The twin challenges of food insecurity and poverty in light of the ongoing drought that is afflicting most of the countries of the Southern African Development Community remains problematic. This was echoed during the special seminar on Food Security and Poverty Eradication yesterday (Monday) at Gaborone International Conference Centre.
While officiating at the seminar Chairperson of SADC and President of Botswana Ian Khama said the primary objective of calling the seminar was to bring together policy makers and implementers of SADC decisions, independent experts and representatives of civil society and afford them a chance to take stock of the current situation and pave way for an adoption of mitigation measures both short and long term.
For her part Director of Food Agriculture and Natural Resources at SADC Secretariat Margaret Nyirenda said apart from creating awareness on issues of poverty and food insecurity as well as stimulating dialogue among stakeholders, the seminar also served to create a platform for member states to agree on the political perspective to be assumed and how the regional agriculture projects would be financed going forward.
“Please also consider in addition to the poverty perspective, the perspective of Farmers Union as well as that of Small Holder Farmers,” she added.
She said she hopes that the gathering will indeed explore practical and innovative ways of accelerating the attainment of SADC’s commitment to secure dignified livelihoods for its people through the provision of their basic needs.
Nyirenda further stated that food security and poverty eradication measures and the growth of the agriculture sector are also vulnerable to natural hazards such as droughts, cyclones and floods.
“Today we are all witnesses of what climate change can do to farmers, rural communities and our economies,” she said.
The prevailing drought and floods induced by El Nino, Nyirenda said, are a phenomenon that continues to cause havoc across the region. “This will most likely further exacerbate the already volatile situation of food shortages in the region. At the moment at least 6 member states namely Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Swaziland have declared national disasters as a result of the 2015 to 2016 El Nino,” she added.
Also speaking at the seminar, Executive Secretary of SADC Stegomena Tax said it should be further noted that the effect of the recurring droughts in the region has not spared the livestock subsector. “This fact is reflected in loss of grazing pastures, diminished water sources and increased incidences and prevalence of animal diseases that resulted in high mortalities in countries in the region,” she said. She noted with grave concern that according to SADC regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis Synthesis Reports, 40% of all SADC citizens are currently living in abject poverty.
Tax said poverty eradication has therefore become the overarching objective for SADC regional integration agenda. “As Partners in this initiative our main aim should therefore be to enhance the standards of living and quality of life for all SADC countries,” she said.