By Petronella Sibeene
Record high food prices and lack of food security in Southern Africa is disturbing SADC Heads of State with President Hifikepunye Pohamba calling on his counterparts to come up with robust responses and policy interventions to address the situation.
The President upon his arrival at Eros Airport on Monday told journalists that high food prices and poverty in general raised concern among SADC leaders at a conference on Poverty and Development held in Mauritius over the weekend.
There is fear that the high costs of living will push the previously non-poor households into poverty, President Pohamba said in his statement at the conference.
With high interest rates, skyrocketing fuel prices and consequently high food prices, families are forced to dispose of their meager assets to meet costs of food, health and other basic needs, he added.
The situation has even been made worse in Southern Africa, a region grappling with high cases of diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and pneumonia. These, President Pohamba said, have negative effects on national economies.
This year, the crop outlook in the region is bleak as thousands of hectares of crops were submerged in water given the heavy rains this rainy season.
“Natural disasters increase the vulnerability of the poor and make it difficult for them to recover from these shocks,” he said.
Southern Africa faces pressing problems of food security and declining agricultural production as a result of droughts and floods.
The majority of people in the region live in rural areas and heavily depend on agricultural activities for survival.
In Namibia, 52 percent of the population depends on crop production or livestock farming but the natural environment makes many parts of the agricultural base fragile.
With anticipation that most people will face hunger in the region, the SADC Declaration on Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development called for the setting up of a task force that would immediately look into the region’s food crisis.
The Task Force of Ministers of Trade, Agriculture and Finance will facilitate improved cross-border and internal food flows in SADC. It will also encourage regional collaboration and sustainably improve the production capacity of food.
The conference resolved to establish a Regional Poverty Observatory that will monitor progress made in the implementation of actions in the main priority areas of poverty eradication.
The SADC presidents also urged international cooperating partners to assist and provide predictable, additional and dedicated resources to the region including foreign direct investment in SADC.
President Pohamba said middle income countries like Namibia should have access to international development assistance to enable the country to address food and agricultural programmes.
He explained that the levels of poverty and deprivation prevailing in the rural and communal areas of middle income countries are the same as those found in least developed countries.
International aid, President Pohamba said, would enable Namibia to improve the standard of living of women and reduce levels of poverty.
The President said the conference was worth attending as it brought out common issues faced by member states especially that related to poverty.