SADC countries revise food situation figures

By Emmanuel Muwamba – Most countries in the SADC region have revised their initial assessment findings for the peak lean season due to better in-country food security conditions than previously projected, a report says.

“A number of national Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) have revised their initial assessment findings downwards for the peak lean season due to improving in-country food security conditions.

“The MVAC [Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee] will announce its revised figures for the total number of food insecure people before December and it is anticipated to announce a smaller population following improvements in rural food availability and lower food prices,” reads a report released on Friday by a US-funded Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet).

Minister of Information and Civic Education Symon Vuwa Kaunda said he had no comment because he had not seen the report. In August, SADC Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate (Fanr) said the number of SADC citizens in need for humanitarian assistance would rise to more than four million net year from 3.26 million in 2009/10 despite better harvests in most countries in the region.

But a report titled Southern Africa Food Security Outlook for October 2010 through March 2011 says food security conditions over most parts of the region remain generally stable and are expected to remain so throughout the outlook period.

“This stability is largely due to the excellent maize harvest of the past season which, at 29.42 million metric tonnes, has increased by 38 percent compared to the five year average of 21.3 million metric tonnes. Overall, the region has produced adequate supplies of staple foods with South Africa and Zambia in particular, projecting exportable maize surpluses that are available for export to neighbouring deficit countries,” says the report.

Mozambique VAC has reduced the number of people in need of food assistance at the peak lean season from 456 000 to 350 000 (a decrease of 23 percent). In Zimbabwe, a recent food security analysis updates indicate a significant narrowing of the projected cereal gap from 385 000 metric tonnes in May to 111 000, a 71 percent reduction.

The report says governments and their partners in SADC are responding to the food needs of these vulnerable households through intervention programmes that include public works programmes and in some cases general food distribution.

In Malawi, the report says, the greater part of the country is expected to continue enjoying the current favourable food security conditions throughout the outlook period, save for the southern districts of Nsanje and Chikhwawa.

“These areas have experienced substantial drought and related crop failure leading to food access problems for very poor households. Some households are benefiting from food aid programme implemented by the government, WFP, and various NGOs targeting 145 000 beneficiaries,” reads the report.

Although the revised food insecure population in southern Malawi is expected to be lower compared to the June MVAC estimate of 1.1 million, the actual numbers are yet to be released.