Southern African Development Community (Sadc) countries face a bleak food and nutrition security outlook with 29.4 million people projected to be food insecure in the 2018/19 season from April 2018 to March 2019.
The number of people represents 14.2 percent of the regional grouping’s total population.
In Malawi, the Sadc State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability Report estimates that the number of people requiring food and nutritional assistance before the next harvest will increase to 2.3 million in 2018/19, a 130 percent rise from one million people in 2017/18.
Released on July 9, the 2018/19 report attributes the increase in food insecure populations to the fall armyworm epidemic which hit the region in 2016/17 contributing to the reduction in maize production.
The report predicts that the fall armyworm will continue to affect the region, urging governments and stakeholders to consider long term investments in containing the problem.
The number of food insecure people has increased in Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe despite increases in food production, compared to the previous years.
Reacting to the report, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (Fanrpan) and Care Southern Africa welcomed findings of the report and applauded Sadc member States’ efforts in the implementation of various policies to address food and nutrition security.
“However, this report reveals that these efforts are not enough considering the unprecedented impacts of climate change, such as floods, droughts, widespread pests and epidemics, gender inequalities in the agriculture sector and low investment in extension services,” said Michelle D Carter, Care’s Southern Africa Regional director, in a press release.
On the other hand, Fanrpan chief executive officer Munhamo Chisvo advised governments to consider investing in winter cropping and post-harvest management.
He said: “The report projects that 2018/19 will be an El Nino season, signalling high probability of low agriculture production with serious negative impact on most economies in the region which are agro-based.”
Care Southern Africa advocacy and partnerships coordinator Vitumbiko Chinoko said: “It is evident that climate change has been the main cause of low food production in Southern Africa. All climate scenarios indicate the region will continue to receive less rainfall.
“Rainfall-based agriculture systems will continue to keep the region food and nutrition insecure. Governments should scale-up irrigation and ensure that such initiatives allow adequate participation of small-scale famers who comprise 60 percent of the food producers in the region.”
On nutrition, the report indicates that the Sadc region is off-track in reducing childhood stunting by 40 percent and the proportion of stunted children is increasing in most countries.
World Health Organisation has found that stunted children are more likely to fall ill and develop poor cognitive skills and learning and their labour productivity, employment potential, and socialisation are also affected later in life.
The second round of crop estimates show that maize production has declined by 19.4 percent from 3.5 million metric tons in 2016/2017 growing season to 2.8 million metric tons in the 2017/18.
In the 2018/19 budget statement, Minister of Finance, Economic Planning and Development Goodall Gondwe acknowledged the impact of the fall armyworm infestation and dry spells on maize production and made an allocation of K20 billion to maize purchases and distribution to areas affected by low production.
The maize purchased will be in addition to the current maize stock of 282 000 MT held by Agriculture Development and Marketing Corporation and National Food Reserve Agency. n