Around 13.8 million people in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region are at risk of food insecurity, according to the latest SADC Report on Food Security.
The report shows that the total number of households at risk of food insecurity in the region has almost doubled from 3.95 million in 2014/15 to 7.58 million in 2015/16.
The figures represent an increase of 91.9 percent over the two financial years. The hardest-hit member states are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In some of the member states affected by severe food insecurity, such as Malawi, food assistance programmes are already underway.
The situation is a result largely of the reduced 2014/15 harvests. Because of the reduced supply of food to the markets, food prices in the region are also expected to be higher than the previous year.
The region recorded a maize deficit of about 1.9 million metric tonnes, as all countries recorded maize deficits, except Madagascar, South Africa Tanzania and Zambia, that respectively recorded a reduction in maize surplus ranging between 0.36 million metric tonnes and 0.88 million metric tonnes. The total deficit in all the cereals is recorded at over 8.4 million metric tonnes.
The unfavourable situation which the region is experiencing is largely ascribed to the El Nino weather phenomenon, which poses a threat to agricultural and livestock production in the region, according to the report.
El Nino typically causes below-average rains and above-average temperatures in most of the southern parts of the region and above-average rainfall in some of the northern parts of SADC.
“The 2014/15 rainfall season performed poorly in many parts of the SADC region. Torrential rains resulted in flooding and waterlogging in the northern parts of the region. Malawi, for example, experienced devastating floods, especially in the southern parts of the country,” reads the report.
The report further indicates that the SADC Climate Services Centre has forecast that the region is expected to receive rainfall ranging from normal to less-than-normal in the southern half of the region, and normal to higher-than-normal in the northern parts of the region, during the upcoming 2015/2016 rainfall season.
Like most SADC member states, Namibia is likely to receive normal to below-average rainfall during the 2015/16 rainfall season. Similar to the 2014/15 rain season the country should brace itself for poor crop harvests, and inadequate grazing conditions are highly likely to occur. There are also serious impacts on Namibia’s freshwater aquaculture and land-based fishing industry, as earthdams, ponds and other reservoirs are dry, due to the poor rainfall experienced last season.