Drought affecting 14 million people across Southern Africa

Drought affecting 14 million people in Southern Africa Picture: Gallo Images

The worst drought Southern Africa has ever experienced in more than a century may boost food inflation with prices expected to increase by as much as 25 percent by end of April 2017 compared to the 4.8 percent growth in November 2015.

Around 14 million people across southern Africa face going hungry after a prolonged drought wrecked harvests, the UN’s World Food Programme said.

On Tuesday, Zimbabwe appealed to local businesses and charities for $1.5 billion (1.4 billion euros) aid to save more than a quarter of the population from starvation due to drought.

Ronald Ramabulana, CEO of the National Agriculture Marketing Council confirmed the numbers with regards to the hike in food price percentages caused by the drought.

The nations in the the region affected include, Botswana, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and Swaziland, all these countries need to find 10.9 million metrics tons of grains such as corn, wheat and soya beans.

“The government of Zimbabwe requires a total of $1 572 009 953 with effect from February to December 2016,” Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s vice president told a news conference in the capital Harare.

“The amount of rainfall received to date is inadequate to meet basic household consumption needs as well as support for livelihoods, agriculture and wildlife.”

Mnangagwa’s appeal comes barely a week after President Robert Mugabe declared a “state of disaster” in many rural areas hit by severe drought in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has been affected by a regional drought worsened by the El Nino weather phenomenon that has also affected other Southern Africa countries.

South Africa said it will import half its average maize crop after 2015 was declared the driest year in the country for 112 years.

Agri SA Chief Executive Officer Omri van Zyl said:”“The present drought the worst in over two decades and the implications could have dire consequences on the country’s food security. While the immediate impact of the drought will be felt by the producer, the consumer will feel the effects as well through shortages of products and price increases of related commodities. This is why it’s important for us to go the extra mile in support of our farmers.”according to Agri S.A

Little rainfall in 2015 has left 2.8 million people in Malawi facing hunger and WFP said food prices were rising across the region, with the cost of maize in Malawi 73 percent higher than average.

Mnangagwa said the southern parts of the country are the worst affected with tens of thousands of cattle dying, boreholes drying-up and dam levels are decreasing due to the poor rains.

“There is a threat to human and animal life as safe water, irrigation water and drinking water sources for animals are increasingly drying up,” he said.

Most of the funding is sought for the import of foodstuffs but part of the $1.5 billion will be used to repair irrigation equipment across the country to increase food production.

About 1.5 million metric tonnes of staple maize will be required to feed people from February to December, Mnangagwa added.

Formerly known as the breadbasket of Africa, Zimbabwe has suffered perennial shortages in recent years and has relied on importing grain from neighbouring countries to meet its needs.

Mugabe has blamed the low farm yields on erratic rains due to climate change, as well as sanctions imposed by Western countries over his government’s tainted human rights record.

Critics say the food shortages have been partially caused by the president’s land reforms enacted since 2000 when the government oversaw the often violent eviction of white farmers.

Many farms are now under utilised, and the government has vowed to hold an audit to ensure agriculture land is put into production.

-AFP and Tatenda Chiriseri