Each year during the Bishop of Southwark’s Lent Call we focus for part of the time on our Link Dioceses in Zimbabwe. Our Links are with Central Zimbabwe (Croydon Episcopal Area), Matabeleland (Kingston Episcopal Area), Manicaland (Woolwich Episcopal Area) and Masvingo (Southwark Cathedral). The fifth Diocese in Zimbabwe – Harare – is linked with the Diocese of Rochester.
We try to keep regularly in touch with our friends and colleagues in each of the Dioceses sharing news and praying for one another. The Croydon Episcopal Area sends the money raised to help the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe as support for the Diocese’s budget. This means that the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe can choose its priorities and use the money in the way which is most needed in the Diocese. This year the Diocese of Manicaland has told us that they wish to focus on feeding programmes for the food insecurity that they are experiencing in all parts of the Diocese.
In recent correspondence with Bishop Ignatios, the Bishop of Central Zimbabwe, he tells us that there has been poor rainfall which leads to further concerns about food security. He says:
‘The Diocesan catchment area is among the worst hit by the drought. The Famine Early warning Systems Network (October 2019-May 2020) indicates that the Diocese of Central Zimbabwe is within the crisis category. The dam catchment areas for Runde indicates only 38.9% capacity and Sanyati 48.3% capacity and these are the catchment areas covering the Diocese. This is the period that catchment areas should be recording 100%. This means the majority of our people are going to have difficulties in accessing adequate water for domestic use and livestock.’
Bishop Ignatios goes on to say, ‘The majority of households are not going to have adequate food as a result of the prolonged drought.’ He tells us that relief publications suggest that over 60% of population is now food insecure. He says that visiting different areas in the Diocese indicates a pathetic situation in as far as crop stands are concerned.
The Diocese has made many interventions in trying to help people within the Diocese to farm as well as they can by encouraging them to farm in God’s way which is a tried and tested environmentally friendly method of farming used in much of Africa. The difficulty is that, where there is not enough water, no matter how good the method it is impossible to farm. So, the Diocese will be drilling and equipping boreholes in two or three areas, which they hope will help to supply water for both domestic and nutritional gardens. They also hope to be able to supply seeds and young plants for people to be able to grow food for themselves, their families and their community. But, the situation is so fragile that all we can do is hope and pray that these attempts to help the situation work.
As well as helping people to grow food the Diocese also wants to offer supplementary feeding to the worst affected areas by supplying Maheu (a nutritious drink made from leftover sadza) to the worst affected households as well as to Mission schools. They hope also to be able to buy and distribute sugar beans to critically affected households and to distribute grain to those who are displaced and the elderly.
The situation is Zimbabwe has long been a desperate one and this continues even as people in our own country and other parts of the world are also finding their lives turned upside down. As we seek to find new ways to be church here in this Diocese and this country it is important that we do not lose sight of those who are our brothers and sisters in Christ in Zimbabwe, and other parts of the world, and continue to support them whenever we can.