Sifelani Tsiko Agric, Environment & Innovations Editor
Southern African Development Community (SADC) agriculture ministers will meet this Friday to analyse how flooding, cyclones and droughts in some parts of the region affected the food security situation in the 16-member grouping.
In a statement, SADC said a joint meeting of ministers responsible for agriculture and food security, fisheries and aquaculture will be held on May 13th in Lilongwe, Malawi.
This was a follow-up meeting on the decisions of the SADC Summit, Council of Ministers and the sectoral committee of ministers responsible for agriculture and food security, fisheries and aquaculture.
“The meeting will specifically review the food security situation following challenges experienced by the region with regards to excess rains that caused flooding in some parts, cyclones and drought in others, outbreaks of transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases and developments in the fisheries and aquaculture sector,” the 16-member bloc said.
The meeting will also review the implementation of the Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) and its related programmes including food security, livestock, crops and fisheries and aquaculture as well as review programmes of work of the SADC Plant Genetics Resources Centre (SPGRC) and Centre for Coordination of Agriculture Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA).
Ministers will also deliberate on programmes of regional dimension in support of the implementation of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) 2020-2030 and the SADC Vision 2050 particularly programmes for the development of Agriculture and Food Security, Fisheries and Aquaculture sectors.
Humanitarian agencies say the impact of consecutive natural hazards and climatic shocks in the southern African countries of Eswatini, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Namibia, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe is affecting over 30 million people.
Many households in these countries face acute food insecurity.
Drought and dry spells have intensified in southern Africa since 1980. The most intense impacts have been recorded in southern Madagascar, where a prolonged drought has been affecting the country since 2019.
The cyclone season and floods in 2022 have also had a negative impact on food security, especially in Malawi and Madagascar including South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal province.
Agricultural lands were flooded and some key crops such as rice and maize were damaged. Dependence on rain-fed agriculture is one of the causes of food insecurity in southern Africa.
The SADC ministers’ meeting was coming at a time when the war in Ukraine is affecting global food security and affecting global agriculture markets.
Global food prices have hit record highs after the war began.
The United Nations’ FAO Food Price Index, which tracks prices for the world’s most traded food items, recorded the highest figures seen since 2011.
Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest grain exporters and they account for around 30 percent of Africa’s wheat imports.
Agriculture experts say the poorest of the poor in many countries in the global south will be hit especially hard by severe shortages in the world market and exploding food prices.
With the coronavirus pandemic interrupting income sources and supply chains and with the climate crisis causing extreme weather events and crop failures, the number of people going hungry worldwide has risen up to 811 million, according to the World Food Programme.
About 44 million people in 38 countries are teetering on the edge of famine, the UN food agency said.
Together Russia and Ukraine produce more than a quarter of global wheat exports and Africa is heavily dependent on both countries.
Wheat imports make up 90 percent of Africa’s US$4 billion trade with Russia and almost half of the continent’s $4.5 billion trade with Ukraine, according to AfDB.