Lesotho + 5 more

Response to the southern Africa Crisis Issue 2 Jun 2003

Situation Report
Originally published


FAO Regional Newsletter
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division
Helping to build a world without hunger
The FAO Regional Newsletter "Response to the southern Africa crisis" is a publication of the Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The Newsletter aims to provide country specific insight into the agricultural component of the crisis and is compiled by FAO at the Regional Inter-Agency Coordination and Support Office (RIACSO) in Johannesburg.

Special points of interest:

  • RIACSO Stakeholders Meeting: UN agencies, SADC, donors, government representatives of southern African countries and NGOs met on 11 and 12 June in Johannesburg to discuss and agree on the needs and response strategies based on the results of the Vulnerability Assessments and the FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions.

  • FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Missions: Results presented at the RIACSO Stakeholders Meeting on 11 and 12 June in Johannesburg.

  • FAO Internal Evaluation: An FAO evaluation team will review FAO's cooperation strategy within Southern Africa. The evaluation will focus on the lessons learned and priorities for the future.
The way forward

The interest of the international community is drifting away from the persistent crisis faced by the six countries in southern Africa. Increasingly, attentions are shifted to turbulent crises in other hotspots around the world while southern Africa remains at risk. Consequently, as donor support begins to dry up, the significant gains achieved from humanitarian assistance in the region are vulnerable to erosion. The challenges of responding to this complex emergency remain. The way forward entails linking emergency and recovery to longer-term development.

The six southern African countries have some of the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in the world. A bitter challenge faces the international community to address even the most immediate needs of the several million people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. FAO is looking to assist the HIV/AIDS affected households by introducing income-generating food production schemes, farmer field schools and labour-saving technologies such as conservation farming.

The food security outlook for 2003 presents an improved picture overall in comparison to 2002. Projections for food production and crop yield are more favourable than last year. Yet, vulnerability at household levels is rooted deeper than the current season's ups or downs. Families continue to face an increasingly complex crisis, complicated by the inexorable drain of resources caused by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.

Roundtable meeting : FAO, donors and CGIAR

A roundtable meeting was held in Pretoria on 16 May between FAO, donors and members of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR). The meeting focused on the technical aspects of agricultural interventions as well as on ideas on the way forward and lessons learned. Donor support to FAO's agricultural interventions has reflected their sustained commitment to containing the crisis.

Contributions to FAO currently exceed $13 million with a further $4.4 million in the pipeline. With the support from the governments of Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America, the European Commission and FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme, more than 500 000 families will benefit from the FAO emergency programme in southern Africa.

LESOTHO: problems to be addressed

The food shortage of the 2001/02 season was mainly attributed to poor rainfall and crop damage due to frost occurrences in the highlands. Although more land has been planted for the 2003 harvest season and indications point to some improvement in the cereal supply as compared to last year. According to the recent FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission, the following remain important issues for Lesotho :

Lack of planting machinery and/or draught animals

The escalation of livestock theft, especially cattle, has reduced planting, particularly amongst the poor farming households who cannot afford to rent tractors.


Amongst the most vulnerable farming families, HIV/AIDS is at its peak. A large number of households are now headed by teenagers or the elderly. The lack of agricultural labour has become a major issue.

Poor land management

Soil conservation strategies, controlled grazing, crop husbandry practices and diversified cropping need to be promoted. Poor land management practices are some of the factors contributing to poor soil performance, soil erosion and desertification.

Lack of purchasing power

The high levels of unemployment, retrenchments from the South African mines, lack of access to markets and inability to elevate local producers to levels of commercial farming continue to perpetuate the vicious cycle of poverty, thus dependency on aid.

MALAWI: 2003 strategic priorities

FAO's strategic priorities for 2003 include:

  • Support HIV/AIDS affected communities through the promotion of nutrition and home gardening at Nutritional Rehabilitation Units.
  • Improve access to water, thus improving food security and mitigating the impact of erratic rainfall.
  • Promote crop diversification with drought-tolerant crops such as cassava and sweet potato.
  • Promote the "agricultural inputs for work" programme.
Winter Targeted Input Programme (WTIP):

The timely availability of agricultural inputs through the Government's Winter Targeted Input Programme (Winter TIP) is contributing to the better use of resources. Over 60% of the distribution was completed by 16 May, as compared to 15% last year at the same time. The number of targeted families increased from 300 000 in 2002 to 400 000 this year.

Cassava nurseries - field day: On 28 May, FAO presented the cassava nurseries project and its expected impact to farmers, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Food Security, donors and the press. The cassava nurseries project was funded by the Government of Sweden.

