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28 million people require urgent aid

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) recently said that the ongoing El Niño induced drought in the region still continues to exact a heavy socio-economic toll on farmers despite recent rains.

According to a report published by Oxfam International, 41 million people are estimated to require food aid before the next harvest in March-April 2017. The report, The Longest Lean Season, reveals that 28 million people require urgent aid now.

SACAU’s Chief Executive Officer, Ishmael Sunga, noted that some of the effects would form part of programmatic interventions in the new year while other interventions would be more long-term.

Large income losses, defaulting on loans, crop losses, failure to plant due to poor rains, not having enough drinking water is causing livestock deaths which are worsened due to poor grazing and compromised crop quality are some of the effects farmers have had to deal with.

Media reports show that seven SADC countries are at greater risk of food insecurity. Countries hit the hardest in the SADC region are Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho and Swaziland.

The drought has led to an erosion of farmers’ production base, a loss of hope, dignity and confidence about the future. Many farmers are facing financial ruin,” Sunga said.

Our current situation is a product of inadequate investment in necessary infrastructure in the past. We risk being trapped in continuously dealing with these challenges. We must consolidate our effort to ensure a more forward-looking view,” Sunga said.

Dealing with the severe results of climate change requires a holistic approach; more youth coming into the industry and further technological developments alongside established agricultural methods will help drive a climate change resilient globe,” added Sunga.

Furthermore, SACAU acknowledges the desperate need for long term and short term solutions, despite the ending of the weather phenomenon’s cycle, its effects continue to be severely felt.

While food aid is welcomed, there are potential negative impacts not only on local prices for food but also on local production and investment. We cannot continue with a business as usual attitude. History may repeat itself and millions could starve and our efforts towards food security irreparably harmed,” said Sunga.

To avoid this, Sunga suggested that agricultural stakeholders take a regional comprehensive approach that is multi-disciplinary and multi stakeholder in nature.

We need to establish a coordination centre – an Agricultural Development Fund with risk management capacity – that will support a strategic and long-term approach that encourages investment in production and trade related infrastructure,” he added.

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