Addressing a special seminar on food security and poverty eradication SADC chairperson, President Ian Khama on Monday said it is anticipated that the SADC region will be confronted with growing levels of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition.
President Ian Khama said the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is currently experiencing the worst drought conditions in over two decades which will result in a decline in local food production, accompanied by a continued rise in food prices.
With regard to food security President Khama cited that the 2015 cereal production decreased by approximately 21 percent compared to 2014. He stated that crop production during the 2014/15 rainfall season was especially affected by prolonged dry spells in Botswana, Lesotho, and Namibia, adding that it is also extended to the maize belt of South Africa, southern Angola and southern Zimbabwe.
“We have our shared recognition of a compelling need to address the twin challenges of food insecurity and poverty in the light of the ongoing drought that is afflicting most of our region,” he stated.
He further said the latest figures indicate slow growth in regional livestock production, while SADC as a whole remains a net importer of livestock products. Khama added that such dire reports have far reaching ramifications given that agriculture, particularly livestock production, remains an economic mainstay for most of the people.
Khama is of the view that combating regional food insecurity and poverty in all of its forms and complexity requires an array of multifaceted actions. He believes that firstly, the political and policy environments need to be conducive, especially in the case of agriculture.
“Madagascar, Malawi and Mozambique were affected by both floods and prolonged dry spells. Consequently, all Member States experienced significant decreases in cereal outputs,” he said.
He stated that nations should be mindful of the food and nutrition strategy, as approved by the SADC Summit in 2013; and the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP), which was endorsed by the SADC Council of Ministers in August 2014. He added that the RAP investment plan is yet to be finalised.
For her part Executive Secretary of SADC Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax is of the view that food is fundamental to the regional stability. She said the region is home to 292 million people, 61 percent of whom live in rural areas and derive their livelihood from agriculture. She also believes that the importance of agriculture to social and economic growth, poverty reduction, food security, and nutrition remains central to the SADC’s overall developmental agenda.
“A large majority of our citizens do not have access to food and live in abject poverty,” said Dr Tax.
She stated that according to the Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis of 2015, on average, 25.2 million people have been vulnerable to food insecurity annually during the past 5years. She added that in addition, 12 of the SADC Member States have stunted growth rates of above 20 percent.
“We are all witnesses of what climate change can do to farmers, rural communities and our economies,” she said.