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Hunger and vulnerability in Southern Africa: a DFID regional strategy paper

January 2004

Posted with the permission of DFIDSA
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The Context

  1. The humanitarian crisis that became acute in Southern Africa1 at the end of 2001, when up to 14 million people were estimated to be in need of immediate food aid was the result of a complex mix of factors. Drought triggered but did not cause the crisis. The scene had been set by declines in remittances, the devastating effects of the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the region, the effect of poor and inappropriate economic and social policies, the deterioration in rural infrastructure, and the decline in governments' capacity to deliver basic services.
  2. The crisis has highlighted the need for greater national government commitment to improve sustainable access to food. It has also exposed weaknesses in national and regional strategies in preparing for and responding to food shortages, and has underlined the extreme vulnerability of increasing numbers of people in Southern Africa.
  3. Although the worst aspects of the immediate crisis are over - Zimbabwe is the exception - the region remains highly vulnerable to food insecurity. Rising rates of HIV/AIDS infections are worsening this trend in many countries in the region (see section IV).
  4. The scale of humanitarian needs, the costs of responding to them, and the effects humanitarian crises have on longer term development, have prompted calls for a rethink of food security in this region. This would look to strengthen national and regional approaches in ways that tackle the underlying causes of the problem, and to promote ways and means of helping people to secure better and more predictable access to food. The continuing food crisis in some parts of the region has exposed the lack of any robust system at national or regional levels in preparing for future shocks in food supply. And the massive cost of mounting humanitarian operations has underlined the need to invest in preventative measures that support the poor and promote long-term food security.
  5. This strategy is part of DFID's response to these issues and to the Report of the International Development Select Committee (IDSC) on the crisis. That Report made 67 recommendations on improving the food security situation in Southern Africa based on a wide range of consultations with DFID, NGOs and academics2. The Report highlighted the fact that as vulnerability to shocks has increased, coping strategies have progressively weakened. It stressed the need for more effective action to tackle food security, both in emergency and development programmes.
  6. This strategy sets out our assessment of the main factors contributing to food insecurity in the region, building on the analysis in "Eliminating Hunger", DFID's food security position paper. It will serve as a framework to guide DFID policy at regional level around these issues, and will provide a basis for our engagement with national Governments, UN Agencies, NGOs, and other donors on regional food security issues.
  7. The strategy outlines four areas where DFID will deliver support through a three-year programme to improve regional food security. It will provide a better understanding of vulnerability, access to food, and broader issues affecting the ability of the poor to provide for themselves. This will feed into DFID programming in the region around pro-poor growth policy, including through Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper discussions. But it is important that governments in the region also give a higher priority to food issues and understand the impact of their policies on access to food for poor people.

  1. Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  2. Report of the International Development Committee into the Humanitarian Crisis in Southern Africa. HMSO, March 2003.

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