Agriculture provides an indispensable part of the livelihoods of the poorest households in southern Africa. The sector is a primary source of income for the rural population and contributes to foreign exchange earnings for southern African economies. Over 70 percent of the arable land is under smallholder agriculture in Sub Saharan Africa. A large percentage of the poor depend on the income derived from agriculture produce to support their household basic needs. The population of southern Africa is growing; therefore the number of people going hungry everyday is gradually increasing. Food Agriculture Organisation estimates the number of undernourished people in 2010 is 925 million with highest number recorded in sub-Saharan Africa at 30 percent. There is urgent need for government and other development partners such as the private sector to work together to address the insufficient food situation in southern Africa.
The Southern Africa Trust and the Institute for Democracy in Africa hosted a public dialogue on the role of smallholder farmers to address hunger in southern Africa. The public dialogue was facilitated by Chris Maroleng, Africa Editor eNews Africa and Presenter of Africa 360°. The dialogue provided a platform for stakeholders to engage on the important subject of food security and the role of smallholder farmers in southern Africa. At least 70 participants attended the dialogue including government representatives, diplomats, civil society and farmer’s unions/forums from Zimbabwe, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana and Malawi. The dialogue discussed the opportunities and challenges facing smallholder farmers to increase agriculture production to meet the food needs at household level. The dialogue also discussed the participation of smallholder farmers in agriculture policy making processes and assessed the pace of implementation of agriculture policies in southern Africa.