13 June 2003, Johannesburg/Rome --
Southern Africa still requires substantial food aid despite the
fact that more food was produced in the region than during last
year's severe food crisis, according to reports released by
the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World
Food Programme (WFP).
This was the stark
finding of joint FAO/WFP assessment missions announced at a
meeting in Johannesburg on 12 June of United Nations agencies,
government representatives, SADC, donors, and non-governmental
organizations (NGO's) examining the humanitarian assistance
needs in southern Africa.
covered Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and
As a whole, the region has
produced enough food to meet more than two-thirds of its food
requirements, with the general food security situation improving
regionally helped by the increased production in Zambia and
Production, however, has been
uneven, with Zimbabwe producing barely enough to meet 40 percent
of its needs.
Acute food shortages
Zimbabwe faces acute
food shortages with some 5.5 million people in need of food aid.
Food production in Zimbabwe has fallen by more than 50 percent,
measured against a five-year average, due mostly to the current
social, economic and political situation and the effects of
The situation was compounded by
the marked reduction of the large-scale farm sector, which
produced only about one-tenth of their 1990s output. As a
result, about half of the regional food deficit of some 2.65
million tonnes is in Zimbabwe.
shortfall means that Zimbabwe will need to import almost 1.3
million tonnes of food, either commercially or through food aid,
to meet the minimum food needs of its people.
In Mozambique, food production surged in the north of
the country, but parts of the south and central region continue
to face serious food shortages affecting 949,000 people in 40
districts. Some areas in Swaziland and Lesotho also continue to
Over the next year, the
six southern African countries will need to import at least 2.6
million tonnes of food to meet their minimum food needs. Food
surpluses in South Africa far exceed this amount and some cross
border trade among other countries will continue to take place.
In addition, for the region to resume
agricultural growth, increased and carefully targeted support
will be needed for the agriculture sectors of the six countries.
Access to food
Cereal production has increased from 5.4
million tonnes in 2001/02 to nearly 6.3 million tonnes this year
across the region. However, the key issues remain physical and
economic access to food for certain segments of the population.
In Lesotho, the overall situation has
improved because of better production and commercial import
capacity. In Malawi, crop production has improved significantly
since the widespread food shortages in 2002. Malawi has managed
to produce or has in reserve this year about 2.3 million tonnes
of cereals, leaving a national shortfall of only 90 000 tonnes.
Swaziland's food security has improved
slightly over the last year, but the country has had its third
consecutive poor harvest and will again require food aid this
year. In Zambia, cereal production is estimated at about 1.3
million tonnes, almost double the output of 2002.
Other reasons for continued food aid assistance,
despite increased overall food availability, are household
vulnerability caused by the on-going HIV/AIDS pandemic and the
fact that last year's severe food shortages forced many
people to use up the limited resources they had just to survive.
HIV/AIDS infection rates in southern Africa
are the highest in the world, making those infected all the more
vulnerable to health complications and death when food shortages
occur and affecting the lives and livelihoods of communities as
a whole. An alarming increase has been found in households
headed by children and grandparentsin the region.
The joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment
missions bring together leading agricultural and food
vulnerability specialists and include observers from
governments, SADC, donor agencies and NGOs.
The reports constitute the most objective and
authoritative study of the crop and food supply situation in the
region and are used by donors and aid agencies to determine food
and agricultural assistance requirements for the year ahead.
FAO News Group
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WFP Chief Spokesperson
(+39) 06 6513 2602
(+27) 11 517 1662 (office), (+27) 832 913 750 (mobile)
(+27) 11 517 1656 (office), (+27) 833 004 958