Southern Africa has solutions to food insecurity
Southern Africa has developed solutions to address food insecurity but is moving too slowly on implementation, according to government ministers from the region.
The ministers, meeting at the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Council of Ministers in Gaborone, have called for a speedier process of implementation of the Dar es Salaam Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, approved two years ago by SADC heads of state and government.
The declaration urges SADC member states to dedicate 10 percent of annual national budgets to agriculture, a pledge also made at a subsequent African Union Summit in Maputo, and encourages sustainable use of natural resources.
Swaziland's Minister of Economic Affairs, Absalom Dlamini, told Council that the region has found a solution to the pressing issue of food security if the goals of the Declaration are implemented.
Dlamini also thanked SADC for promoting the spirit of regional integration in which countries that experienced drought could rest their hopes.
The ministers, mostly from finance, economic development and cooperation, agreed that the SADC declaration provides a long-term solution to the problem of food shortages and poverty in the region.
Food security continues to be the region's most pressing challenge and SADC member states are committed to effectively implement the Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security which provides lasting solutions.
The declaration was adopted by a special summit of SADC leaders on agriculture and food security on 15 May 2004, and is due for an assessment of progress this year.
The leaders agreed to develop and implement short, medium and long-term action plans to address these challenges so as to accelerate food production, guarantee food security and reduce poverty.
The declaration identifies short-term targets in the areas of irrigation development, provision of inputs, control of pests and diseases, agricultural processing and production. The short-term targets are for two years (2004-2006), and progress will be reviewed at the end of every two years from the date of signature.
Among the medium-to-long-term commitments (2004-2010) SADC leaders agreed to address are sustainable use and management of natural resources; disaster preparedness; market access; research, technology development and dissemination; and agricultural financing and investment; as well as training, human resource development, gender equality, HIV and AIDS and other chronic diseases.
Questionnaires have been distributed to the SADC member states in a bid to assess progress on implementation, and eight countries have responded, detailing progress.
The SADC Director of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Margaret Nyirenda, said there is need for more sensitisation to help countries to select sectors that have relevance to agriculture to boost production and thus to reduce poverty.
The region faces a projected cereal shortfall for the period 2005/06 of about 1.07 million tonnes from the total anticipated harvest of about 32.01 million tonnes.
The projected harvest includes stocks in the strategic grain reserves, mostly in South Africa, which expects to harvest in excess of 5.46 million tonnes of cereal this year.
The Chairperson of the Council, Baledzi Gaolathe, who is Botswana's Minister of Finance and Development Planning, told delegates that the increase in maize production and huge carryover stocks in South Africawill lead to a regional surplus of 2.28 million tonnes.
"Council is further invited to note that the region is experiencing deficits in all the other cereal crops of wheat (2.18 million tonnes), rice (1.05 million tonnes) and sorghum and millet (121,000 tonnes)," Gaolathe said.
The South African Minister of Foreign Affairs, Nkosazana Zuma, said there is need for more consultations to find solutions to poverty in southern Africa.
She told Council that South Africahas released US$140 million through the World Food Programme and another US$140 million through the Food and Agriculture Organisation as direct relief to citizens affected by poverty in the region.
Malawi's finance minister, Goodall Gondwe, said the food crisis has been worsened by delays in the transportation of food ordered in South Africa. He added that Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe are disadvantaged because they are landlocked.
More than 30 ministers and deputy ministers are attending the Council meeting at Boipuso Hall in the heart of Gaborone, the capital of Botswana.