MITIGATING FAMINE IN SOUTHERN AFRICA - WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED FROM THE PAST?|
Ashwin Bhouraskar and Suresh Babu
Famine continues to threaten the livelihoods of many sub-Saharan Africans. Presently, six countries of southern Africa: Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, are threatened by famine due to low output in the staple crop maize. Policy lessons learned from studies conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on famine mitigation efforts in sub-Saharan Africa can be instructive in developing measures to remove the threat. Famine mitigation must be seen in terms of three goals or phases: immediate relief, recovery and short-term development. This paper presents policy options for each of these phases, including food aid, labor-intensive employment programs, public-private partnerships, agricultural input transfers and institution building. Interventions must be combined and sequenced for an overall strategy to be effective. Certain broader goals, such as governance, are also essential to consider for long-term famine prevention and food security. The paper examines a range of issues: 1) the causes of famines, the time frame for various policy measures and the criteria for choosing interventions, (2) interventions for immediate relief, (3) measures to help affected households recover from famine, (4) the development of technological, policy and institutional foundations for stepping out of famine and attaining food security, (5) how interventions should be combined and sequenced, and (6) several overarching issues that should be considered for famine mitigation and prevention.
famine, southern Africa