Mil­lions in south­ern Africa face food short­age

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS -

JO­HAN­NES­BURG: Some 23 mil­lion peo­ple in south­ern Africa are in need of ur­gent sup­port to be able to pro­duce enough food to feed them­selves and avoid be­ing de­pen­dent on hu­man­i­tar­ian as­sis­tance un­til mid2018, the UN agri­cul­tural agency has warned.

Ac­cord­ing to the Food and Agri­cul­tural Or­gan­i­sa­tion ( FAO), if farm­ers are not able to plant by Oc­to­ber, the re­sult will be another re­duced har­vest early next year, se­verely af­fect­ing food and nu­tri­tion se­cu­rity.

“The main way peo­ple are able to ac­cess food is through what they them­selves pro­duce. As­sist­ing them to do this will pro­vide life­sav­ing sup­port in a re­gion where at least 70% of peo­ple rely on agri­cul­ture for their liveli­hoods,” David Phiri, FAO subre­gional co-or­di­na­tor for South­ern Africa, said.

“We must make the most of this small win­dow of op­por­tu­nity and make sure that farm­ers are ready to plant by Oc­to­ber when the rains start,” he added.

To re­spond to this de­vel­op­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian sit­u­a­tion, FAO aims to en­sure that seeds, fer­tilis­ers, tools, and other in­puts and ser­vices, in­clud­ing live­stock sup­port, are pro­vided to small-holder farm­ers, agro-pas­toral­ists and pas­toral­ists to cope with the dev­as­tat­ing im­pact of an El Niño-in­duced drought.

The agency has es­ti­mated that at least $109 mil­lion (R1.5 bil­lion) is re­quired to pro­vide this sup­port.

The pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion has been brought on by the worst drought the re­gion has wit­nessed in 35 years, with wide­spread crop fail­ures ex­ac­er­bat­ing chronic mal­nu­tri­tion.

Vul­ner­a­ble fam­i­lies in ru­ral ar­eas have been hit hard­est by the en­su­ing in­crease in prices of maize and other sta­ple foods.

Fur­ther­more, as the im­pact of El Niño con­tin­ues to be felt in the re­gion, FAO has pro­jected that al­most 40 mil­lion peo­ple could face food in­se­cu­rity by the peak of the com­ing lean sea­son, between next Jan­uary and March when the ef­fects of the drought are ex­pected to peak.

All coun­tries in south­ern Africa are af­fected and more than 640 000 drought- re­lated live­stock deaths have been re­ported in Botswana, Swazi­land, South Africa, Namibia and Zim­babwe alone due to lack of pas­ture and wa­ter, as well as out­break of dis­eases. – ANA

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