GABORONE, South Africa — The Southern African Development Community recently held a workshop to address the increase in poverty and food security issues due to the South African El Nino drought.
On Monday, May 16th, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) held the ministerial workshop in Gaborone, South Africa. The meeting’s objective was to discuss ways to eliminate poverty and strengthen food security in Southern African regions.
Established in 1992, the SADC is a Regional Economic Community comprised of 15 South African states. The SADC is committed to regional integration and poverty relief, and it focuses on economic development, peace and security.
The Effects of El Niño
As President of Botswana and Chairperson of the SADC, Dr. Seretse Khama Ian Khama stated at the workshop that the country recently experienced its worst drought since 1992. El Niño caused the region a sharp decline in food production.
Additionally, the drought generated dry spells in Botswana, Lesotho and Namibia and has expanded to the maize belt of South Africa, Southern Angola and Southern Zimbabwe. These states experienced a loss of grazing, reduced water sources, slow growth in livestock production and a surge in animal diseases.
Furthermore, there has been little accessibility to water and grazing plains. Unfortunately, this issue has had an adverse effect on livestock and crops. Cereal production, for example, has decreased 21 percent from 2014 to 2015. In response, the Botswana Government introduced a 50 percent increase in subsidies to livestock feeds to prevent a massive malnutrition crisis.
Southern African Development Community
One of the SADC’s major objectives is poverty alleviation. President Dr. Khama stated that 40 percent of SADC citizens currently live in poverty. This demonstrates the continued integration of poverty into the region.
Another guest at the workshop, the Executive Secretary of the SADC, Dr. Stergomena Lawrence-Tax, noted that according to the Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis of 2015, 25.2 million people were vulnerable to food insecurity over the past five years. Additionally, the World Health Organization states that 43.6 percent of people throughout the region lived below the poverty line at $1.25 a day in 2012. Since then, there has unfortunately only been a 2.6 percent annual growth rate.
On the bright side, the workshop created some solutions to these issues. To name a few: increased budget distributions for agriculture, increased disaster funds, social protections to reduce poverty and new Sustainable Development Goals.
Hence, President Dr. Khama stated, “As partners in this initiative, our main aim is to enhance the standards of living and quality of life of all our people.” He also indicated that the efforts to improve agricultural production would focus on marginalized groups, such as poor women and children.
The Regional Poverty Observatory
The Regional Poverty Observatory (RPO) partners with the SADC on these issues. Its goal is to oversee the enacted poverty alleviation strategies. Additionally, the observatory manages the poverty data of the region and increases dialogue about the dimensions of the poverty issue. In the fight to end poverty, the RPO promotes cooperation and integration of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
Moreover, the private and public sectors are going to be held accountable. They are responsible for making sure that poverty and food security are high priority issues that are immediately addressed. These concerns cannot be dealt with in isolation, as they require agenda policies from both sectors.
Thankfully, the workshop drew in supporters who can help enact such change. In fact, Representatives and stakeholders from the Ministers of Southern African Development Community member states, financial institutions, international cooperating partners, farmers’ organizations, private sector employees, civil society employees and government officials are just a handful of the groups now working to improve poverty and food issues within South Africa.
– Kimber Kraus