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Overseas Development Institute (ODI) Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN) Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Civil society and regional food security – Project Brief

Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), Overseas Development Institute (ODI), Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

2 November 2005

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The Look, Listen and Learn Pilot Project

The Lethal Mix?

According to the Executive Director of the World Food Programme, addressing the UN Security Council in July 2005, southern Africa was suffering the world's greatest humanitarian crisis. This crisis, he said, was down to a 'lethal mix of HIV/AIDS, recurring drought and failing governance'.

Whether the situation in Southern Africa is really worse than in the Sudan or the DRC need not detain us - what is known is that the countries of the region are struggling with rural poverty as never before and seem less and less able to cope with the social and economic consequences of drought and climatic variability. Drought has long been a fact of life in southern Africa; population growth has been outstripping food production and the impact on rural livelihoods of HIV/AIDS is growing in severity.

But why is 'failing governance' part of this lethal mix? This is not just a matter of governments lacking the revenue or the expertise to cope with massive problems of rural poverty. The reference is to failures in policy and implementation, and the WFP is not alone in pointing to such failures.

But is it really the case that governments are doing worse currently? Are regional efforts to address food insecurity failing? And are the policies themselves making things worse?

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