Ministers of Agriculture of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) met in Johannesburg, Thursday, to discuss the way forward amid the global economic downturn that has strained their respective economies and now threatens the region’s food security and agriculture production.
In her opening speech, SA’s newly-appointed minister of agriculture water and forestry, Tina Joemat-Petterson, said: “This region is not immune to the current global financial crisis. This is evidenced by the current challenges that continue to impede the implementation of our agree-upon programmes and limit our access to financial resources.
“However, the high food prices are not only a threat to millions of poor people, they are also an opportunity for small-scale farmers to increase their production. But they need our support and assistance.
“We have to confront this from the perspective of making food available to the most vulnerable, and help the small producers to raise their production thereby increase their income.”
Moreover, one of the main reasons of the SADC’s food crisis and decrease of agriculture production is due to the excessive rainfall and flooding that marred northern Namibia, southern Angola, northern Botswana, western Zambia and some parts of Malawi and Madagascar, resulting not only in loss of crops and livestock but also to the loss of lives.
While southern Madagascar, Tanzania and Lesotho received below average rainfall, the excessive rainfall in some parts of SADC was caused by climate change that has also exacerbated water shortage and water quality problems within the region.
Joemat-Petterson pointed out: “The impact and intensity of some of the floods and droughts, and water quality due to climate change can be addressed through integrated water resources management. In responding to this, resources have to be committed in research in crops that are resistant to drought and those that may have a short life cycle.
“It is therefore imperative to introduce early warning systems that will allow us to mitigate risk at an early stage.”
Currently, the region is also threatened by the outbreak of diseases such as foot-and-mouth, avian influenza, rift valley fever, African swine fever and rabies and plant diseases that have impacted negatively on agricultural trade and production and trade in animal and plant products.
Joemat-Petterson also called on the World Bank for a short response to help and assist the region with challenges such as climate change and the millennium development goals targets in the longer term.
The ministers, who were due to issue a joint communiqué at the end of the meeting Thursday night, also reviewed progress and the implementation of the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and the Dar-es-Salam Declaration Plan of Action on Agriculture and Food Security. (BizCommunity)