THE Southern African Development Community (SADC) recently launched a regional initiative to combat the invasion of African migratory locusts.
SADC in May this year saw the outbreak of locust swarms in eight member states: Botswana, Eswatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
The latest outbreaks have affected Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe, with the potential to quickly spread to other countries in the region.
Fortunately, the damage to summer crops for the agricultural season 2019/20 was minimal, as harvesting had already occurred.
During the launch of the regional initiative on Wednesday last week, SADC’s executive director Stergomena Lawrence Tax said irrigated crops, winter crops and the 2020/21 summer crops, for which planting starts in November, are likely to be at high risk.
“The outbreaks are a serious impediment to agricultural production and productivity and has the potential to compound the food insecurity that the region is already experiencing,” he said.
Tax added that the launch signifies the commitment of Mozambique, as the current chairperson of SADC, to the development and integration agenda. It also showed individual commitments to ensuring sustainable food security through coordinated regional approaches and efforts.
Tax added that the locust outbreaks come at a time when SADC is still recovering from a number of disasters, including the persistent El Niño-induced drought that started in 2016/17, the impacts of a number of cyclones that affected the region last year, and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These multiple disasters have resulted in an upsurge in vulnerabilities, including poverty and food insecurity, which leave SADC citizens less capacitated to adapt to the challenges through their own means,” he said.
He called on members states to accelerate preparedness measures to ensure readiness for these multiple disasters, by among others, adopting regional response approaches, sharing information, effectively using predictions and early warning information that is continuously generated and shared by the SADC secretariat, and jointly managing the challenges.
Tax also thanked the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations and the International Red Locust Control Organisation for central and southern Africa for their support.