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Food production Up In Southern Africa, But Not All Benefit - 2003-06-13


The southern African region produced more food this year than last, when months without rain and other problems left millions of people severely short of food. But some countries in the region still need food aid.

A report by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization and the World Food Program says the southern African region has produced enough food to meet more than two-thirds of its requirements.

The report says Zambia and Malawi are responsible for much of the increased production. The situation was much different in Zimbabwe, which was able to produce only enough food to meet 30 percent of its requirements. As a result, more than five-million Zimbabweans out of a population of over 11-million will require food aid.

The report says food production in Zimbabwe has fallen by more than 50 percent, measured against a five-year average. It attributes the fall to the drought, as well as the social, economic and political crises facing the country.

The Zimbabwean situation was worsened by reduced production in the large-scale farming sector. As a result of a controversial land-reform program, President Mugabe launched in 2000, most of the country's white farmers lost their land to landless blacks. The new farmers lack experience, and have not been able to achieve previous production levels.

Once known as the breadbasket of the region, Zimbabwe has announced that it will import the staple maize from Zambia and Malawi. Both countries used to import food from Zimbabwe.

Another country in the region, Mozambique, increased food production last year. But according to the report, close to one-million people face serious food shortages. Two other countries, Lesotho and Swaziland, also have experienced an increase in production. But both will still require food aid this year.

The report also notes that the H-I-V/AIDS pandemic increases the need for food aid. Countries in southern Africa have the highest infection rates in the world, and food shortages contribute to an increase in health complications and death among those infected.

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