Hunger may see millions of migrants moving across SADC borders
Pretoria – The Southern Africa Development Community is besieged with massive food shortages as regional assessments indicate cereal deficits of millions of tons.
Last year, the United Nations said the region was facing the worst drought in decades, affecting around 45 million people in 14 countries.
Experts cite significantly less and late rainfall, coupled with long-term increases in temperatures, as the factors jeopardising the food security and energy supplies of millions of people in the region.
The worst affected nations include Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Political analyst Tino Mambeu told African News Agency (ANA) that the current wave of hunger could trigger mass movements of people to economies perceived to be better off, in a region already struggling to cope with mass flows across borders.
“The current drought and poverty in the region will increase the movement of people from countries like Zimbabwe into South Africa. South Africa itself is facing challenges of a broken economy and unemployment,” said Mambeu.
“The influx of foreign nationals from Zimbabwe will heighten tensions and result in flare ups of xenophobic attacks.”
Mambeu said food security and economic development had everything to do with good governance, transparency, investment in research, and proper management of resources.
“It all comes down to proper leadership skills, proper management of resources, and research. Zimbabwe has put more than US$5 billion into “Command Agriculture” since 2017 but at the moment the citizens are dying of hunger. Over five million Zimbabweans are reported to be at risk. The money was all stolen and no command ever happened,” said the Gauteng-based Mambeu.
He pointed out that “desert agriculture”, which is one of the success stories in Israel, had seen the Middle East country rated 18th out of 113 countries in the world on the Global Food Security Index 2019.
In South Africa, agricultural federation AgriSA sounded the alarm last year after conducting a survey amongst its members, which included nine provincial and 26 commodity organisations, as well as 43 corporates.
Key findings from the survey included that since January 2018, the agricultural sector in South Africa had shed at least 31 000 jobs in provinces severely affected by the drought and lost approximately R7 billion turnover due to drought.
Additionally, more than 50% of respondents in the survey indicated some form of depression, anxiety or other behavioural health issues.
A recently released integrated food security report, quoted by The Namibian, revealed that more than 430 000 Namibians faced severe food insecurity.
The US ambassador to Namibia, Lisa Johnson, recently announced the expansion of the US's drought assistance in Namibia to six more regions.
The government of Zimbabwe also recently revealed that it was set to import maize from Uganda to avert hunger caused by drought and economic challenges in what was once southern Africa's bread basket.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa said his Ugandan counterpart Yoweri Museveni offered him maize when the two leaders met on the sidelines of the recent African Union summit in Ethiopia.
Mnangagwa deployed a team led by lands, agriculture, water and rural resettlement minister Perrance Shiri to Uganda to thrash out the logistics of importing the much-needed grain.
The Zimbabwe leader said his country had previously managed to withstand two consecutive droughts because of grain reserves accumulated beforehand.
However, about eight million Zimbabweans still faced food insecurity due to the latest drought, which left over 45 000 cattle dead in the Masvingo, Midlands and Matabeleland provinces.
African News Agency (ANA)