Africa must prepare for global food crisis

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Letters to the editor

THE tripling costs of fertiliser, rising energy prices and rising costs of food baskets, could worsen in Africa in the coming months

There should be an increased sense of urgency amid a once-in-a-century convergence of global challenges for Africa.

The continent’s most vulnerable countries have been hit hardest by conflict, climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic, which has upended economic and development progress in Africa.

Africa, with the lowest gross domestic product growth rates, has lost as many as 30 million jobs on account of the pandemic.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is cause for concern. The war’s ramifications have spread far beyond Ukraine to other parts of the world, including Africa.

Russia and Ukraine supply 30% of global wheat exports, the price of which has surged by almost 50% globally, reaching identical levels as during the 2008 global food crisis. Fertiliser prices have tripled, and energy prices have increased, all fuelling inflation.

The tripling costs of fertiliser, rising energy prices, and rising costs of food baskets, could worsen in Africa in the coming months.

Ninety percent of Russia’s US$4 billion exports to Africa in 2020 were made up of wheat; and 48% of Ukraine’s near $3 billion exports to the continent were made of wheat as well and 31% of maize.

To fend off a food crisis, Africa must rapidly expand its food production. Africa should not be begging. We must solve our own challenges ourselves without depending on others.

The Africa Development Bank (AfDB)’s innovative flagship initiative, Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (Taat) programme — a programme operating across nine food commodities in more than 30 African countries, has made its early successes.

Taat has helped to rapidly boost food production at a large scale on the continent, including the production of wheat, rice and other cereal crops.

Taat has already delivered heat-tolerant varieties of wheat to 1,8 million farmers in seven countries, increasing wheat production by over 1,4 million tonnes and a value of US$291 million.

Heat-tolerant varieties are now being planted across hundreds of thousands of hectares in Ethiopia and Sudan, with extraordinary results. In Ethiopia, where the government has put the Taat programme to work in a 200 000-hectare lowland irrigated wheat programme, farmers are reporting yields of 4,5 to five tonnes per hectare. Taat’s climate-smart seeds are also thriving in Sudan, which recorded its largest wheat harvest ever — 1,1 million tonnes of wheat — in the 2019-2020 season.-AfDB

We know who is bleeding the central bank

THE Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe forex auction system is a co-ordinated money siphoning mechanism by the 21st century fundis who pretend to represent the masses while they loot for their families.

The forex auction system must be stopped without further delay as anything else escalates the plunder.

The idea of the forex auction must yield visible benefits like helping on production and reasonable prices for goods produced.

A look at the prices of everything being sold, including those labelled Proudly Zimbabwean, shows that we are not anywhere near having a stable economy as millions of United States dollars continue being siphoned from the central
bank.

The exchange rate on the black market has shot to 1:400.

On the forex auction system, some companies have only had the joy of being allocated foreign currency, but have gone for as long as eight months without getting anything.

The RBZ forex auction has failed to bear fruits. Instead, it is an arrangement of the few elite to loot foreign currency.

The real beneficiaries of this arrangement have formed briefcase companies to siphon the foreign currency .

We know who supports the RBZ forex auction system as it helps them look after their families who are all living outside Zimbabwe.

In essence, the RBZ forex auction system must be stopped. Those who are looting our resources must be stopped.-Isaac Mupinyuri

Zim loses wetlands as Ema dithers

HE Auditor-General’s report on the protection of wetlands was tabled last year in the National Assembly by the Environment, Climate, Tourism and Hospitality minister.

The report is of an audit conducted by the Auditor-General to assess whether the protection of wetlands by the Environmental Management Agency was being done efficiently and effectively.

The audit covered the period from the beginning of 2014 to the end of July 2019 and was carried out in five of Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces, namely Harare, Mashonaland West, Masvingo, Midlands, Bulawayo and Matabeleland North.

The report shows that Zimbabwe is fast losing its wetlands due to a number of factors: Governance issues, including inadequate enforcement of orders; pollution by untreated effluent; cultivation; unplanned building construction; and mining.

Importance of wetlands

The report contains the following definition of “wetland”, taken from the Environmental Management Act: “Any area of marsh, fen, peatland or water, whether natural or artificial, permanent or temporary, with water that is static or flowing, fresh, brackish or salt, and includes riparian land adjacent to the wetland.”

As the report explains, wetlands are important for water storage. They act as natural earth sponges and are sources of water for all rivers and streams.

They soak up rain slowly and recharge ground water, rivers and streams, regulating water quality through natural filtration.

They also provide habitats for plants and animals that live in semi-aquatic conditions.

Destruction of wetlands causes flooding, shortages of underground water and loss of plants and animals that live in semi-aquatic conditions.

Legal protection of wetlands

Wetlands and the environment generally are given a great deal of legal protection, at least in theory.

The Constitution

Section 73 of the Constitution gives everyone the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being, and also the right to have the environment protected for the benefit or present and future generations.

The Environmental Management Act

Wetlands are protected in at least two ways under the Environmental Management Act.

Section 97, as read with the First Schedule, prohibits the draining of wetlands except in accordance with a certificate issued by the Director-General of the Environmental Management Agency following an environmental impact assessment report.

Anyone who drains a wetland without such a certificate is guilty of an offence and liable to a fine of level 12 (currently $200 000) or five years’ imprisonment or both.

Section 113 prohibits anyone from reclaiming, draining or disturbing wetlands without the express written authorisation of the Environmental Management Agency, given in consultation with the Minister responsible for water resources.

Anyone who does so without such authorisation is guilty of an offence punishable by fine of level 8 (currently $50 000) or two years’ imprisonment or both.-Veritas