Home gardening managers training: On 2 June, FAO started a two-week training for eight national home gardening managers. Dan Church Aid facilitated the training with technical support from the Horticulture Development of Malawi and Peace Corps. The training focused on vegetable crop production and processing, and HIV/AIDS and nutrition. The managers have been assigned to a Nutritional Rehabilitation Unit (NRU) to run the home gardens.

Small-scale irrigation - treadle pumps: FAO completed procurement of 1 750 treadle pumps for small-scale irrigation purposes in late April. With the help of Total Land Care, an FAO implementing partner, some farmers have already started to use their new treadle pump to prepare their fieldsfor winter cropping under irrigation. By the end of June, over 1 800 farm families will have received a treadle pump. To investigate national engineering capacity, 50 locally produced pumps have also been purchased and distributed.

MOZAMBIQUE: emergency response priorities

Abundant rains in the main growing areas of the north and centre-north have improved crop conditions. In the central and southern parts, drought and crop failure were reported due to late and irregular rain patterns. The overall outlook for the 2003 cereal harvest is favourable, although it is estimated to be sharply reduced for the fourth consecutive year in the southern provinces of Gaza, Maputo and Inhambane and parts of the central region.

In support of the Government's Drought Mitigation Plan, FAO is developing project proposals focusing on the priorities within the agricultural sector.

Priority areas include:

  • Input Trade Fairs
  • Promotion of school gardens
  • Rehabilitation of small-scale irrigation schemes
  • Improving food production through irrigation
  • Restocking of small livestock
SWAZILAND: cassava nurseries

Five new cassava nurseries in Swaziland.

  • In crop failure areas, in the lowveld and on the Plateau, FAO is establishing five cassava nurseries.
  • For each hectare of land, FAO provides 10 000 cassava seedlings.
  • In six months, cassava cuttings will be distributed to vulnerable food insecure families.
During winter, Swaziland normally does not receive notable rainfall. The rainfall outlook for the 2003 winter season points towards normal with normal to above normal temperatures for the period from May to July. (Source: National Meteorological Service of Swaziland -Swazimet)

ZAMBIA: good harvest prospects

The FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) ended in May. Despite the late start of planting and late rains followed by dry spells in some areas, indications are that the 2002/03 cropping season will be better than the previous one. Maize prices have fallen since January, reflecting the good harvest prospects and improved maize supply, and are now below the price level of last year at the same time. Although problems of access to food will persist, it is anticipated that Zambia will not face a food deficit this year.

The FAO Crop Forecast Monitoring programme provided the CFSAM with valuable information on 41 vulnerable districts. The programme is foreseen to be extended to 2004 to cover the next season and refine its methodology. FAO is in the process of transferring the skills and implementation of the programme to the Ministry of Agriculture.

Conservation Farming - Field Visit

On 20 May, FAO organized a field visit for donors to the Monze District in the southern province. The results of the FAO emergency project on Conservation Farming (CF) were shown. Participants were impressed by the excellent maize, cotton and legume crops grown using CF on only 400 mm of rainfall, particularly when compared with the failed crops grown using traditional farming practices in the same area. Farmers and women's groups were also pleased to share their positive CF experience.

ZIMBABWE: continued assistance

Preliminary crop production estimates for Zimbabwe point to a significant cereal deficit.

New FAO emergency projects

  • Thanks to a contribution of $280 000 from the Government of the United Kingdom, FAO will assist over 15 000 farm families. The project aims to enhance smallholder crop prospects by improving access to agricultural inputs (including droughttolerant small grain seeds) through voucher and seed-fair methodologies; strengthen livestock resilience to drought by improving grazing conditions (supporting fodder crops); and to strengthen the coordination of emergency agricultural initiatives.

  • Within the framework of a regional project funded by the Government of Sweden, $800 000 have been allocated to agricultural relief activities in Zimbabwe. The project focuses on local seed multiplication, small irrigation schemes, monitoring and conservation agriculture and labour-saving farming methods, more appropriate for high HIV/AIDS prevalence communities.
Ongoing emergency activities

The ongoing seed distribution campaign for the late/winter crop is in its final stage. Thanks to funding from the European Commission, over 110 000 farm families in Matabeleland North, Mashonaland West and Central, Manicaland and Masvingo provinces will have received a kit containing vegetable and bean seeds.

Coordination activities

NGOs, donors, and several technical services of the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Rural Resettlement (NEWU, AREX) participate in the monthly FAO coordination meeting for agricultural emergency interventions. The European Commission (EC) has indicated that they would like FAO to assist in coordinating future agricultural interventions supported by the EC.

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