Pandemic worsens food insecurity

Common climate-induced shocks such as droughts and floods, economic challenges and poverty have been further exacerbated by the devastating impact of the coronavirus.

04 August 2020 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK



A new report, released by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), has revealed that close to 44.8 million people in urban and rural areas in the region are food insecure.

Of this number, projections of last year indicate that in Namibia more than 330 000 people are severely food insecure. An updated assessment is expected at the end of this month. The 2020 Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa also reveals that the number of food-insecure people, lacking reliable access to sufficient quantity of nutritious food, has increased by almost 10% in 2020, compared with the same time last year. Based on these findings, SADC is recommending measures to help those affected by increased food insecurity.

These include short-term measures such as social protection programmes to support those immediately affected, as well as longer-term strategies focused on the maintenance of domestic and international supply chains and incentives for the diversification of agricultural production.



Perfect storm

According to the report, common climate-induced shocks such as droughts and floods, economic challenges and poverty have been further exacerbated by the devastating impact of the coronavirus.

Rural food insecurity is expected to peak between November 2020 and January 2021, by which time smallholder farming households would have depleted their own food stocks, with the next harvest not expected until April 2021.

According to the report, this year's crop production was affected by the late onset of rains, prolonged dry spells, sporadic heavy rainfall, as well as pest outbreaks. Despite these factors, the region is expected to see a year-on-year increase in maize production of at least 8% in the 2020/21 marketing year.

“The largest increase is expected in Namibia, estimated at 180% of 2019 tonnage and 33% above the five-year averaget.”



Good harvest

Namibia had a good harvest, the report says. However, current challenges include poor global and local economic performance, prolonged drought in parts of the country and the continued effects of the coronavirus lockdown which include price increases, job losses, reduced access to food and reduced access to remittances.

“Based on the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) projections of October 2019 an estimated 354 000 Namibians are in IPC Phase 3 (crisis). These figures are expected to rise especially in urban settlements due to the coronavirus impact.”

Assessments are currently under way to estimate food insecurity between January 2020 and March 2021.

According to the report this update is expected by the end of July.

Current and planned interventions in the country include continued support to farmers through planned incentive programmes, continued relief aid to the needy, consultations on the provision of housing or land for residential purposes and continued monitoring of the food insecurity situation in the country.

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