El Niño continues to bite in the SADC region


The ongoing drought in the region is continuing to exact a heavy socio-economic toll on farmers

The Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) has warned that the ongoing drought in the region is continuing to exact a heavy socio-economic toll on farmers despite recent rains.

Large income losses, defaulting on loans, crop losses, failure to plant due to poor rains, not enough drinking water, livestock deaths due to poor grazing and compromised crop quality are some of the noted effects farmers have had to deal with due to the El Niño induced drought.

Media reports show that seven SADC countries are at greater risk of food insecurity. Countries hit the hardest in the SADC region are Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Mozambique, Angola, Lesotho and Swaziland.

“The drought has led to an erosion of farmers’ production base, a loss of hope, dignity and confidence about the future. Many farmers are facing financial ruin,” said SACAU’s Chief Executive Officer, Ishmael Sunga.

 “Our current situation is a product of inadequate investment in necessary infrastructure in the past. We risk being trapped in continuously dealing with these challenges. We must consolidate our effort to ensure a more forward-looking view,” said Mr Sunga.

According to a recent report published by Oxfam International, 41 million people are estimated to require food aid before the next harvest in March-April 2017. The report, The Longest Lean Season, reveals that 28 million people require urgent aid now.

Mr Sunga noted that some of the effects would form part of programmatic interventions in the new year while other interventions would be more long-term.

“Dealing with the severe results of climate change requires a holistic approach; more youth coming into the industry and further technological developments alongside established agricultural methods will help drive a climate change resilient globe,” added Sunga.

SACAU acknowledges the desperate need for long term and short term solutions.  Despite the ending of the weather phenomenon’s cycle, its effects continue to be severely felt.

“While food aid is welcomed, there are potential negative impacts not only on local prices for food but also on local production and investment,” said Mr Sunga.

“We cannot continue with a business as usual attitude. History may repeat itself and millions could starve and our efforts towards food security irreparably harmed,” he added.

To avoid this, Mr Sunga suggested that agricultural stakeholders take a regional comprehensive approach that is multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder in nature.

“We need to establish a coordination centre – an Agricultural Development Fund with risk management capacity – that will support a strategic and long term approach that encourages investment in production and trade related infrastructure,” he said.

Agriculture and food security affected by climate change

Agricultural production and food security are already being affected by extreme weather temperatures and drought, without urgent action it will put millions of people at risk of hunger and poverty, says Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

A report commissioned by FAO titled The State of Food and Agriculture 2016, indicates that the greatest vulnerabilities to climate change impacts are people of low income and smallholder farmers.

The Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, represents a new beginning in the global effort to stabilize the climate before it is too late.

It recognizes the importance of food security in the international response to climate change, as reflected by many countries focusing on the agriculture sector in their planned contributions to adaptation and mitigation.

FAO has estimated that in order to meet the demand for food in 2050, annual world production of crops and livestock will need to increase by 60 percent.

The agricultural sector can benefit much from the introduction of sustainable agriculture practices such as cultivating heat-tolerant crop varieties, water harvesting, drip irrigation and precision agriculture.

IFAD concludes supervision mission

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) concluded its supervision mission of the Support to Farmers’ Organisations in Africa Programme (SFOAP) main phase to the southern African region on 24th August 2016. The main phase of SFOAP is implemented by the five Regional Farmers’ Organisations (RFOs) in Africa namely; Eastern African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF); the Plateforme Sous-Regionale des Organisations Paysannes d’Afrique Centrale (PROPAC); Reseau des Organisations Paysannes et de Producteurs agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA), and the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and Union Maghrebine des Agriculteurs (UMNAGRI), as well as the Pan African Farmers’ Organisation (PAFO). The overall goal of the program is to improve the livelihoods and food security situation of African smallholder farmers and rural producers. The purpose of the programme is to enable farmers’ organisations (FOs) evolve into stable, well-performing and accountable organisations that are able to effectively represent their members and advise farmers in their farming enterprises.

At regional level, the mission met with the SACAU President and the Secretariat. The mission also visited Namibia where consultations were held with the Namibia National Farmers’ Union (NNFU) Secretariat, the Ministries of Agriculture Water and Forestry, and of Land Reform, the Namibia Agronomic Board (NAB), the Agro-Marketing and Trade Agency (AMTA), Agribank, and the European Union delegation, amongst others.

Speaking at the wrap-up meeting at the end of the mission, Mr Nicolas Syed, the head of the supervision mission, expressed his satisfaction on the progress and the impact the programme has recorded in the region. Mr Syed said that following the field visits and consultations with FOs, national FOs (NFOs) and SACAU senior management, the team was satisfied with the progress made so far. “The activities implemented under the program have proven to be relevant and are responding to the needs of NFOs and local FOs, and have had a positive impact on farmers and their organisations, especially in terms of institutional strengthening”, said Mr. Syed. He also commended SACAU and participating NFOs for “the business entity approach” it has taken. He observed that this approach will ensure that NFOs are financially sustainable in the long run.

