The worst drought in 40 years is driving Zimbabwe's parched land into crisis and climate change is at the heart of it

We drove for miles and miles through what felt like a climate change wilderness - a parched desert where nothing grows.

Most of rural Zimbabwe is now without crops, without livestock and without water.

The land is like sand - and the millions trying to live off it are on the brink of starvation.

This country was once the breadbasket of Southern Africa - but now climate change combined with bad farming practice and wider economic problems have turned it into an arid desert.

This drought, the worst in 40 years, is causing food insecurity across all of Southern Africa with several countries fearing next year will bring, not just widespread hunger, but famine.

Nearly eight million people here in Zimbabwe are now dependent on food from the World Food Programme, some of which comes from Britain.

The roll out of international aid is one of the most ambitious feeding programmes in UN history.

People are reliant of food, delivered in sacks, just to survive. Credit: ITV News

Like many other rural farmers Emma Malume has watched three harvests fail on her once-fertile land.

A widow, she is now only able to feed her family one meal a day.

She tol​d me she prays for rain every day. She's scared her family will starve.

The drought also means thousands of cattle and donkeys have died. With nothing growing there is no food for them and their carcasses litter the fields.

No one is ploughing the fields this year. No one trusts the weather.

And even if they did, no one can afford the seeds they need to buy to re-start their farms.

Inflation is running at 300 per cent.

Emma's family have been left without food through the severe drought. Credit: ITV News

The UN says Zimbabwe is “marching towards starvation” and the challenge is two fold because it isn't only those in rural areas who are suffering.

Those in urban areas are also going hungry because the climate change challenge is being worsened by economic problems engulfing families trying to exist in the cities.

Water and electricity are in short supply and basic health services close to collapse.

The runaway inflation has made the imported shop food unaffordable.

Sebiya Chakombera has had to pull four of her children out of school. Credit: ITV News

Sebiya Chakombera has had to withdraw four of her six children from local schools. Faced with the choice of paying a small fee for the government run-school or buying food, she has been forced to choose the latter.

Even having been made to make that wretched decision, her kids survive on barely two meals a day now: usually only porridge and whatever home-grown vegetables she can muster in the drought.

She says without education they have no future - but without food they will have no tomorrow.

Zimbabwe is descending into a crisis.

Climate change and economic collapse have combined to leave a nation that once could feed itself – now totally dependent on foreign aid to help its citizens survive.

Experts are in agreement: climate change is the heart of the issue.

Verity Johnson of CAFOD, told ITV News: "You can't discount climate change, it's a huge factor in what is happening.

"Zimbabwe has been in economic crisis for many years now and there's been a steady deterioration, there have been further shocks this year with currency changes which have seen food prices going through the roof.

"It's an incredibly difficult situation for ordinary people to deal with."

"This doesn't mean that climate change brought the drought to the region," said Hilal Elver, a UN Rapporteur who visited Zimbabwe last week to report on the food crisis.

"The problem is through the climate change, droughts are longer, deeper and much more severe and it comes very often."