Food security was the focal discussion during an extraordinary meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) ministers responsible for agriculture, food security, fisheries and aquaculture held here recently.
Acting Swaziland Prime Minister Paul Dlamini urged the ministers to guarantee food security of the region and ensure sustainable livelihoods of the region’s populace.
He told the meeting that their key mandate as ministers of agriculture was to ensure sustainable livelihoods of the people. He said the ministers had the mammoth task of coming up with strategies of ensuring food security for all through improved agriculture practices and ensuring value additions on produce and improved crop storage systems post-harvest.
Dlamini noted that it was unfortunate that the region has had to deal with the devastating effects of the fall armyworm which almost crippled the sector just after it made a breakthrough from the El Nino induced drought.
“I believe that a lot of work has been done by our technical experts to minimise the effects of this pest and that this meeting will appraise and endorse the available strategies for that purpose.
“You will recall that in the past two meetings of this magnitude that have been hosted by the country there have been serious deliberations around the issue of climate variability. This has evidently manifested in the form of prolonged dry spells and heavy storms in some areas, all extremes that have a negative impact on agricultural production,” he said.
The Acting Prime Minister further encouraged the ministers to look into the issue of food security for the whole of Africa.
He highlighted that the region was currently focusing on the Malabo declaration of 2014 which emphasizes the transformation of agriculture.
“Time and again we should focus on how much ground is covered in achieving the objective of transforming our sector for it to meaningfully contribute to economic growth. As a ministry, His Majesty King Mswati III challenged us to ensure that we produce enough food for the nation. We are happy with the projected maize harvest this year and we are working on ensuring that it is kept safely in silos so that we have enough in store even after all the harvest has been collected,” he said.
Dlamini said the SADC meetings had put the country in a better position for exposure.
“The tourism sector benefits greatly from such and it is our mandate to ensure that our guests get the best treatment from our different hotels which helps market the country better. Let me also acknowledge the attention given to the fisheries subsector in the region. Fish are one of the important and cheaper sources of protein for our people and its nutritional value is highly rated. “This is enough justification for the region to strengthen this subsector and put controls where required to ensure that our fisheries resources are not eroded to an extent of becoming extinct. Sustainable management of fisheries resources therefore is of paramount importance,” he said.
Due to the drought and accompanying food security challenges, the SADC ministers have been focusing on the regional food security situation through assessing the rainfall situation for specific crop seasons, as forecast by the relevant regional institutions.
The ministers’ meeting also deliberated the appropriate measures to be taken whenever there is an outbreak of animal disease, plant pests and diseases in the SADC region.