DESPITE the expected larger harvests than last year, most Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states are facing food insecurity challenges at household level due to inability to access food by vulnerable groups.
Cereal production has increased from 26,86 million tonnes in 2005 to 34,64 million tonnes in 2010, and this production together with carryover stocks of 4,73 million tonnes gave the region a surplus of 732 000 tonnes in the 2010-11 marketing year.
These observations were made in a SADC Secretariat statement on Friday, following a meeting of Ministers Responsible for Agriculture and Food Security in Gaborone, Botswana on Thursday.
The ministers have committed themselves "to develop and implement appropriate policy measures and actions to address the needs of the vulnerable communities to alleviate suffering from food insecurity".
The statement noted that the ministers shared information on successful policy measures, such as agricultural input subsidies, inter-country trade in agricultural commodities, and diversification in food production, and agreed to scale-up these initiatives in their countries.
The Vice-President of Botswana, Lieutenant General Mopati Sebogodi Merafhe, launched the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) at the meeting.
The new institution will coordinate agricultural research and development to promote technology generation and dissemination that is expected to contribute to improved food security in the SADC region.
The assembled ministers also discussed other issues in the agricultural sector that are of common concern, such as trans-boundary animal and plant pests and diseases and the need for collaboration in their control and eradication.
Specific diseases and pests discussed were food-and-mouth disease (FMD) and the Asian fruit fly.
The ministers also approved regional guidelines on the regulation of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures to assist SADC member States to harmonise their regulations and comply with international SPS standards.
Namibia was represented by Agriculture, Water and Forestry Minister, John Mutorwa, at the meeting that was also attended by Agriculture and Food Security Ministers from Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Malawi, Lesotho, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.