SADC members face food shortage

Sunday August 25 2019

Chimanimani area in Mozambique was hit by Cyclone Idai in March 2019. The country is facing a food shortage after the floods destroyed farms. PHOTO | AFP


The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has a food shortage with an overall decline in food production. Heads of State and government leaders from the bloc’s 16 member countries have called for a comprehensive multi-year response plan for the crisis.

The leaders said that a prolonged drought and floods, which hit Mozambique, Malawi and Zimbabwe, have exacerbated the problem. In addition, poor harvesting and the effects of climate change have been a major reason for the disaster, they noted.

According to Domingos Gove, the SADC secretariat director for agriculture, food and natural resource, only Zambia and South Africa have adequate food supplies in their granaries.

“Our regional states have experienced poor rainfall, the lowest recorded in the past 15 years,” he said.

He added that the SADC Environmental Vulnerability Assessment Committee was monitoring the situation in the different bloc member states. “We are working with various national environmental vulnerability committees. It’s a continuous process.” 

A report of food and nutrition in Southern Africa, which was released shortly before the 39th SADC Heads of State Summit last weekend, estimated that 41.2 million people in 13 SADC member states are food insecure this year. The most affected countries are Zimbabwe, Mozambique, eSwatini, Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


According to the World Food Programme, 2.5 million Zimbabweans are facing starvation, and five million, a third of the population, are in dire need of food aid. Two of Harare’s four reservoirs are empty due to drought.

The bloc’s food reserve is 38.5 million tonnes for the year 2019/2020 harvesting season, mostly from South Africa, Zambia and Tanzania. South Africa had 15.5 million tonnes of cereals, Tanzania had 8.7 million tonnes and Zambia had 5.2 million tonnes of grain.

The other member countries recorded less than five million tonnes each during the just ended harvest, the report noted.

Maize accounts for 80 per cent of the cereal production in southern Africa. Other important cereals are wheat, sorghum, millet and rice. Only seven per cent of cultivated land is irrigated.

Most farmers in southern Africa are smallholders whose farms are less than five hectares.