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SADC - Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee


The VAC emergency food security assessments confirm the severity of the regional food crisis and provide compelling evidence that urgent action--beyond that of current levels--is required from national governments, regional bodies and the international community to avert a humanitarian disaster in the next seven months before the main harvest in April/May 2003.
  • Six SADC countries conducted emergency food security assessments (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
  • A similar assessment is underway in Namibia. The results will be available by the end of September.
  • Some 172 researchers participated in the field work, which lasted two to three weeks.
  • The teams visited 160 districts, 378 different communities, and interviewed 4,457 households.
  • The overall assessment process and methodology was coordinated and backstopped by the SADC Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
  • National Vulnerability Assessment Committees led the assessments in each country with broad participation from key stakeholders.
  • The objective of the assessments was to generate timely and necessary information and analysis to guide critical decision-making.
  • The assessment methodology draws from a livelihood-based vulnerability assessment framework.
  • Different questionnaires were used at the district, community and household levels.
  • The assessment methodology linked nutritional surveys with household interviews in four of the six countries (Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
  • This is the first in a series of three rolling emergency food security assessments following the April/May FAO/ WFP CFSAM. A second assessment, with similar objectives, will be complete by mid-December. The final assessment will take place towards the end of the cropping season.
  • In between assessments, the SADC FANR will assist affected countries in monitoring food security conditions, and undertaking special studies on topics or areas of particular concern.
Country Overviews:
  • Zimbabwe is threatened with a major humanitarian crisis and possible famine due to serious food shortages caused by erratic rainfall, a declining economy, and recent policy trends.
  • Malawi is suffering from structural food insecurity, exacerbated by two consecutive poor harvests. High levels of poverty leave many households with limited access to staple foods.
  • In Zambia, poor households in areas affected by drought face both physical food shortages and constrained access to food due to chronic poverty. There is growing concern over the threat of urban food insecurity.
  • While Lesotho is structurally dependent on food imports, declining productivity due to environmental degradation, coupled with low purchasing power due to reduced labour opportunities are exacerbating food security conditions.
  • Although Swaziland is a lower-middle income country, consecutive poor harvests the past two years exceed the government and private sector capacities to fill the cereal gap.
  • Despite good production in key cereal producing regions of northern Mozambique, drought conditions in some southern and central areas have led to pockets of food shortages, with access constrained by poor infrastructure and high market prices.
Other Key Findings:
  • Cereal import progress, representing efforts to fill the domestic food gap, is at about 25% in most countries, although Mozambique has imported 78% of requirements, while Zambia only 9%.
  • The frequency and types of coping strategies currently being employed by households in all countries indicate increasing economic and nutritional distress.
  • Female-headed households are typically poorer and more vulnerable to the effects of food shortages due to less income opportunities, less mobility, and high demands on their time as caregivers.
  • High rates of HIV/AIDS infection exacerbate and are exacerbated by the current food shortages. Implications for longer-term livelihood and food security are grim.
  • Nutritional wasting (weight-for-height), an indicator of extreme household food insecurity, is not severe as yet, but needs to be monitored closely in the coming months.
  • Agricultural inputs are largely available at the national level (except Malawi). However, with only weeks remaining before the start of the planting season, most poor farmers are unsure where they will obtain their agricultural inputs, and how they will pay for them.
  • Knowledge of urban food needs is lacking, and apart from Zambia were not looked at in the recent assessments. Food shortages and rising prices are adversely affecting poor urban residents. Their food aid needs must be assessed and addressed.
Estimated Maximum Number of Rural Population in Need of Food Aid September 2002 through March 2003

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