29 Million People Food Insecure in Southern Africa

29 Million People Food Insecure in Southern Africa
Image Credit: VOA Zimbabwe

A report has shown that 29 million people, which represent 14 percent of the population in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are food insecure in the 2018/19 consumption year.

The number of the food insecure population in the “State of Food and Nutrition
Insecurity and Vulnerability in Southern Africa” report is 13 percent higher, compared to last year, 2017/8 according to SADC in a press release.

“The increasing food insecure population reverses the improvement in 2017/18 when the number fell to 27 million from 38 million in 2016/2017,” says the SADC release. “Over the past ten years, the food insecure population in the region has remained above 22.7 million.”

“With increasing climate-induced shocks, there needs to be urgent action and sustained resilience building, or the food insecure population is likely to grow.”

SADC has also witnessed a decrease in estimated cereal surplus to 6,294,000 metric tonnes (MT) for the 2018/19 from 7,513,000 MT in the previous year based on balance sheets provided by the block’s 9 member states.

“Carry-over stocks and surplus from South Africa, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zimbabwe, and Zambia are compensating for those with deficits, such as Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, and Namibia,” SADC media release says.

“Prices for maize grain in the region are generally low. For example, in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe maize prices are 20–33 percent below the five-year average.”

“However, given the below-normal maize harvest this year, prices are likely to increase earlier than usual as farming households start depending on markets earlier.”

The report on the state of food insecurity also names climate change as the primary driver of food insecurity in SADC.

“The first half of the 2017/18 agricultural season was affected by an extended dry spell from late December 2017 to late January 2018 in central parts of the region, causing a significant negative impact on early-planted crops,” SADC says.

“Although the improved rainfall experienced between February and March 2018 aided crop recovery in some areas, permanent wilting occurred in others.”

“In Madagascar, Cyclone Ava and Cyclone Eliakim made landfall and caused fatalities, displacement, damage to infrastructure and flooding; impacting 330,000 people. Northern Mozambique was also affected by heavy rainfall in January.”

SADC’s dependence on rain-fed agriculture has led to volatile output levels from one year to the next according to the region’s media release.

“Only seven percent of the region’s arable land is irrigated, yet 70 percent of the population relies on agriculture for a living,” SADC says.

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