Minister of Land Reform Agriculture and Rural Development (LDARD), Thoko Didiza, attended a virtual joint meeting of SADC’s ministers responsible for agriculture, food security and aquaculture on the 22nd of May.
The ministers noted the erratic rainfall that occurred during the 2019/2020 season in many parts of the region, which reduced area planted, contributed to poor germination and crop establishment.
The ministers also noted that, inversely, the northern parts of the region received excessive rains. These rains caused flooding, which resulted in loss of lives, displacement of populations, destruction of infrastructure and washing away of crops in specifically the north-eastern parts of the region.
The impact that COVID-19 had on the region, especially on the smooth undertaking of field operations and timely distribution of agricultural inputs, especially in rural based communities also did not go unnoticed. According to the ministers at this meeting, the pandemic had a negative impact on the food and nutrition security and livelihoods of communities in member states.
The ministers went as far as to note that prior to COVID-19, the food insecurity in the Southern African region was already alarmingly high, but this has been exasperated by the virus. The pandemic also has seen a delay in the assessment of food and nutrition status of the region due to travel restrictions many countries have put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The ministers adopted the commitments made at the African Union Commission (AUC) and Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) AUC/FAO Ministerial Meeting, as a response to COVID-19 and encouraged member states to implement these measures. Member states were also encouraged, through an intervention made by minister Didiza on behalf of the minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Barbara Creecy, to implement these measures for the aquaculture industries too.
The group also endorsed the guidelines for virtual collection of food and nutrition section data in the face of restrictions for face-to-face data collection due to COVID-19 pandemic. On trans-boundary pests and diseases, the ministers noted that the migratory pests, especially African migratory locusts, African Armyworm and fall Armyworm, continue to undermine regional and national efforts to improve crop production, due to the serious damage they cause to crops. Member states were encouraged to ensure that measures are put in place to address trans-boundary pests.
The ministers also endorsed the SADC Animal Genetic Resources Conservation and Utilization Strategy, after noting that there was a rising global demand for food of animal origin and other livestock commodities. Furthermore, they endorsed the implementation of the Harmonized Seed Regulatory System (HSRS), to ensure that there are harmonized regulations that would allow safe and quality seeds for the region.