Hungry for Commitment

Securing the right to food in a changing climate in southern Africa

Publication date: 24 November 2014
Author: Tendai Makanza

Food security in southern Africa relies upon small-scale agriculture, a sector in which women take the lead. However, smallholder farmers are among the most vulnerable people to food insecurity, often lacking the resources and access needed to produce or procure adequate food. The effects of climate change exacerbate their vulnerability, which further compromises the food security of the entire region. Unless states ensure that small-scale farmers have the access and resources required to produce or procure adequate food for themselves—and ultimately their countries—climate change will make the right to food unattainable by millions more in southern Africa.

Despite overall progress in hunger reduction globally, in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), more than one in four people remain hungry. This is the highest prevalence of any region in the world, and more than double the global average. Climate change is not the only cause of hunger and food insecurity in southern Africa. Rather, it aggravates existing structural, policy and governance deficits.

Recommendations on how to turn the tide of hunger and food insecurity in the region

  • The governments of southern Africa should provide secure access to land and water resources through policies deliberately aimed at supporting smallholder farmers, especially women.
  • Governments should protect the interests of local communities when facilitating private investments, and should address the insecure tenure rules that leave many women and smallholder farmers vulnerable.
  • States should allocate at least 10 percent of their national budgets to agriculture and invest in small-scale farmers, to address existing inequities of land distribution, and access to water and infrastructure.
  • National governments must establish rights-based legal and policy frameworks, so that all citizens are entitled to hold states accountable to respect, protect and fulfil everyone’s right to food.
  • The Southern African Development Community should support its member states in fulfilling their commitments to invest in agriculture and ensure that small-scale farmers, particularly women, are prioritized. Member states’ progress should be monitored.
  • All developed countries must move to meet their pre-2020 commitments to reduce emissions and help developing countries adapt to their changing climates—this will require substantial increases on current investments.

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