Aiming to avoid a worsening crisis in southern Africa, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) today urged the international community to fund the purchase and distribution of critically needed seeds to the region.
“The planting season has already begun and the window of opportunity to move seeds, hand tools and fertilizers into farming areas in countries such as Malawi and Zambia is closing rapidly,” cautioned Deborah Saidy, WFP’s Deputy Emergency Coordinator for southern Africa.
She said if the international community did not act soon, the region would “continue to suffer from lack of food in the coming year.”
Southern Africa is facing a long road to recovery from the crisis, which has been caused by a convergence of poor harvests, HIV/AIDS and economic collapse across the region, according to the UN.
A plentiful harvest from the next cropping season would greatly ease the immediate food crisis and prevent a continuing cycle of hunger, said FAO and WFP, but they cautioned that the current low levels of seeds, hand tools and fertilizers available to farmers across the region made this outcome unlikely.
According to the latest food security assessments in the region, more than 70 per cent of households in Zambia and Malawi have no cereal seed, while in Zimbabwe more than 94 per cent of farmers were without seeds as of last month. In Lesotho, teams found that almost 50 per cent of households had no access to cereal seed and 60 per cent were worried about getting legume seed. In Swaziland, 80 per cent of households surveyed did not have seed for the coming season.
FAO’s Director of Emergency Operations and Rehabilitation, Anne M. Bauer, said money is urgently needed to purchase agricultural inputs. “Because people are increasingly poor and prices are skyrocketing, timely access to these key supplies has become an insurmountable hurdle throughout southern Africa,” she said.
Ms. Bauer said immediate donations from the international community would allow aid agencies to get the crucial seeds, hand tools and fertilizers into the hands of millions of poor and hungry farmers in time for the next planting season.