Southern Africa accounts for less than one percent of global carbon emissions but is on the brink of hosting the world’s first climate change-induced drought.
The unwanted honour, according to the United Nations World Food Programme, will likely go to SADC member state Madagascar.
An ongoing drought in the Indian Ocean island state, the worst in four decades, has ravaged the south of the country, even as the SADC region as a whole anticipates another year of normal to above-average rains.
“These are famine-like conditions and they are being driven by climate not conflict,” the WFP’s Ms Shelly Thakral said this week.
She said while Southern Africa’s carbon footprint was miniscule, temperatures in the region “are rising at double the global rate and climate impacts such as cyclones and droughts are rampant”.
“Climate change is just one of many forces now endangering economies and food security in Southern Africa.”
Meanwhile, a SADC Regional Climate Outlook Forum report forecasts normal to above normal rainfall for much of the region in October-December 2021. This is thanks to the La Niña weather phenomenon in the central Pacific Ocean, which usually leads to wet conditions in Southern Africa.
Areas expected to get normal to above normal rains in the first half of the summer season are northern DRC, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe; and northwest Angola, central Mozambique, southern Malawi, most of Namibia, southeast Angola, western Botswana, southwest Zimbabwe, eastern Botswana, northern South Africa, eastern Lesotho and eSwatini, and southern Mozambique.
Normal to below normal rains are, however, expected in northwest Angola, most of the DRC, western and southern Madagascar, northern Malawi, northern Mozambique, western Namibia, western South Africa, southwest Tanzania, and northeast Zambia.
The prospects of good rains come amid rising numbers of food insecure people in the region.
SADC’s most recent Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security in the Region shows that 47,6 million people are food insecure, representing a 5,5 percent increase from 2020. The figure is 34,3 percent above the five-year average.
The report attributed the rise in food insecurity to disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change, political instability, natural disasters, gender disparities, diseases and pests, among other factors.
The report says the DRC recorded a 25 percent year-on-year increase in the number of food insecure people from 21,8 million to 27,3 million people. This rise was partly attributable to more communities being assessed.
In Madagascar, the number of food insecure people increased by 136 percent from last year.
SADC said rural food insecurity would peak between November 2021 and March 2022.
On malnutrition, the report said 19 million children in the region were stunted, translating to one-third of all minors.
“Food and nutrition insecure communities require urgent assistance in the form of food and/or cash-based transfers. Social protection programmes and shock-responsive social safety nets must be scaled up, incorporating gender perspectives,” the report further reads.
While South Africa, Zambia, and Zimbabwe recorded maize surplus, the above-average rainfall season was coupled with a destructive cyclone that affected over 500,000 people and damaged over 219,000 hectares of farmland.
Other countries like Angola, DRC, Namibia, Madagascar, and Mozambique experienced prolonged dry spells that affected crop production worsening malnutrition in these areas.
Reporting by Mpho Tebele in Gaborone and David Muchagoneyi in Harare