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INSAM homepage until March 2013

Last modified March 31, 2013 14:41

INSAM homepage until March 2013.

In 1999, the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Secretariat established the Regional Vulnerability Assessment Committee (RVAC), a multi-agency committee that has spearheaded critical improvements in food security and vulnerability analysis at regional and country level. At the Member State level, National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) coordinate vulnerability assessments. NVACs are multi-sectional committees led by relevant government ministries with wide ranging membership, which includes different government ministries and departments, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and international organisations involved in the poverty sector and the socio-economic sector.

Established in 2002, for example the aim of the Swaziland Vulnerability Assessment Committee (Swazi VAC) is to incorporate a unified and deeper understanding of livelihoods in emergency and development programming. Swazi VAC analytical outputs are aimed at informing policy decision-making at the highest levels of Government, local UN Agencies and NGOs. Over the years, the Swazi VAC has endeavoured to broaden the scope of livelihoods analysis and to adopt a multi-sectorial approach.

I had just sent my previous home page to you, by early October, when Mduduzi (Sunshine) Gamedze, of the National Meteorological Department of Swaziland, sent me (and a large bunch of other people) the Swaziland Annual Vulnerability Assessment & Analysis report 2012 that had been published in July. I know Sunshine well since Prof. Sue Walker and myself gave one of my Roving Seminars in Swaziland in 2010 on behalf of the University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa. The highlights of that recent report are:

  • Due to erratic rains received during the 2011/12 season cereal (maize) production declined by 10% compared to the previous season (2010/11) and this has serious implications on food access as prices are likely to remain high.

On this issue I want to comment that it is one of the most serious limitations of the climate science behind the present Climate Outlook Fora that we have very insufficient understanding of when, and how, which Oceanic and other Oscillation patterns exactly influence the climate of for example a region of Swaziland (see among others https://www2.ucar.edu/news/backgrounders/weather-maker-glossary). It is one of the reasons why at the APEC Climate meeting in St Petersburg (“Harnessing and using climate information for decision making: An in-depth look at the agricultural sector”) in October 2012 we (myself and Prof. Yunita T. Winarto, both speaking on behalf of the “Cluster Agrometeorological Learning of Farmers in Indonesia” at the Universitas Indonesia, Depok) have strengthened our earlier pleas for using a “response farming approach”.

  • All the agro-ecological zones were adversely affected by the poor rainfall performance, and lack of adequate preparedness (availability of inputs and draught power) for the agricultural season remains a major challenge.

This issue shows that response farming was absent because the more preparedness has been introduced to the farmers through extension and government (agrometeorological/climate) services support, the better farmers can respond to actual or (as skilfully as possible but also as honestly as possible as to uncertainties) forecasted/predicted rainfall and dry spell patterns.

  • there has been an increase in the number of people facing a food deficit compared to the previous consumption period. For the 2012/13 consumption year figures indicate a population of 115,713 people facing a food deficit.

In the executive summary of the vulnerability analysis there is some expansion on this. “The outcomes of the 2012 assessment show an increase in the number of people facing food deficits (115,713 compared to 88,511 recorded in 2011). This number is likely to increase due to inflationary pressures as the lean/hunger season approaches. Monitoring of the livelihood patterns will provide the development of appropriate interventions to reduce the impact on poorer households”.

Two remarks here from my side. Firstly “monitoring” never has provided the development of appropriate interventions anywhere; it only shows the need for it. It is unfortunately very unclear how the other reports over the past ten years have contributed to any actions other than the decline of food aid. A secondary remark is on the data. At the moment you write down 115,713 people with a food deficit, that number has changed. Why can we not learn to write “in the order of 115,000” compared to “somewhat less than 90,000 last year”. It sounds so much more logical and to the point!

  • the rate of growth of the national economy continues to decline and measures for the stimulation of a positive trend are paramount to achieving national development objectives.

Yes, exactly these same missing measures are behind the increase of the numbers of people with a food deficit, because these are people without sufficient access to food due to lack of income and/or insufficient knowledge to fight the consequences of climate change!

We should congratulate SADC, and in this specific case the authors of the Swazi VAC, with their annual reports. It is very important that such analyses are made and are related to (the absence of) policies that prepare farmers and other vulnerable parts of the Swazi population for improvements in their situation. But with no follow-ups by the Swazi government, about which quite some negative information can be found in South African newspapers, nothing will change.

But also the international organizations represented in Swaziland as well as the international and local NGOs do not succeed in solving the problems behind these facts. This has of course been a long standing criticism towards the international organizations concerned. Great diagnoses, good cures proposed but no power to get the medicines taken! We then believed that NGOs would do better, and of course they have local successes but these never sum up to national scale improvements in even the most basic food security issues.

Yes, the global and international trends are against them and us, but it are the national and local governments that score the failures they deserve. And the rural and urban poor do not get what they need to face the changes that occur. Empowerment of people does not take place on any sufficient scale, due to lack of political will and due to many failing national and international strategies. The deeds never reach the heights of the needs, and they also do not go into the directions that the warning words of the VACs imply.

With such negative conclusions, we at INSAM wish that the new year that has started will see some improvements towards better responses made possible by empowerment of people. May 2013 be a good year for all of you, personally and in your work, contributing to addressing your and others’ needs and wishes.

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