THE SADC region is poised for a good harvest this year following the good rains received across the region thus far, thanks to the La Nina weather phenomenon.
This is opposed to the drought experienced last season caused by El Nino, which spawned hunger across the region, leaving virtually all the 15 members of the regional bloc importing food.
But as we reported last week, while the rains brought good news in as far as an improved harvest is concerned, they also brought misery in the form of floods that destroyed infrastructure, pests and diseases and the region therefore needs to up its ante and respond to the damage these have caused.
A SADC 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 cyclones Dineo and Enawo.
A country-by-country analysis by FEWS shows that most countries have had a good agricultural season and would be able to produce enough food for their people.
On the other hand, a number of countries were on the receiving end of the cyclones, which left a trail of destruction.
Barring the adverse weather conditions, we believe that a good agricultural season is the bedrock upon which economies in the region, most of which are agro-based, will rebound and help to improve the livelihoods of the people of Southern Africa and beyond.
This, compounded with other commodities produced in the region, must provide good news for planners in the countries of the region who must now hope for better prices for their commodities.
But while we are optimistic about economic growth as a result of an improved agricultural season, we are concerned about the destruction that cyclones Dineo and Enawo, as well the fall armyworm, have caused in the region. Added to that is the scourge of malaria, which has reportedly stalked countries such as Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
At their summit at Ezulwini, Swaziland, last week, regional leaders also expressed their concern at the effects of the cyclones and agreed to improve co-ordination and collaboration efforts to promote a harmonised approach in the management of the fall armyworm and mobilise resources to implement management and control strategies for the plant and other livestock pests as well as diseases.
The leaders also reaffirmed their solidarity and SADC’s responsibility to alleviate the suffering of the people following the effects of the cyclones.
They encouraged all member states to consider providing humanitarian relief support to the affected member states and directed the SADC Secretariat to urgently finalise and operationalise the region’s disaster preparedness and response mechanisms.
This, we believe, shows the seriousness with which leaders are taking the negative effects of the good rainy season. We urge SADC to urgently attend to these issues so that the promising good agricultural season is not blighted by the negatives.
We are reminded here of roads, bridges and other infrastructure destroyed by Cyclone Eline in 2000, which have not yet been attended to in some countries in the region, leaving people at the receiving end.
We urge the leaders to follow their words with action and hope that in future, the region is well prepared for such disasters and moves with speed to address the destruction of infrastructure and the outbreak of pests and diseases.