The entire country was declared a drought disaster last year, a move that highlighted both the severity and extent of the drought.
The drought has also led to the decline in cattle numbers across the country as farmers were forced to sell off livestock, and with herd rebuilding now a priority, red meat supply will be constrained over the next couple of months, a process which could result in higher meat prices during the short-term period.
The El Nino–induced drought that ravaged the entire SADC region in the 2015-2016 farming season killed 643 000 livestock estimated to be worth close to US$2 billion, according to official information.
Livestock updates from across the region indicate that cattle, sheep and goats are dying as drought tightens its grip on the SADC region. Using average communal cattle prices ranging between US$150 and US$300 per beast, the 15-member regional grouping could have lost livestock worth between US$96 million and US$1,9 billion in this current season alone.
The livestock population in SADC is estimated at 64 million cattle, 39 million sheep, 38 million goats, 7 million pigs, 1 million equines and 380 million poultry. An estimated 75 percent of the said livestock population is kept under smallholder traditional systems.
The SADC Climate Service Centre disaster risk reduction unit told participants at the 20th Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum last year that massive livestock deaths were reported mainly in Botswana, Swaziland, South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
More than 23 million people were pushed into hunger across the region. Farmers lost more than 643 000 cattle to drought across the region.
According to the SADC Regional Situation Update report released in October 2016, the negative impacts of the El Nino induced drought, the worst in 35 years, which has caused a humanitarian crisis affecting 39 million people or 13% of SADC population, continues to intensify.
“Several factors including depleted food reserves, rising food prices, lower commodity prices, slowing economic growth among other key factors, are exacerbating the situation. Staple food prices are rising due to the generally poor crop production over the past two years. The Regional cereal deficit currently stands at close to 7.4 metric tonnes and is 11% below the five year average dropping from 29 million tonnes in 2015 to 26 million tonnes in 2016 (figures exclude Mauritius and Seychelles). The majority of the population is now entirely dependent on the markets for food,” indicated the report.
To ensure the timely and efficient delivery of supplies that comes in response to the El Nino drought, the SADC Council approved the transport plan that spells out specific measures that need to be undertaken by Member States in order to appeal.
Measures include the introduction of special drought relief cross-border permits for drought relief transport operators; introduction of expedited customs procedures for drought relief cargo; minimization of cabotage restrictions and suspend third party rule for drought inputs/exports; provision of military escorts for road and rail convoys and nomination of Focal Point to handle operational matters.
“Many of the approved measures are yet to be implemented by Member States at operational levels. There is need for continuous monitoring to address any pressing challenges. Operational agencies are meanwhile, following case-by-case approaches to resolve any operational bottlenecks. Member States are urged to note that delayed implementation of the agreed measures will likely have a negative impact on drought relief shipment deliveries in the coming months as the frequency and volume of humanitarian shipment arrivals is expected to increase,” noted the report at the time.
Since the launch of the Regional Humanitarian appeal for $2.9Billion by the SADC Chairperson(Sir Ian Khama) in July 2016, response has started trickling in. As at the end of September, $757million of the $2.9B requested has been raised (Government $222m as at July 2016, partners $535m), representing 26% of the required amount. Updated Governments funding is still being mapped out.
Contributions in response to the SADC appeal as reported to SADC by donors include United Kingdom’s Department For International Development (DFID)- £71million, United States Agency for International Development (USAID) $300million, AusAiD $7,5million, IrishAid $110,000, Austria $1,7million. The multi-sectoral appeal includes key sectors of Health, Water & Sanitation, Food security, Education and Nutrition.