Food and nutrition insecurity in the SADC region continues to be unacceptably high, requiring concerted efforts for the region to build resilience to address the multiple and increasing shocks it faces.
As a result of the complex interaction between persistent structural issues and recent shocks experienced in the region, the number of food insecure people is estimated to be 55.7 million during the period from 1 April 2022 to 31 March 2023 in the 12 Member States1 that provided data for the 2022 Regional Synthesis Report on the status of food and nutrition security in Southern Africa.
Child malnutrition continues to be of great concern in the region. Stunting rates remain high, averaging above 25% in most Member States. Every country in the region has a prevalence of stunting that is classified as high or very high by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Almost 18.6 million children are stunted in the region representing a third of the stunted children in Africa. The prevalence of (iron deficiency) anaemia in women of reproductive age in the region is at levels of public health concern according to the WHO standards. The prevalence of overweight children in upper middle economies is considered “high”.
High and pervasive levels of poverty in the region continue to be reinforced by low economic growth rates, high level of unemployment, rising inequality, increasing frequency and intensity of shocks, weak social protection systems and poor provision of basic services, including health, water, hygiene and sanitation. This drives the food and nutrition insecurity in the region its chronic nature.
Multiple natural and man-made disasters add acuteness to the region’s food and nutrition insecurity. The 2021/22 rainfall season started poorly across most parts of the region, as cumulative rainfall amounts were below average by December 2021. Although the rainfall amounts improved in the second half of the season in many parts of the region, drought conditions continued in others. A record of 6 destructive cyclonic systems were also experienced in the region. Wildfires, animal and crop pest and disease outbreaks were amongst the disasters that were also reported by several Member States.
From early 2020 to December 2021 the African Migratory Locust (AML) continued to threaten food security in several member states namely Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. While in April 2022, Swine Fever was reported in the Lusaka Province of Zambia. Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) outbreaks were also reported in Malawi, South Africa, and Mozambique’s Tete Province.
General increase in the cost of living, including significant hikes in the prices of major staples and other food stuffs were reported in most parts of the region. The already existing inflationary pressures are now getting impetus from the supply chains disruptions arising from the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.
A suite of complementary measures, at all levels, targeted at both addressing the acute and chronic aspects of the identified food and nutrition insecurity, are required. These should include strengthening safety nets and as well as broader social protection systems that support more resilient livelihoods.
In the short-term this report recommends the following:
(i) urgently assist food and nutrition insecure populations with food and/or cash-based transfers, ensuring harmonization with national shockresponsive social protection programmes;
(ii) monitor and respond to transboundary pests and diseases of livestock and crops and promote use of an Integrated Pest Management approach which is sustainable and effective;
(iii) expand high-impact nutrition interventions that target children under age five, adolescent girls and women of reproductive age, to accelerate stunting reduction in the region;
(iv) improve women and girl’s access to nutritious food, education, services and production resources and ensure that they participate in decision-making processes;
(v) scale up safety net programs as they play a significant role in ensuring food and livelihood security, especially among the very poor; and
(vi) support food production capacity through facilitation/provision of seed and agricultural inputs for the coming season;
In the medium to long term the report recommends the following;
(i) encourage crop and dietary diversity through the growing and consumption of diversified diets, including indigenous foods including diversification in livestock production, especially small ruminants that are adapted to harsh weather conditions;
(ii) promote irrigation and rainwater harvesting and construct dams to ensure year-round agricultural production;
(iii) rehabilitate and reconstruct flood and cyclone damaged infrastructure to enhance access to markets and health and social facilities.;
(iv) keep trade open and prioritise intraSADC trade for food and other commodities;
(v) develop resilience-building initiatives, including employment creation in rural areas, incorporating climate smart technologies in subsidies and conservation agriculture; and
(vi) strengthen the integration of agriculture and food security interventions in the climate change national adaptation and mitigation plans to promote conservation agriculture, environment/ecosystem management and building community resilience to climate risks.