Additionally, the mission observed that the main challenge of the programme is to ensure that the NFOs and local FOs are in a position to continue their growth, and are capable of attracting financing from private and public sources, as well as from their own members. This is the area that SACAU needs to focus its effort on.

SACAU Newsletter, March 2016

Click here to download the SACAU News, March 2016

Transforming agriculture to boost food security

The current drought is already having severe negative effects on regional food security. South Africa, the region’s largest maize producer, is facing a 5 million tonne deficit that will need to be met through imports.

The Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD) organised a food security conference from 7 to 10 of March in Oslo. The conference was attended by global leaders to engage in a dialogue on food security and what the role of agriculture is in contributing to national development efforts as well as local and global stability.

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga was invited to speak on ‘Transforming Agriculture for a Food Secure Future’ and ‘Rural development – A Farmer Driven Development Agenda?’.

Mr Sunga’s presentation focused on key issues faced by farmers in the southern Africa  and also touched on methods that can be used to improve food security by developing the agricultural sector.

“There needs to be a more transformative agenda in agricultural development which is centred on enterprise development, and focused on growth and prosperity,” said Sunga.

Due to the drought, regional food supplies are limited and staple food prices are higher than average. Nearly 29 million people are currently food insecure in the southern Africa region.

Mr Sunga points out there is still more to be done to improve the food insecure region.

“African leaders need to harness the power of digital technology to support sustainable food systems. They need to think strategically and come up with new methods that are innovative to drive development in the agricultural sector,” said Sunga.

“There is limited access to factors of production such as land, finance, technology or machinery,” said he adds.

Study reveals widespread drought impact in southern Africa

The ongoing drought has had a widespread negative impact on the region, according to a recent assessment conducted by SACAU in partnership with Agri SA.

The results were shared at a joint media conference hosted by SACAU and Agri SA on Tuesday, 1st March 2016, in Centurion, South Africa. The keynote speakers were SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga and Agri SA Executive Director Omri van Zyl.

The study relied on the expert opinion of farmer leaders in each country to estimate the severity of the drought and its impacts. It revealed that almost all countries in southern Africa are experiencing “severe to extremely severe” drought conditions.

“Organised agriculture has made a conscious decision to begin to drive the discussions and the solutions around the current drought,” said SACAU’s Ishmael Sunga.

The most reported issues relate to crop failure due to poor rains as well as livestock deaths due to poor grazing or lack of water.

The assessment outlines the impact of drought on livestock which has severely affected SADC countries such as South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe (declared a national disaster), parts of Mozambique, Botswana and Namibia.

It has been revealed that cattle deaths have increased tremendously, with losses of 35 000 animals reported in the southern districts of Zimbabwe alone.

The major maize producers in the region i.e. South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe are expecting only half of their typical harvest. According to the SACAU report, more than 14 million people across the region will face the twin challenge of food shortages and high food prices.

The issue of decreasing water quality, dropping groundwater levels, as well as increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires were also reported among the drought impacts.

SACAU CEO Ishmael Sunga emphasised the massive impact this has had on agriculture: “Farmers in southern Africa are at the frontline of this catastrophe, and are arguably the worst affected. However, it is now time that farmers exert themselves more in crafting solutions,” he said.

The organisations recommended the use of existing and new irrigation assets (dams, boreholes, rivers) and water harvesting as well as the enhancement of resilience building programmes and actions geared towards increasing preparedness and early response.

“There needs to be resource mobilisation focused more towards consumer relief efforts. We need to think strategically. There is also a need to make long term plans and put in place 30-50 year frameworks,” said Sunga.

The current drought is expected to delay 2016 harvests, extending the lean season. The start of the green harvest, which provides alternative sources of food to poorest households is expected to start in mid-March 2016 compared to the usual February 2016.

SACAU to release drought survey for regional action



SACAU members from 12 SADC countries have responded to an urgent call for information on the impact of the drought in the region to help the confederation plan a way forward.

Coordinated by Dr Manyewu Mutamba, the survey evaluates the impact of drought in each country and also identifies the major challenges faced by farmers.

“The survey covered all SACAU members in 12 countries as well as commodity platform members,” says Dr Manyewu Mutamba.

“The response was good, almost all SACAU members responded. Overall about 50% of those invited to the give feedback responded despite the short time window.”

The results are critical to ensure a co-ordinated regional response.

“It has become clear that farmers across Southern Africa are in the clutches of an unrelenting drought,” says Dr Mutamba, adding that all SACAU members are affected.

“It’s already clear that transport and infrastructural bottlenecks will be a constraint to an effective drought response.   A regional approach to tackling these challenges is better placed to galvanize long term solutions, investments and strategies for disaster preparedness in the future,”  says  Dr Mutamba.

The second step will be a high level report based on the survey which will highlight the extent of the drought and the major impacts as well as some of the possible actions to help farmers manage the impacts of the drought.

“We are finalizing a report that will summarize the responses and capture the key outcomes of the survey,” says Dr Mutamba  “This report will be the basis of an information session and media briefing with various stakeholders, partners and media,” he adds.

SACAU will release full results at a press conference on Tuesday, 01 March, 2016.