Millions in southern Africa face food shortage
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