Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 13, March 2010
SADC Council discusses climate change, food security

The southern African region shows a food surplus for this marketing year although food insecurity and malnutrition remain high.

Some 3.26 million people remain vulnerable in spite of a general improvement in cereal production.

The food security situation for the marketing year ending March 2010 shows a regional cereal surplus of 476,000 tonnes compared to the 1.78 million tonnes deficit during the previous year.

The SADC Council of Ministers meeting in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, at end February received this report from the Ministers responsible for Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources.

Council noted that, while there have been good rains in some parts of the region, patches of poor rains have been recorded in other parts such as the south-eastern half of the region, resulting in crop stress and in some cases, crop failure.

The affected areas are southern Madagascar, southern and central Mozambique, eastern Botswana, southern Zimbabwe, southern tip of Malawi, southern Lesotho, and the southern half of South Africa.

Council has urged Member States to closely monitor the developing rainfall situation, and take measures to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change and avoid hunger and malnutrition.

These measures should include the promotion of non-cereal crop production such as cassava, plantain and other traditional, nutritional foods.

Council approved the establishment of the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) to coordinate agricultural research, technology generation and dissemination of research information.

The establishment of a sub-regional organisation for this purpose is part of the implementation of the SADC Multi-country Agricultural Productivity Programme (MAPP) whose objective is to promote agricultural production and productivity with the aim of reducing food insecurity in the region.

SADC Ministers also discussed the preparations for a SADC Customs Union and concluded that the 2010 timetable for establishment of the customs union is unattainable, despite the substantial work done by technical working groups, and that more work needs to be done.

With respect to the SADC Free Trade Area, Council urged Member States to finalise the remaining tasks in order to maximise benefits to be accrued from it, and pledged to work simultaneously towards establishing the COMESA-EAC-SADC Free Trade Area while accelerating efforts towards the establishment of the Customs Union.

With respect to the movement of people across borders, Council noted that significant progress has been achieved towards putting in place a one-entry visa into the SADC region by non-SADC citizens as opposed to the current situation where a visitor is issued with separate visas by each Member State.

The first phase of this process towards a Univisa, including revenue sharing modalities, was completed in December 2009. The second phase beginning in March 2010 involves the development and procurement of software for five Member States and the Secretariat for participation in a Pilot Study and implementation.

On visa exemptions for the movement of nationals between Member States, Council noted the significantly improved status of visa exemptions with only three countries yet to conclude visa exemption requirements with the other 12 Member States.

SADC Ministers also discussed climate change and the failure to reach global consensus at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP 15) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change held in Denmark in December 2009.

Council urged the relevant sectoral ministers to develop a comprehensive SADC Strategy on Climate Change, with the assistance of the Secretariat, in preparation for the COP 16 meeting to be held in Mexico in December 2010.

On gender issues, Council noted fund-raising efforts for projects to address gender-based violence, particularly in conflict and post-conflict zones, and to facilitate gender mainstreaming in peacemaking, peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation.

The SADC Women Economic Empowerment Programme is being strengthened, especially regarding capacity building, exchange programmes and synergy-building initiatives for women in Member States.

Council also discussed, among other things, the termination of the Western Power Corridor Project (Westcor), whose aim was to develop the Inga III power project in DRC, and the alternative development of a new project with a mandate to exploit alternative schemes.

The SADC Consultative Conference 2010 will be held in Lesotho in October under the theme of "Global Economic and Financial Crisis: Impact on and Lessons for SADC Regional Economic Integration".

The two-day conference is held every two years as a forum for consultation by SADC Member States with international cooperating partners and civil society.

The objective of the 2010 Consultative Conference is to establish the impact of the global financial and economic crisis on the SADC region, and determine responses.

Council also approved the 2010/11 Corporate Business Plan and budget for the implementation of the SADC prioritized programme in line with the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ.

The approved SADC budget for 2010/11 amounts to just over US$66 million, of which 44 percent will be founded by the annual contributions from Member States and 55 percent through financing agreements with development partners. The remaining one percent of the budget will be funded from other sources such as bank interest.

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