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Volume 506: debated on Wednesday 3 March 2010

This year, around 2 million people will receive food aid, compared with more than 7 million last year. While the situation has therefore improved, a poor harvest could substantially increase the numbers of people in need.

Is the Minister convinced that the global political agreement in Zimbabwe is working? Gertrude Hambira, the leader of the General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union of Zimbabwe, has had to flee to South Africa in fear of her life, because the police have raided her office three times in seven days. Is that a sign that the humanitarian situation in that country is improving?

The hon. Gentleman cuts right to the heart of the challenges in respect of the global political agreement and the workings of the inclusive Government. He is right to highlight the fact that the inclusive Government have yet to achieve a series of political milestones, but we must recognise that Zimbabwe’s economic situation has certainly stabilised and improved, which has undoubtedly contributed to the improving humanitarian situation there. As I have said, we continue to watch the country very carefully, as a considerable number of people still require food aid and a poor harvest has the potential to exacerbate the problems that still exist.

The International Development Committee recently managed to visit Zimbabwe, where it met some women who had reclaimed land that had been destroyed. Those women are growing things on that land again, under a new system of collective agriculture. Can DFID’s pioneering work in introducing new methods of agriculture at a local level be used elsewhere in Africa to demonstrate again that the Department is a top practitioner in tackling poverty?

I thank my right hon. Friend for his comments about our work on agriculture in Zimbabwe. There is a still a considerable amount that we need to ensure happens in Zimbabwe, but we certainly hope that the lessons that have contributed to the successes that he, like other members of the Select Committee, saw at first hand will be replicated in other country programmes with which we are obviously working.