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Southern Africa in a climate emergency

Enos denhere

THE climate emergency is a growing threat especially to the most vulnerable, and a threat to the long-term health, safety and prosperity of people in southern Africa.

The region is facing massive famine this year. This is a result of change of seasons due to shifts in climate and a decline in rainfall. The 2019/20 season began with erratic rainfall across most areas. October through early December rainfall has been 55 to 85% of normal across much of the region. The worst affected areas are most of Lesotho, central and southern Mozambique, Madagascar, South Africa, and parts of western and southern Zambia.

Planting is underway in most parts of the region, below-average rainfall in the aforementioned areas as well as the poor macro-economy in Zimbabwe are negatively affecting planting and germination rates.

With a forecast of below average rainfall from January to May 2020, many areas of the region are likely to face a second consecutive poor rainfall season and harvest.

Many people have lost their livestock to this drought after barely recovering from another loss due to anthrax outbreaks. In Africa, hunger is increasing at an alarming rate. Economic woes, drought, and extreme weather are reversing years of progress so that 237 million sub-Saharan Africans are chronically undernourished, more than in any other region.

In the whole of Africa, 257 million people are experiencing hunger, which is 20% of the population. High prices of staple foods in the region are contributing to below-average purchasing power for a significant number of poor households. Typically high staple food prices are being experienced in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. Given that many poor households depend on market purchases, especially during the lean season, high staple prices are restricting household food access.

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 1 is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. More than 700 million people, or 10% of the world population, still live in extreme poverty and is struggling to fulfil the most basic needs like health, education, and access to water and sanitation, to name a few. The majority of people living on less than US$1,90 a day live in sub-Saharan Africa. Worldwide, the poverty rate in rural areas is 17,2% — more than three times higher than in urban areas.

Having a job does not guarantee a decent living. In fact, 8% of employed workers and their families worldwide lived in extreme poverty in 2018. Poverty affects children disproportionately. One out of five children live in extreme poverty.

Ensuring social protection for all children and other vulnerable groups is critical to reducing poverty.Poverty has many dimensions, but its causes include unemployment, social exclusion and high vulnerability of certain populations to disasters, diseases and other phenomena which prevent them from being productive. Growing inequality is detrimental to economic growth and undermines social cohesion, increasing political and social tensions and, in some circumstances, driving instability and conflicts. According to World Vision, a humanitarian organisation, almost 41 million people in southern Africa are food insecure and nine million people in the region need immediate food assistance.

Drought, conflict, civil wars, poor governance, floods and instability have led to severe food shortages. Many countries have struggled with extreme poverty for decades, so they lack government and community support systems to help their struggling families. Many people in Zimbabwe cannot afford to buy basic foodstuffs due to skyrocketing prices.

Southern Africa’s vulnerability to famine and food shortage is in part a result of low agricultural productivity. Providing small-holder farmers with basic agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer, seed or equipment, can help increase production. They need to adapt to new technologies of agriculture. During the floods be able to harvest the water for future consumption. At the moment, Zimbabwe is facing a water crisis. Introducing an irrigation levy to boost agriculture is a crucial move. Equally important are the drilling of boreholes and building of dams in areas prone to drought.

Although the primary goal in southern Africa is to get food to people as soon as possible, attention should also be given to how relief and short-term measures can reduce future vulnerability. Relief, recovery and development projects must be combined and sequenced in mutually-reinforcing ways. Governments, non-governmental organisations, the private sector and donors must strengthen their co-operation.

Each of these actors has different capacities, and it is important to draw upon and integrate all of them in plans for mitigation and long-term development.
Poverty hinders the development of a country. Action is needed now in southern Africa to come up with solutions on climate change.

Denhere is a Journalist based in Zimbabwe. He has been invited to attend the United Nations Africa Climate Week 2020, in Kampala, Uganda, from March 9-13, 2020. He seeks a sponsor to meet all the logistics. Email: enosdenhere@gmail.

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