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Hunger strikes the rural areas

GOROMONZI, 24 April 2007 (IRIN) - Back-to-back dry years have drastically reduced Zimbabwe's crop yields, causing widespread hunger in rural communities, where residents are calling for immediate food aid.

President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF government has already labelled 2007 a 'Year of Drought', and Denford Chimbwanda, president of the Grain and Cereal Producers Association (GCPA), told IRIN that this year's harvest prospects were grim.

"This situation is worse than last year, even though the past season was also affected by drought. While some areas have done relatively well, the majority of the land that was put under cereals are write-offs," Chimbwanda said.

The landscape is a dire picture of dusty maize fields, shrivelled before the tasselling stage, and villagers with little option other than to let cattle graze among the dry stalks at a time when they were expecting to gather the harvest ahead of the winter months.

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