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Food insecurity increased rapidly in Southern African region in 2019

Food and nutrition security is an outcome of developmental factors such as access to land, credit, education and employment, as well as access to affordable agricultural inputs such as fertilizer, water and seeds. Gender inequalities, the HIV/AIDS pandemic, natural disasters and climate change all contribute in compounding ways.

According to Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in Southern Africa 2019, about 41.2 million people in 13 countries are estimated to have been food insecure in the 2019 consumption year. When comparing the 11 Member States that provided data in 2018 and 2019, food security increased by 28%. It is also 7.4% higher than it was during the severe El Nino-induced drought of 2016 and 2017.

The report says significant increases in the number of people food insecure from 2018 have been recorded in Zambia at 144 per cent, Zimbabwe 128%, Eswatini 90%, and Mozambique 85% as well as DRC at 80%. This increase, the report says, indicates a cumulative effect of persistent drought conditions compounded by floods, pests, conflict in DRC and northern Mozambique, economic challenges and chronic structural issues. These drivers are exacerbated by climate change.

It was shared in the report that many people in the region suffer micronutrient deficiencies despite diets given that are mainly cereal-based, even where food is available. This result in high numbers of children and other vulnerable populations suffering from malnutrition, the report said. With the increasing frequency and intensity of natural disasters such as floods and droughts in the region, the risk of malnutrition is higher and the impact borne disproportionately by the most vulnerable.

The report further stressed that addressing malnutrition is a sustainable way and in all its forms- including stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies and overweight- requires an understanding of the underlying causes at the level of the individual, household and community and region. Available 2019 data shows that the prevalence of global acute malnutrition, wasting- being too thin for your height among children under the age of 5 was above 5% in 7 Member States. There are also pockets of high wasting rates that are above 10% in the DRC, Mozambique and Southern Angola as well as Southern Madagascar.

Further, the report added that the stunting prevalence or being too short for your age was above 30%- classified as very high- in 10 of the 16 SADC Member States. It said reduction in stunting is occurring too slowly to meet the World Health Assembly 2025 or the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 targets. The ‘double burden’ of malnutrition- the concurrence of under nutrition and overweight and obesity is also a growing challenge in the region. The prevalence of overweight in four Member States (Botswana 11.2%, Comoros 10.6%, Seychelles 10.2% and South Africa 13.3%) revealed an emerging problem, the report said.

The Synthesis report added that appropriate feeding in the region is multi-dimensional and influenced by factors such as food quality, mothers’ time, level of education and cultural norms. It highlighted that the minimum acceptable diet- a measure of the quality of young children’s diets, is very low, with most Member States having it at less than 15%. This is due to the consumption of monotonous diets and lack of knowledge on appropriate feeding practices; uninformed behavioural patterns which are often influenced by culture; and caregivers’ limited access to health and nutrition services.

On contributing factors, the report stressed that Southern Africa is heavily affected by climate change and variability, and projections suggest that the impact of climate change will become more severe over the next decades. It indicated that the most pronounced manifestation of climate change will be an increase in temperatures, leading to increased heat stress and reduced crop yields. The region’s staple crop maize is particularly prone to the effects of climate change. Changes in rainfall patterns; increasingly erratic rainfall events of high intensity, leading to floods and more frequent droughts and dry spells; as well as a delayed onset of the rainfall season and an early tailing off, thus reducing the growing period for crops.

Current variability and extreme events across the region are increasingly evident. The report observed trends in weather patterns that provided evidence of climate change effects over the region in the last 15 years. Still on this report, it was reported that most cropping is practised during the November to April rainfall season, with the rest of the year being dry. The report shared insight that a strong drought affected central and western parts of the region during the 2018/19 rainfall season.

It said large parts of Southern Angola, Northern and Southern Botswana, Northern Namibia, Northern South Africa and Zimbabwe received their lowest seasonal rainfall totals since at least 1981, when regional, comparable records began. Rains were delayed and erratic, resulting in reduced area planted poor germination and wilting of crops. Angola, Botswana and Namibia declared national drought emergencies. Other countries affected by localized dry spells and drought included Eswatini, Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania.

The report said that the drought affected water supplies for domestic, industrial and agricultural use, fodder and pasture continued to decline as the dry season progressed. Over 30 thousand drought related cattle deaths were recorded in Namibia between October 2018 and April 2019- the normal rainfall season. Still on contributing factors, the report indicated that in the first half of the year several countries experienced flooding caused by extreme weather events: heavy rains, hailstorms, strong winds and tropical cyclones.

