PRESIDENT Mugabe left Harare for Cancun, Mexico last night to attend the world’s premier indaba on reducing the risk of disasters and building resistance to secure livelihoods.

Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko is Acting President.

Every two years, the United Nations World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction brings together global leaders, NGOs and scientists to map strategies to ensure better responses to the threat of disasters.

President Mugabe attends the fifth session on the back of launching successful implementation of the Specialised Maize Production and Import Substitution Programme or Command Agriculture.

Zimbabwe’s Head of State and Government rolled out the programme following an El Nino-induced drought that limited grain yields in the 2015-2016 summer cropping season.

Last year, Command Agriculture was introduced and combined with the Presidential Well-Wishers Inputs Scheme, the country now expects a bumper harvest of the staple maize crop and other grains, saving Zimbabwe millions in food imports.

Government, spurred by the success of Command Agriculture, has expanded the programme beyond grains and is working on boosting wheat, beans and horticulture output, in addition to crafting Command Water Harvesting and Command Livestock programmes to further engender resilience.

Apart from the agriculture-related interventions, Government has been active in offsetting a potential crisis caused by cyclone-induced floods that mostly hit southern parts of Zimbabwe.

Millions of dollars have been mobilised to this end, and this past week the UN Central Emergency Response Fund partnered Government in the roll out of a US$1,6 million programme to assist victims of flooding.

The Cancun Summit is a result of the 15-year Sendai Framework, which sets targets for governments to substantially cut deaths and economic losses from disasters by 2030.

The Sendai Framework has seven targets, which also include limiting damage to infrastructure and disruption to basic services such as health and education, and widening access to early warning systems and disaster-risk information.

At the Cancun meeting, the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction will unveil an online monitoring tool that will help nations check progress on meeting the targets.

The UN estimates that in 2016, 11 000 people died as a result of natural and man-made disasters. The disasters are said to have cost the global economy US$175 billion.

At the last disaster risk reduction meeting in Japan in 2015, President Mugabe called for the inclusion of violent conflict on the agenda.

He said then, “To be comprehensive and all-embracing, disaster risk strategies and resilience building measures have to take such conflict situations into consideration.”

President Mugabe also called for greater attention to be paid to the nexus between natural disasters and climate change.