2030.

Extreme hunger and malnutrition remain huge barriers to development in many countries. As estimated 800 million people are chronically undernourished, often as a direct consequence of environmental degradation, drought and loss of biodiversity.

The solution is in our hands, through the promotion of initiatives such as South-South cooperation, which offers good practices for the acceleration of sustainable human development that can increasingly be tapped from the global South.

They can be found in the policies, institutions and programmes that have enabled a number of developing countries to acquire a skilled labour force, create decent jobs, raise productivity and lift millions of their citizens out of grinding poverty.

In addressing poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe, the United Nations believes partnering with rural communities can contribute immensely in the betterment of livelihoods through diversification of agriculture, community asset building and access to energy.

The Governments of Zimbabwe and China, in collaboration with WFP are selecting investment priorities in some of these areas. This exercise would greatly benefit from a few considerations, which I outline below:

First, a participatory approach to the design of activities, involving the intended beneficiaries in the specification, demand and implementation of activities and partnered with Ministries, decision makers and key government entities;

Second, Investment projects with clear and signed agreements with villages and government partners in which they commit to providing counterpart or in-kind resources in order to benefit from the partnership;

Thirdly, a multi-sectoral approach to development that includes training on functional literacy and provision of clean energy equipment and functional road networks along with support for the villages to sustainably manage the clean energy. This will facilitate experts and technology transfer from China to Zimbabwe, the overall objective of the investment should advance confidence building that contributes to improvements in villagers’ diets, education and quality of life by supporting practical steps that enhance livelihoods and eventual poverty reduction.

Ultimately, ownership and leadership of local communities and the Government of Zimbabwe is key to the accomplishments and sustainability of those selected investment projects. Up-front training and support to communities is very important. The investment priorities that will be selected should have a direct bearing on improving food security, social protection and school attendance in reducing or ending hunger.

Let us work together to help the Government of Zimbabwe to create long-term, lasting solutions to defeat hunger and poverty by building local skills and knowledge, promoting food and nutrition security through school feeding programmes, and contributing to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals.

The United Nations remains committed to extending technical support to the Government of Zimbabwe for the design and implementation of agreed investment priorities and activities.

Bishow Parajuli is the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Zimbabwe