By Mpho Tebele
GABORONE-The good news about Cyclone Dineo that hit the region last month is that the Southern African Development Community (SADC) food security is expected to improve this season compared to last season but the bad and ugly side is that the region is left counting losses.
ASADC Food Security Early Warning System report released on March 17 states that the regional food security situation during the 2017/18 marketing year is expected to improve compared to the previous season but also sheds light on the trail of destruction left behind by Cyclone Dineo.
The report states that this is due to the significant increases in agricultural production expected in some countries within the region.
For the 2016/17 agricultural season, the Ministry of Agriculture in Angola distributed 2 995 tonnes of maize seed; 234 tonnes of sorghum and millet seed; 7 672 tonnes of various types of fertilizer (NPK, Ammonium Sulphate and Urea) and 2 975 of ploughs.
This, the report says, was done to boost agriculture production in the affected areas this season. The report says Botswana received heavy rains in many parts of the country, which are expected to increase agricultural production this season.
Many parts of the country received above normal rains this season which are expected to improve agricultural production this season. The good rains are also expected to improve pasture and water availability for animals.
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to the satellite images received so far, the north-western parts of the country has received normal to above normal rainfall while the rest of the country received normal to below normal rainfall.
In Lesotho, agricultural production this season is expected to be better than last season.
From the onset of rains around November 2016, the rainfall pattern has been normal to above normal in most parts of the country and the rainfall performance is much better than last season.
“Production prospects are above average to be confirmed after the release of the agricultural production estimates in May/June 2017. The pasture and water availability for animal conditions are much better this season compared to last season,” reads the report.
Madagascar has received below average rainfall in most parts of the country and is likely to negatively impact on agricultural production in the country this season.
“If the situation does not improve, food imports may be required to offset the food deficit the country is likely to face this season. Food production may have been compromised by tropical cyclones which have devastated the country,” the report says.
It says Malawi is expecting an increase in the production of most of the crops including in the staple food maize.
“The heavy rains that have been experienced in the country this season resulted in flooding in some areas such as in Lilongwe and Salima districts,” reads the report.
Despite the excessive and low rainfall experienced in some parts of the country, the report says, generally the rainfall performance is much better compared to last season. As a result of this, production of most crops is expected to increase.
Mauritius, which imports over 60,000 tonnes rice every year, is said to be working hard to increase domestic production of rice as one way of reducing reliance on imports.
Mozambique felt the full impact of Cyclone Dineo when it hit the coast of southern Inhambane province on February 15, and affected about 112 513 households with 7 deaths and 101 people injured.
The cyclone also caused extensive damage to buildings and infrastructure in the affected areas. Over 135 000 fruit trees (cashew nut and cocoa trees) were lost and represented an important source of income for the population in the affected districts.
The government, as per the SADC report, estimates an overall funding requirement of about US$16.5 million to address the damages caused by the tropical depression, of which US$6.7 million is required immediately.
In Namibia, agricultural production is expected to be better than last season despite the dry spells experienced in some parts of the country.
“This season’s planting rains in Namibia started in late November, a month-and-a-half later than normally expected. However the rainfall performance has generally been better than last season. Most of the farmers planted with the onset of the planting rains in late November to early December 2016,” SADC said in its report. In the northern parts of the country, heavy rains resulted in flooding and current reports indicate that a number of people have been displaced from their homes and many schools closed, including 27 schools that were forced to close in Omusati region. The weather conditions have little impact with respect to availability of staple food in Seychelles.
“Rather it is the availability of resources to import the staple food, prices of the staple food and purchasing power of the people that really matters. However, the country has been affected by tomato leaf miner (Tuta Absoluta), which has devastated tomato production in the country,” reads the report.
The report shows that maize production in South Africa is expected to increase by 79 percent compared to last season.
“Most crops are expected to record an increase in production except soybean. The heavy rains that have been experienced in the country this season resulted in flooding in some areas.
“Despite the excessive rainfall experienced in some parts of the country, the rainfall performance is much better compared to last season,” the report states.
Swaziland’s agricultural production this year is expected to be much better than last season.
“The rains have also been higher compared to last season. Most of the crops are at maturity stage. Swaziland was not spared from the fall armyworm attack. The national agricultural estimates figures have not yet been released but it is anticipated that they will be higher compared to last season,” reads the report.
It says pasture and drinking water for livestock are readily available, a great improvement over last season when some livestock died due to lack of pasture and drinking water as a result of the drought. Livestock is in a good state in most parts of the country.
Prolonged dry spells experienced in Tanzania threaten the expected harvest outcome of most of the crops this season.
“Tanzania, one of the two countries in the region, which recorded a cereal surplus last season, has been hit by below normal rainfall this season. This will negatively affect the food availability situation in the country in the upcoming 2017/18 marketing season,” the report says.
The report says Zambia was the first country to report the outbreak of fall armyworm in the region, which threatened expected agricultural production this season.
“However, the government was quick in deploying resources to deal with the pest attack. The situation now appears to be under control. Overall agricultural production this year is expected to increase from last season, which was also a good year for the country,” the report says.
The report observes that heavy rains from tropical Cyclone Dineo resulted in floods across Zimbabwe leading to loss of lives and property.
Current reports indicate that the floods claimed the lives of 246 people; left almost 2,000 people vulnerable and damaged 2,579 homesteads and 74 schools. Various interventions are under way, led by the Cabinet Committee on Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Management with the support of national and international partners.