Concrete measures needed now to tackle droughts

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As was predicted by weather expects a few months ago, a drought is ravaging most countries in the SADC region, with millions of people facing food shoartages.

Although there has been some rains in some parts of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana, South Africa and Namibia over the past week, these have come too little too late and mitigatory measures must therefore be implemented as soon as possible.

The Zimbabwean media was this week awash with stories of people running out of food in some parts of the country and livestock running out of pasture in the southern districts.

The situation is the same, if not dire, in other countries across the region, with analysts and weather experts predicting serious  consequences.

But we believe with proper planning, the effect of droughts across the SADC should be a thing of the past.

The region has a network of rivers where some countries have invested in dams to store water for irrigation and domestic consumption.

We believe much more needs to be done to develop more irrigation infrastructure to sustain agriculture and crop development.

As we have said before, climate change is real and is here to stay and the Africa region is much more vulnerable.

This therefore calls for planning on the part of governments on the continent to mitigate the effects of the droughts. 

It is sad that most countries in the SADC region are still heavily dependent on rain-fed agriculture, and poor rains spell doom for prospects for growth. 

This also means huge amounts of money would have to be channeled towards importing food, money which would otherwise have been channeled towards other needy areas like health, education and infrastructural development.

This is why we have always called upon leaders in the region to move away from over reliance on rain-fed agriculture. 

Countries like Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe have fertile soils which could be developed for irrigation.  In fact, the SADC region should no longer be relying on rain-fed agriculture. 

We reiterate the need for massive investment in dams and irrigation infrastructure so that when the region is hit by natural calamities such as droughts, it can still be able to produce food for its peoples.

We believe the region can adequately plan for droughts if there is political will by governments to invest in dams and irrigation systems that would ensure countries do not have to wait for the rainy seasons, but can plant crops year round. 

Examples abound elsewhere where arid countries have gone on to develop their agricultural systems such that they do not feel the effects of droughts.

We have always maintained that if a country like Israel, which is largely desert, can develop its agriculture to a point of being a net exporter of food, what stops countries in Southern Africa from doing the same?

The region is endowed with good climate and has fairly large rivers which could be dammed for agricultural purposes.  We see no reason why year in and year out, countries watch millions of cubic metres of water flowing to the Indian and Atlantic oceans, but sit and mourn about poor rains.

We believe it is time for leaders in the region to think outside the box and stop relying on rain-fed agriculture. 

We once again call upon them to take proactive measures to tame the recurrent droughts.

The time for action is now.  SADC countries must therefore make concerted efforts to tame the droughts and avert hunger across the region.

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