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SADC PF MPs revisit Malabo Declaration … as climate change-related disasters threaten food security |27 May 2023

SADC PF MPs revisit Malabo Declaration … as climate change-related disasters threaten food security

Chairperson of the standing committee on Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) of the SADC Parliamentary Forum, Honourable Ishmael Ndaila Onani from Malawi (Photo: Moses Magadza)  

The standing committee on Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources of the SADC Parliamentary Forum held its statutory meeting on May 9, 2023 in Johannesburg amid reports that the SADC region is facing a crisis of hunger and food insecurity in 2022/2023.

The Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA) report shows that 55.7 million people are currently food insecure within SADC (Southern African Development Community). This is a significant increase from the previous year, when the number of food insecure people was estimated at 44 million.

The committee met to deliberate the situation of hunger and food insecurity in the SADC region, challenges fueling food insecurity, major international goals and African agenda, investments and performance of Malabo commitments and environment that can attract the youths to invest in agriculture.

Agriculture is a vital sector in the region with a population of approximately 366 million, 70% of which rely on it for their livelihoods.

Joe Mzinga, an official from Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers' Forum (ESAFF), told the committee that challenges facing agriculture in the region are numerous, with climate change being a major factor.

He said cyclones Gombe and Freddy in March 2022 and February 2023 respectively, as well as severe droughts in southern Angola and Madagascar, and in northern Namibia, affected crop production, leading to shortfalls in staple crops.

Erratic rainfall in Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe has also contributed to the shortfall in crop production. Additionally, conflicts in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique have disrupted agricultural activities, and economic shocks have been a driver of acute food insecurity in some countries.

Mr Mzinga said agriculture funding was declining, that food insecure people were estimated at 55.7 million while the SADC region was home to more than 18.7 million stunted children.

Additionally, there was a general increase in the cost of living, including significant hikes in the prices of major staples.

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has noted that agriculture can help alleviate poverty in the region, with a study concluding that it can do so 11 times more effectively than any other sector, including oil and gas, mining, and services.

Mr Mzimga said the SADC region had made commitments to agriculture and food security, as outlined in the Malabo Declaration. The commitments include creating job opportunities for at least 30% of youth in agricultural value chains.

However, the SADC region's performance in meeting these commitments has been mixed. According to the first, second, and third Malabo Biennial Review Reports in 2017, 2019, and 2021 respectively, half of the SADC countries were on track to achieve the Malabo commitments. However, the second Malabo Biennial Review Report in 2019 showed that only four countries out of 48 were on track to achieve the commitments.

To address the challenges facing agriculture in the SADC region, the committee agreed on the need to encourage crop and dietary diversity, diversification in livestock production, and the growing and consumption of diversified diets, including indigenous foods. The SADC region also needs to explore opportunities presented by information communication technology (ICT) and collective marketing to enhance food sovereignty.

As the SADC region faces hunger and food insecurity in 2022/2023, the committee was unanimous in agreeing on the need for member states to intensify their efforts in addressing the challenges facing the agriculture sector.

The region's commitments to agriculture and food security, as outlined in the Malabo Declaration, need to be fully implemented to ensure sustainable economic well-being and food security for all citizens.

Chairperson of the standing committee on Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR), Honourable Ishmael Ndaila Onani from Malawi, said the meeting was convened amid the devastating effects of cyclone Freddy that affected his country, Madagascar and Mozambique.

Mr Onani said Southern Africa was among the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change, with climate-related impacts such as droughts, floods and tropical cyclones undermining development and reducing the availability of natural resources, affecting the majority of the region's population.

He said the recent cyclone in his country had cost lives and displaced thousands of people, deteriorating access to productive assets such as water and arable land, making food insecurity and the humanitarian situation even worse.

Additionally, Mr Onani said climate change was likely to affect human security by exacerbating water stress, food and livelihood insecurity, displacement and migration, and conflict over scarce resources.

In Mozambique, a total of 391,000 hectares of land have been affected by climate change-related disasters.

Mr Onani stressed that investment in the agricultural sector and food systems is critical to supporting economic growth, reducing poverty and food insecurity, and contributing to rural development and job opportunities, especially for young people, women, and other vulnerable social groups.

He said in the context of cyclone Freddy and the Covid-19 pandemic, additional investment in agriculture is required to reduce its consequences and support recovery efforts towards the achievement of the Malabo commitments and UN's sustainable development goals (SDGs).

He contended that parliamentarians play a crucial role in promoting enhanced public investments in the agricultural sector, such as the provision of public goods and services, including infrastructure, energy, research and development, especially in rural areas.

He further emphasised that parliamentarians also play a central role in building public awareness about the challenges and opportunities related to responsible investment in agriculture and food systems, ensuring that investments do not jeopardise vulnerable groups.

Vice-chairperson of the committee, Honourable Hawa Subira Mwaifunga from the United Republic of Tanzania, said the extreme poverty in the SADC region, stunting levels and the number of food-insecure people in SADC were “staggering and worrisome”.

She challenged the region’s lawmakers to make agriculture work for everyone.

“We have our work cut out. We cannot afford not to harness the potential of this critical sector, and this calls for parliamentary action. We must take a lead in advocating and pushing for the realisation of the various commitments adopted in the agriculture sector, including the Malabo Declaration, for the benefit of our people,” she said.


By Moses Magadza recently in Johannesburg, South Africa








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