Food Security

Food security is “when all people at all times have physical, social and economic access to food, which is safe and consumed in sufficient quantity and quality to meet their dietary needs and food preferences, and is supported by an environment of adequate water and sanitation, health services and care, allowing for healthy and active life (Committee of Food Security, 2012).

SADC Action on Food Security

SADC approaches the issues of Food Security through the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP2020 – 2030), the Regional Agriculture Policy (RAP) that is operationalised through the Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP) (2017 – 2022), and the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Strategy (FNSS) (2015 – 2025)

The food security programmes are implemented by the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR) Directorate. These include the operation of the following programmes:

  • Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS),
  • Crop Development Programme; and
  • Livestock Development Programme.

Food Security in Southern Africa attainment is illustrated under the four pillars of food and nutrition security. The first is food availability which calls for a constant and adequate local supply of appropriate food types, either imported or produced locally. The second is food accessibility and this is when households and individuals have the means to access through purchase or other means of food in terms of both quantity, but also quality (requiring appropriate diet and nutritional content). The third is utilisation, which refers to the ability of the human body to ingest and metabolise food. The food should be nutritious and safe for consumption under adequate biological and social environment with proper health care. The fourth is stability, which means that food availability, accessibility and utilisation should be stable and sustainable in order to attain food and nutrition security in the Region. Overall, there should be stable supply and access to food for longer periods for the Region. This can be achieved with appropriate food production, handling and storage.

Food and nutrition challenges and poverty are interrelated. Hunger has been increasing over the past two decades across Southern Africa. Poverty remains one of the greatest challenges in the SADC Region. Malnutrition, gender inequalities, marginalisation and communicable diseases are a few of the complex challenges that contribute to poverty in the SADC Region. Child malnutrition is also of great concern. Almost 19 million children are stunted in the Region - one in every three (2021). 

On average, over 40 million people have been estimated to be food insecure every year by the SADC Regional Vulnerability Assessment Programme over the past five years. Contributing factors to widespread food and nutrition insecurity include pervasive poverty, climate change (prolonged dry spells, frequent droughts and floods), conflicts (human and wildlife), gender disparities, pests and diseases (including human diseases especially HIV), natural disasters and high food prices (affecting agricultural inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and agrochemicals). 

In addition, global financial crises over the past decades have left many people in the Region without enough food and in need of humanitarian assistance. Since 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted food systems in the Region and the world at large since.

Malabo Declaration (2014) on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods

The Malabo Declaration provides the direction for Africa’s (including Southern Africa) agriculture transformation for the period 2015-2025, within the Framework of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), as a vehicle to contribute to the achievement of the objectives of the first Ten-year Implementation Plan of Africa’s Agenda 2063. The Malabo Declaration, which seeks for a competitive agriculture sector, came about after the Dar es Salaam Declaration of 2004 on Agriculture and Food Security. All SADC Member States are implementing the seven Malabo Declaration commitments. The implementation of the commitments is tracked, monitored and reported through a Biennial Reporting system which details countries’ progress towards achieving the goals and targets of the Malabo Declaration as an important mechanism to ensure that there is political will, backed by appropriate actions, to achieve agricultural growth and transformation on the continent by 2025 for improved livelihoods and shared prosperity for African citizens.

The Malabo Declaration commitments are translated in seven (7) thematic areas of performance:

  • re-committing to the principles and values of the CAADP process;
  • enhancing investment finance in agriculture;
  • ending hunger in Africa by 2025;
  • reducing poverty by half, by 2025, through inclusive agricultural growth and transformation;
  • boosting intra-African trade in agricultural commodities and services;
  • enhancing resilience of livelihoods and production systems to climate variability and other related risks; and
  • strengthening mutual accountability for actions and results.

Member States performance and achievements are measured against the seven commitments, disaggregated to performance categories, and further into indicators. In 2017, the first Inaugural Biennial Review Report was released, with a theme highlighting “Intra-African trade for agriculture commodities and services”. The second Biennial Review Report was released in 2019, themed on “Resilience and Livelihoods”. The third BR was finalised and released in February 2022.

Agricultural Information Management and Services

The SADC Agricultural Information Management System (AIMS) is designed to provide early warning of imminent disasters, assess vulnerabilities, monitor weather patterns and provide an integrated database for use in Food Security Planning for the SADC Region. 

SADC conducts analysis of agro-meteorological and satellite remote sensing data through crop-growing seasons to support early warning activities. Remote sensing tools have been developed to monitor environmental changes and provide reliable satellite-based food security information. SADC provides food security bulletins, agro-meteorological updates, and seasonal outlooks through its Agriculture Information Services.