In February, Madagascar recorded landslides and floods- worsened by Tropical Storm Eketsang- that affected 9.400 people; Malawi reported 135 thousand people flood affected and tropical storm Desmond in Mozambique resulted in the displacement of over 7 thousand people. The situation worsened dramatically when two tropical cyclones- Idai and Kenneth hit Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe, pushing the number of people flood-affected to 3.8 million in these four countries. The report noted that the cyclones destroyed schools and clinics, disrupting access to basic services and causing widespread displacement. They also hit during the harvest. Idai alone destroyed close to 780 thousand ha of standing crops in Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

It was reported that cereal production also decreased in Member States countries. Maize accounts for 80% cereal production in the region. Other important cereals are wheat, sorghum, millet and rice. Only 7% of cultivated land is irrigated. It was shared that most farmers in the region are small holders who cultivate less than 5 ha. Furthermore, the report underlined those countries that typically account for most of the regional grain supplies- Zambia and South Africa- also recorded below- average harvest, which have reduced exportable regional surplus from 7.5 million tons to 1.4 million tons. Only South Africa and Tanzania had cereal surpluses in the previous marketing year.

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Jackdish Shah loses interest in BDP

17th May 2022
Jackdish

As the preparations for the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) congress are about to kick off, reports on the ground suggest that the party’s Deputy Treasurer Jackdish Shah will not defend the position in August as he contemplates relocation.

According to sources, the businessman who joined the BDP Central Committee in 2015 at the 36th Congress held in Mmadinare is ready to leave the party’s politburo. It is said he long made up his mind not to defend the position last year. A prominent businessman, Shah, when he won the position to assist Satar Dada in 2015 was expected to improve the party’s financial vibrancy. By then the party was under the leadership of Ian Khama.

According to close sources, Shah long decided not to contest because he has fallen out of favour with the party leadership. It is said he took the decision after some prominent businessmen who are BDP members and part of football syndicate decided to push him out and they used their proximity to President Mokgweetsi Masisi to badmouth him hence the decision.

“The fight at the Botswana Football Association (BFA) and Botswana Football League (BFL) has left him alone in the desert and some faces there used their close access to the President to isolate him,” said a source. Media reports say, Shah does not see eye to eye with BFA President MacLean Letshwiti who is also Masisi’s buddy hence the decision.

BFL Chairman Nicholas Zackhem is said to be not in good terms with Shah, who at one point Chaired the then Botswana Premier League (BPL). “He is seriously considering quitting because of what is unfolding at the team (Township Rollers) which is slowly not making financial gains and might be relegated and he wants to sell while it is still worth the investment,” said a highly placed source.

Shah is a renowned businessman who runs internet providing company Zebra net, H &G, game farm in Kasane, cattle farm in Ghanzi region and lot of properties in Gaborone. He also has two hotels in USA, his advisors have given him thumbs up on the possible decision of relocating provided he does not sell some of the investments that are doing well.

Asked about whether he will be contesting Shah could not confirm nor deny the reports. It is said for now it is too early as a public decision will have to be taken after the national council meeting and prior to the national congress. “As a BDP Central Committee member he cannot make that announcement now,” a BDP source said.

BDP is expected to assemble for the National Council during the July holidays while the National Congress is billed for August. It is then that the party will elect a new CC members. The last time BDP held elective congress was at Kang in 2019. The party is yet to issue writ.

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Govt ignores own agreements to improve public service

17th May 2022
Govt

The government has failed to implement some commitments and agreements that it had entered into with unions to improve conditions of public servants.

Three years after the government and public made commitments aimed at improving conditions of work and services it has emerged that the government has ignored and failed to implement all commitments on conditions of service emanating from the 2019 round of negotiations.

In its position paper that saw public service salaries being increased by 5%, the government the government has also signalled its intention to renege on some of the commitments it had made.
“Government aspires to look into all outstanding issues contained in the Labour Agreement signed between the Employer and recognised Trade Union on the 27th August 2019 and that it be reviewed, revised and delinked by both Parties with a view to agree on those whose implementation that can be realistically executed during the financial years 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25 respectively,” the government said.

Furthermore, in addition to reviewing, revising and de-linking of the outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement alluded to above and taking on a progressive proposal, government desires to review revise, develop and implement human resource policies as listed below during the financial year 2022/23,2023/24,2024/25

They include selection and appointment policy, learning and development policy, transfer guidelines, conditions of service, permanent and pensionable, temporary and part time, Foreign Service, expatriate and disciplinary procedures.

In their proposal paper, the unions which had proposed an 11 percent salary increase but eventually settled for 5% percent indicated that the government has not, and without explanation, acted on some of the key commitments from the 2019/2020 and 2021/22 round of negotiations.  The essential elements of these commitments include among others the remuneration Policy for the Public Service.

The paper states that a Remuneration Policy will be developed to inform decision making on remuneration in the Public Service. It is envisaged that consultations between the government and relevant key stakeholders on the policy was to start on 1st September 2019, and the development of the policy should be concluded by 30th June 2020.

The public sector unions said the Remuneration Policy is yet to be developed. The Cooperating Unions suggested that the process should commence without delay and that it should be as participatory as it was originally conceived. Another agreement relate to Medical Aid Contribution for employees on salary Grades A and B.

The employer contribution towards medical aid for employees on salary Grades A and B will be increased from 50% to 80% for the Standard Option of the Botswana Public
“Officers’ Medical Aid Scheme effective 1st October 2019; the cooperating unions insist that, in fulfilling this commitment, there should be no discrimination between those on the high benefit and those on the medium benefit plan,” the unions proposal paper says.

