Windhoek - More than six million citizens from across the Southern African Development Community are in serious need of food aid because of the ongoing El Nino induced drought worsened by uncertain weather patterns driven by climate change.
So dire is the situation that two member states, Namibia and Zimbabwe, have rung alarm bells, declaring the natural calamity a national disaster as a way of attracting assistance from the international community.
What is more unseating is that the future does not look so good as the rippling effects of climate change, including both heavy flash floods and abnormally low rainfall patterns, have been the order of the day in different countries in the past five years and meteorologists forecast a continuation of such in the next few years.
Last week, Namibian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Neitumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, revealed that about 400 000 Namibian households in a population of just above two million need food aid until the next harvesting season.
In the same vein, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa revealed that about 5.1 million citizens from a population of about 15 million are in dire need of food aid.
Ironically other countries, including Zambia, which traditionally enjoys good rains, and Botswana situated in a severely desert climate, have not been spared by the severe drought conditions.
“So far the government has catered for about 250 000 households across the country who received food before the actual assessment was done. We expect the number of people needing food aid to double to 400 000 before the next harvesting season. We are very thankful to the international community who have come to our rescue since the President, Dr Hage Geingob, declared a national disaster. These include Republic of Egypt,” Nandi-Ndaitwah, said while receiving grain donated by the Egyptians to Namibia.
Namibia has to date received millions of food aid from countries within the confines of the African continent, the corporate world as well as other countries and humanitarian institutions worldwide.
Zimbabwe, which is running a programme code-named Command Agriculture to stimulate grain production, also thanked the international community following a shot in the arm from the United Nations which has managed to motivate close to US$100 million worth of aid since that country raised an SOS last week.
While the drought is ravaging across the region and makes it difficult for affected nations to find a quick solution, most countries in SADC are pushing towards irrigation driven agriculture in future to lower the over-reliance on natural rain which has evaded most countries.
Ironically, countries in the region enjoy different climatic conditions. While the few like Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia and perhaps Lesotho, are lucky to sit on rich arable land, some like Namibia and Botswana have become accustomed to bad weather conditions as they are in the middle of deserts.
Speaking at a recent SADC ministers meeting in Windhoek, SADC Executive Secretary Stergomena Tax called for the region to find better ways of dealing with disaster management as well as create modalities of helping in instances of drought and floods.
Her call somewhat corroborates with SADC leaders’ push for a highly mechanised agriculture sector based on harnessing water for irrigation as well as encouraging citizens to cultivate drought resistant crops where necessary.