09 February, 2016
The government of Zimbabwe is asking for financial help to avoid food shortages in the country.
The government says nearly 2.5 million people in Zimbabwe are facing hunger. That is more than one quarter of the country's population.
The country is currently battling a drought that has affected much of southern Africa. The government blames the drought on El Niño, an extreme weather pattern.
El Niño is a warm Pacific Ocean current that causes extreme changes in the worldwide weather conditions.
David Phiri is the southern Africa coordinator with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. He said Zimbabwe must invest in irrigation to prevent more food shortages.
"We need to increase the area under irrigation," Phiri said. "Zimbabwe...has the highest number of water points, dams and rivers. There is water in Zimbabwe."
He also said Zimbabwe and other governments should encourage conservation agriculture. The goal of conservation agriculture is to protect, improve and make more effective use of nature. Its policies are designed to increase agricultural production and protect the environment.
Conservation agriculture would better protect citizens from food shortages during periods of extreme weather, Phiri said.
Although some observers blame Zimbabwe's current food shortage on El Niño, others blame government policy.
Critics blame President Robert Mugabe's land reform program of the early 2000s. The program forced experienced white commercial farmers off their land. They say the program worsened Zimbabwe's economic problems and reduced its farming output.
I'm Pete Musto.
Sebastian Mhofu reported on this story for VOANews. Jim Dresbach adapted this story for Learning English. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
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Words in This Story
El Niño – n. a flow of unusually warm water along the western coast of South America that causes many changes in weather in other places
drought – n. a long period of time during which there is very little or no rain
irrigation – n. to supply land with water by using artificial means
encourage – v. to tell or advise (someone) to do something
conservation – n. the careful use of natural resources to prevent them from being lost or wasted
dormant – adj. not active but able to become active