Southern Africa is set to record a bumper harvest after receiving good rainfall in the 2016/17 agricultural season, according to the latest crop assessments reports. The SADC Food Security Quarterly Update released in March 2017 shows that countries such as Malawi and South Africa have published their preliminary production estimates indicating high chances of bumper harvests.
In Malawi, the first round crop production estimates show an increase in most crops, including the staple food, maize. Maize production in the country is estimated at 3,2 million tonnes, up by 36 percent from 2,4 million tonnes last season.
In South Africa, crop production estimates show an increase of most crops. Maize production is estimated at 13,9 million tonnes, up by 79 percent from 7,8 million tonnes last season. The two countries alone are looking at producing a total of 17 million tonnes, which is more than half of the region’s average annual maize production of about 30 million tonnes.
Agricultural production in Zambia is expected to increase from last season, when the country recorded an average of 2,7 million tonnes of maize despite the occurrence of drought.
Early projections in Zimbabwe show that the country is likely to get a bumper harvest this season and is estimated to produce over 2,8 million tonnes of cereals and other crops.
An improvement in crop production in southern Africa is coming at a time when an estimated 40 million people in the region were left food-insecure due to the severe drought that occurred in the 2015/16 agricultural season.
One of the challenges the region still needs to address is the outbreak of crop diseases due to pests.
Cases of fall armyworm outbreak during the 2016/17 agricultural season were reported in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
This is the first time that the region has been affected by fall armyworm, which is common in the Americas.
The pest mainly affects maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cowpea, groundnuts, potatoes and soya beans. It eats the leaves of the plants as well as their reproductive parts.
To address challenges, the recent Extraordinary Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held in Swaziland, agreed on a number of measures aimed at improving the overall food security situation in the region.
Among others, the summit tasked member states to address, as a matter of urgency, the outbreak of fall armyworm in the region.
Summit agreed to improve the coordination and collaboration of efforts in promoting a harmonised approach in the management of the fall armyworm in southern Africa.
Member States agreed to make concerted efforts in mobilising resources to implement management and control strategies for fall armyworm and other plant and livestock pests in the region.
Efforts to control the pest have been compromised by heavy rains experienced in some parts of southern Africa.
The heavy rains caused flooding in countries such as Mozambique, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
On floods, the Extraordinary Summit reaffirmed the commitment by the region to assist people affected by cyclones Dineo and Enawo.
The cyclones caused serious damages to infrastructure and destroyed crops in some member states in the region.
In Mozambique alone, the government estimates an overall funding requirement of about US$16.5 million to address the damages caused by Cyclone Dineo, US$6,7 million of which is needed as a matter of urgency.
The support is needed to rebuild damaged infrastructure as well as support agriculture production and for humanitarian assistance.
Mozambique News Agency reports showed that the torrential rain flooded farmlands resulting in an estimated loss of more than 29 000 hectares of crops including maize, groundnuts, cassava and beans.
In Madagascar, food production was compromised by the tropical cyclones that have devastated the country, especially Cyclone Enawo that caused floods leaving 328 972 people homeless and caused more than 50 deaths.
In this regard, the recent summit encouraged member states to consider providing relief support to the affected countries in the region.
The summit directed the SADC Secretariat, with support from member states, to urgently finalise and operationalize the regional disaster preparedness and response mechanism as well as make the Regional Disaster Preparedness and Response Fund functional.
The fund will help to build resilience of member states against future disasters. — sardc.net