Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are on a mission to tackle the shortage of food in the region from the root cause following the adverse drought that has hit the region. All SADC countries – according to the Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources at the SADC secretariat, Margaret Nyirenda – had in the past year experienced a deficit in cereal output except for three countries which experienced a surplus in maize production. “The latest climate data confirms that our region is indeed currently experiencing the worst drought conditions in over two decades,” said President Ian Khama. President Khama, who is the current chairperson of SADC, convened a special seminar on food security and poverty eradication in Gaborone on Monday to take stock of the situation and enable the regional bloc to adopt both short and long-term mitigation measures.
According to Khama, drought conditions will result in a decline in food production, accompanied by a continued rise in food prices. “It is thus expected that our region will be confronted with growing levels of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition,” said Khama. Regarding food security, Khama said that the 2015 cereal production is said to have decreased by approximately 21% compared to 2014. Crop production during the 2014/15 rainfall season, he says was especially affected by prolonged dry spells in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia which also extended to the maize belt of South Africa, Southern Angola and the Southern Zimbabwe. “Combating regional food insecurity and poverty in all of its forms and complexity requires an array of multifaceted actions. Firstly, the political and policy environments need to be conducive, especially in the case of Agriculture,” said Khama.
Meanwhile some of the resolutions reached by stakeholders during the special seminar include commercialisation of small farmers, promoting farming as a business and leveraging Finance and Investment in Agriculture. It was also resolved that access to markets need to be simplified in order for farmers to do well in Agriculture. The seminar brought together policy makers and implementers of SADC decisions as well as independent experts and representatives of civil societies.