An effective AIMS provides policy makers, planners and economic players' access to reliable and timely information necessary for policy development, planning, emergency preparedness, and decision-making.

The SADC AIMS seeks to:

  • Create a credible source of information that can be accessed by a growing number of organisations (public, private, development partners, and civil society);
  • Enhance access to information on agricultural production, productivity, sustainability and competitiveness for evidence-based decision making;
  • Facilitate timely collection, analysis and communication of information for early warning of disasters/risks and monitoring of vulnerability, food security and weather patterns in the Region, contributing to timely interventions by the relevant authorities in the MS;
  • Provide information on plant pests and animal diseases’ that constrain SADC Member States from accessing lucrative markets, including dissemination of statistical information and time series data on key production indicators in the livestock and crop sub-sectors;
  • Provide information needed for evidence-based decision-making and tracking of progress made towards attainment of the food and nutrition security goals stipulated in key development policies such as, the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP), the CAADP Malabo Declaration on Agriculture and Food Security, relevant SADC protocols and commitments (e.g., Fisheries, Forestry, Health), the RAP and RAIP;
  • The establishment of a database for the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Directorate (FANR) in the SADC Region, particularly with regards to basic statistical requirements and based on the Region’s network of national data bases and information systems.

To achieve these objectives AIMS consists of the following built-in modules:

  • Agricultural inputs
  • Animal and Plant Health
  • Aquaculture and fisheries
  • Crops
  • Forestry
  • Socioeconomic
  • Land cover
  • Livestock
  • National Accounts
  • Public Finance
  • Production value/price
  • Trade Quantity

To effectively monitor progress made towards achieving targets set by the RISDP, FANR ensures that Member States frequently update the AIMS modules, and information is then dynamically disseminated by the built-in reporting real time analytics engine in the AIMS platform.

  • Regional Early Warning System provides advance information on food crop yields through analysis and monitoring of food crop production prospects, food supplies/requirements and food access. The information alerts Member States and stakeholders of impending food shortages/surpluses early enough for appropriate interventions. National Early Warning Units are established in all Member States to collect, analyse and disseminate early warning information at the country level. Overall, its main function and activities includes broader food security issues including coverage of livestock and commodity markets, livelihood/vulnerability analysis and cross-cutting issues, with stronger linkages to the SADC policy environment. The Regional Early Warning function of vulnerability analysis is achieved through a Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (RVAC), a multi-agency committee that spearheads critical improvements in food security and vulnerability analysis at regional and country level.

Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis Programme

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Regional Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (RVAA) Programme was established in 2005 with the objective to strengthen national and regional vulnerability analysis systems, in order to inform policy formulation, development programmes and emergency interventions. Working closely with regional partners, SADC responds to both short, medium and long-term food security constraints within a framework of monitoring, analysing and addressing the broader context of poverty and livelihood vulnerability.

To address the subject matter of vulnerability to food and nutrition security, it is important for decision-makers to have access to credible data and information. This applies to both emergency response as well as longer-term development planning. The RVAA Programme therefore provides timely and credible vulnerability data and information as well as strengthens capacities in Member States to meet the ever-increasing information needs of developmental programming and emergency response for governments and partners. A Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (VAA) is the regional monitoring system applied by the National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) established in the SADC Member States.

In 2021, the RVAA Programme launched a new Online Vulnerability Atlas designed to store access, share and visualise data and information relating to food, nutrition and livelihoods security from 16 SADC Member States. The Online Atlas provides easy access to quality Vulnerability Assessments and Analysis data (both primary and secondary), to inform evidence-based policymaking and programming.

Key priority interventions under the VAA includes:

  • Technical capacity development and assessments coordination: - to ensure that credible, high-quality assessments are produced by the National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) in a timely manner.
  • Institutionalisation: - to enhance the legitimacy and sustainability of the VAA system by supporting NVACs to be incorporated into government administrative and financial structures.
  • Communication, Advocacy and Leadership development: - to increase the influence of the VAA system by facilitating increased access, use and uptake of VAA information and products.

Significance of VAA information system at strategic & operational level:

  • Evidence-based planning: The VAA system provides credible historical and real-time analysis vital to inform evidence-based emergency response and sustainable developmental programming in the Region.
  • Dependable source: Member States depend on the VAA information system to identify and assess the vulnerability and food insecurity in SADC Member States  to plan interventions and influence policy decision making processes.
  • Accountability: VAA data can show the effectiveness of approaches to address food and nutrition security, and thus enables systems of accountability.