Another agreement involves the standardisation of gratuities across the Public Service. “Gratuities for all employees on fixed term contracts of 12 months but not exceeding 5 years, including former Industrial class employees be standardized at 30% across the Public Service in order to remove the existing inequalities and secure long-term financial security for Public Service Employees at lower grades with immediate effect,” the paper states.

The other agreement signed by the public sector unions and the government was the development of fan-shaped Salary Structure. The paper says the Public Service will adopt a best practice fan-shaped and overlapping structure, with modification to suit the Botswana context. The Parties (government and unions) to this agreement will jointly agree on the ranges of salary grades to allow for employees’ progression without a promotion to the available position on the next management level.

“The fan-shaped structure is envisaged to be in place by 1st June 2020, to enable factoring into the budgetary cycle for the financial year 2021/22,” the unions’ proposal paper states. It says the following steps are critical, capacity building of key stakeholders (September – December 2019), commission remuneration market survey (3 months from September to November 2019), design of the fan-shaped structure (2 to 3 months from January to March2020) and consultations with all key stakeholders (March to April 2020).

The unions and government had also signed an agreement on performance management and development: A rigorous performance management and reward system based on a 5-point rating system will be adopted as an integral part of the operationalization of the new Remuneration System.

Performance Management and Development (PMD) will be used to reward workers based on performance. The review of the Performance Management System was to be undertaken in order to close the gaps identified by PEMANDU and other previous reports on PMS between 1st September 2019 and 30th June 2020 as follows; internal process to update and revise the current Performance Management System by January 2020.

A job evaluation exercise in the Public Service will also be undertaken to among others establish internal equity, and will also cover the grading of all supervisory positions within the Public Service.
Another agreement included overtime Management. The Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) was to facilitate the conclusion of consultations on management of overtime, including consideration of the Overtime Management Task Team’s report on the same by 30th November 2019.

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Health Expert rejects ‘death rates’ links to low population growth

17th May 2022
Health-Expert

A public health expert, Dr Edward Maganu who is also the former Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health has said that unlike many who are expressing shock at the population census growth decline results, he is not, because the 2022 results represents his expectations.

He rushed to dismiss the position by Statistics Botswana in which thy partly attributes the low growth rates to mortality rates for the past ten years. “I don’t think there is any undercounting. I also don’t think death rates have much to do with it since the excessive deaths from HIV/AIDS have been controlled by ARVs and our life expectancy isn’t lower than it was in the 1990s,” he said in an interview with this publication post the release of the results.

Preliminary results released by Statistics Botswana this week indicated that Botswana’s population is now estimated to be 2,346,179 – a figure that the state owned data agency expressed worry over saying it’s below their projected growth. The general decline in the population growth rate is attributed to ‘fertility’ and ‘mortality’ rates that the country registered on the past ten years since the last census in 2011.

Maganu explained that with an enlightened or educated society and the country’s total fertility rate, there was no way the country’s population census was going to match the previous growth rates.
“The results of the census make sense and is exactly what I expected. Our Total Fertility Rate ( the average number of children born to a woman) is now around 2.

This is what happens as society develops and educates its women. The enlightened women don’t want to bear many children, they want to work and earn a living, have free time, and give their few children good care. So, there is no under- counting. Census procedures are standard so that results are comparable between countries.

That is why the UN is involved through UNFPA, the UN Agency responsible for population matters,” said Maganu who is also the former adviser to the World Health Organisation. Maganu ruled out undercounting concerns, “I see a lot of Batswana are worried about the census results. Above is what I have always stated.”

Given the disadvantages that accompany low population for countries, some have suggested that perhaps a time has come for the government to consider population growth policies or incentives, suggestions Maganu deems ineffective.

“It has never worked anywhere. The number of children born to a woman are a very private decision of the woman and the husband in an enlightened society. And as I indicated, the more the women of a society get educated, the higher the tendency to have fewer children. All developed countries have a problem of zero population growth or even negative growth.

The replacement level is regarded as 2 children per woman; once the fertility level falls below that, then the population stops growing. That’s why developed countries are depending so much on immigration,” he said.

According to him, a lot of developing countries that are educating their women are heading there, including ourselves-Botswana. “Countries that have had a policy of encouraging women to have more children have failed dismally. A good example is some countries of Eastern Europe (Romania is a good example) that wanted to grow their populations by rewarding women who had more children. It didn’t work. The number of children is a very private matter,” said Maganu

For those who may be worried about the impact of problems associated with low growth rate, Maganu said: “The challenge is to develop society so that it can take care of its dependency ratio, the children and the aged. In developed countries the ratio of people over 60 years is now more than 20%, ours is still less than 10%.”

The preliminary results show that Mogoditshane with (88,098) is now the biggest village in the country with Maun coming second (85,293) and Molepolole at third position with 74,719. Population growth is associated with many economic advantages because more people leads to greater human capital, higher economic growth, economies of scale, the efficiency of higher population density and the improved demographic structure of society, among many others.

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