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Regional themes > Food security Last update: 2020-11-27  

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Famine in Southern Africa: The search for an exit

Mafa E. Chipeta

SARPN acknowledges permission from the author to post this article.
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Being Malawian, I am a son of Southern Africa and feel driven to contribute in my personal capacity1 to the ongoing debate about the sub-region's apparently inexorable slide into frequent famines. This is not an academic paper but a heartfelt plea for Southern Africa to shoulder its own responsibility and to act before it is too late. A number of the sub-region's countries won political independence when I was young - I sensed the optimism of everyone and much then was of our countries becoming a breadbasket of global significance. Some decades later, I find myself confused and frustrated to see instead images of malnourished children and a begging basket - surely this cannot be my Southern Africa?

What went wrong? Are we condemned to living with hunger from now on? What should we do? These are questions to which I have no magical answers; I contribute through this paper to hopefully raising collective guilt to the point where it will lead to action. Living abroad as I do, I am aware that the international community can play a role in this but I am convinced that the main responsibility lies with the Southern African countries themselves. I say this because it is a shared Southern African tradition that the head of household provides for her/his own family; something has gone seriously wrong when governments, as proxy heads of household, feel able to violate this fundamental responsibility with ease and routinely beg for food from abroad. We should not accept this.

  1. The author works for the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome, Italy. This article is, however, written in his personal capacity and any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily shared or authorized by FAO.

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