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State of food insecurity and vulnerability in Southern Africa
Regional Synthesis
November 2006
Southern African Development Community (SADC) FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee

Acknowledgements: Posted with permission of the RVACs


Summary Areas of Concern in 2006

The vulnerability assessments and analysis carried out in most of the SADC countries indicate that food availability has improved tremendously with the good agricultural production in the 2005/06 season. However, pockets of food insecurity still persist in most countries across the region for the following reasons:

  • Excessive rainfall received in some areas had a negative impact by destroying crops, roads and bridges making some areas inaccessible and thus affecting availability of grain. The excessive rain also resulted increased incidence of water borne diseases;
  • Chronic vulnerability to food insecurity, particularly among populations dependent on rain fed agriculture;
  • Increased erosion of assets resulting in weak resiliency and failing livelihoods of the already poor households due to droughts, HIV and AIDS and other hazards;
  • High morbidity and mortality as a result of water-borne disease, such as malaria, cholera and diarrhoea and the high prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the region;
  • Current interventions are poorly targeted and not addressing the main constraints or shocks of communities;
  • Poor implementation of coordinated programmes on health, education, HIV and AIDS, water and sanitation;
  • Trade imbalance between those with political power and the poor (governance issues) and;
  • Inappropriate Government policies e.g. policies discouraging trade and free markets.
  1. Areas of Immediate Concern

    Food: High rates of malnutrition and cases of food insecurity were reported in some of the six countries assessed. An estimated total of 3.1 million people are food insecure in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Most of these people are chronically food insecure, with a few cases of transitory food insecurity in areas affected by floods, excessive rains and dry spells. The worst affected areas depicted by low dietary intake, high prevalence of malnutrition or high coping strategies index and at least 30% of the population assessed as food insecure are:

    • Lesotho: Senqu River Valley and the Mountains Region;
    • Malawi: isolated districts such as Kasungu, Mzimba, Ntchisi and Dowa in the Central, Nsanje, and Chikwawa in the South;
    • Swaziland: Areas in the Lubombo region;
    • Zimbabwe: Binga, Kariba, Hwange, Rushinga, Mudzi, Chiredzi, and Umzingwane Districts.

    Non-Food: Water and sanitation conditions are poor in most of the rural districts of Swaziland and in some areas in Mozambique where salinity is a problem. School dropouts are high in Zimbabwe and Swaziland with the main reason being unaffordable school fees and also deaths or illness in the family.


  2. Chronic/ Transitory Food Insecurity

    Isolated cases of food insecure populations need assistance mainly through developmental programmes and programmes targeting the: chronically malnourished children, asset poor households and poor households with a chronically ill member or with the recent death of a household member. The chronic food insecurity conditions that seem to affect some populations in the region need to be addressed through developmental programmes and other policy interventions, which include a concerted effort to reduce the poverty levels, and to address the special needs of households affected by HIV and AIDS.


  3. Recommended Interventions

    Short Term Interventions:

    • Interventions in the form of food-for-work, child supplementary feeding, therapeutic feeding and home based care for the chronically ill in vulnerable households, households that are vulnerable and hosting orphans, etc should be assisted to prevent them from resorting to negative coping mechanisms. Such interventions should also be linked to long-term developmental programmes.
    • Targeted cash transfers to meet immediate food needs should be implemented where markets are well functioning.
    • Since most countries in the region had surplus production in relation to their stated requirements, humanitarian agencies (NGOs and the UN agencies such as WFP) should attempt to purchase commodities locally for their programmes with food components to support local markets especially in areas where households are selling their maize at very low prices.
    • Provision of support in the form of agricultural inputs such as fertilizers should be done through the markets where functional and through special arrangements for the poor farmers and where markets are not functioning properly to allow farmers access to affordable inputs.
    • Agricultural input support programmes through input trade fairs, voucher system, etc should be implemented to promote a wide range of crops in a way that does not undermine emerging market based seed security systems.

    Intermediate to Long Term Interventions

    • Government and international organizations should introduce developmental projects such as rehabilitation of roads, and bridges damaged by the heavy rains to facilitate physical access to markets for rural households that depend on sales of food and cash crops (and possibly livestock and their products) for income.
    • Development of small-scale irrigation systems and conservation farming should be encouraged to expand the agricultural base and crop diversity for the rural communities.
    • International agencies should assist Governments in promoting health and nutrition education on dietary intake and disease prevention which should also be essential in all developmental programs aimed at changing behaviour on health and nutrition practices.
    • The chronic nature of vulnerability that exists within some populations in the SADC countries needs to be addressed through a concerted effort by government-funded Social Protection Programmes, with support from international agencies.
    • Promote local knowledge on the use of improved drinking water sources to reduce disease. In addition, programmes that improve capacity to store water during the dry season should be promoted.
    • Programmes to reduce seasonal or permanent school dropouts should be implemented by the government and development partners.

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