Minister Thoko Didiza on summer crop plantings estimates

Minister Didiza pleased with SA summer crop plantings estimates despite the heavy rains

The Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development, Ms. Thoko Didiza says SA summer crop plantings estimates provide hope despite the heavy rains

“The 2021/22 agricultural season started with rising concerns that floods would damage crops in provinces such as the North West, Free State, and parts of the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. Also, farmers in various regions worried they wouldn’t complete the usual area for their produce, negatively affecting the agricultural economy” said Minister Didiza.

The Minister says through their resilience and dedication, South African farmers pushed through the heavy rains and continued to plant even beyond the usual optimal planting windows, which ends in November for the eastern regions of South Africa and in December for the western areas.

The estimates released by the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development’s Crop Estimates Committee this afternoon show that the 2021/22 summer crop plantings are 4,21 million hectares, which is 0,4% more than the 2020/21 production season.

There is a relatively decent area across summer crops and well-above the average area for some. Summer crops comprise maize, sunflower seed, soybeans, groundnut, sorghum, and dry beans.

“This data is comforting and the first bit of information that suggests that while the recent rains have been destructive in many regions, South Africa’s food security is still protected. The weather conditions for the next two months remain critical for the ultimate crop yields for the 2021/22 season” said Minister Didiza.

“We remain optimistic that there will be reasonably good yields and, after that, sufficient crop harvest for our needs and neighbouring countries”.

“I thank all the farmers that planted in these challenging past few weeks.

Our thoughts are also with the farmers that lost crops due to floods. My department is collecting information on the areas that have experienced the damage. We will work tirelessly to assist within the limits of available resources” said Minister Didiza

Source: Government of South Africa

Record Number of People Suffering Acute Hunger in Embattled Northern Ethiopia

A new assessment by the World Food Program finds a record nine million people across three conflict-affected regions in northern Ethiopia are suffering from acute hunger.

A United Nations survey conducted in Tigray before the conflict erupted in November 2020 found 93 percent of the population had enough to eat. Now, some 15 months into the war, the U.N. reports 83 percent of the population is short of food, with nearly 40 percent gripped by severe hunger.

The World Food Program reports 13 percent of Tigrayan children under age five, and half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished. WFP spokesman Tomson Phiri says lack of proper nourishment is leading to low-birth weight, stunting, and maternal deaths.

He says people who cannot feed themselves are resorting to extreme coping measures to survive.

“Diets are increasingly impoverished as food items become unavailable and families rely almost exclusively on cereals while limiting portion sizes and the number of meals, they eat each day to make whatever food is available stretch further,” said Phiri.

As the war in Tigray has spread across northern Ethiopia, hunger also has spread widely to neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. Phiri says fighting and conflict-driven displacement is pushing hunger and malnutrition rates up to dangerous levels in those regions.

“WFP estimates that on average, crisis-affected families in northern Ethiopia were getting less than 30 percent of their caloric needs in the past months, pushing people deeper into crisis,” said Phiri. “It is expected that that constant humanitarian food assistance will be required at least throughout 2022.”

Despite the many challenges, the WFP reports it has managed to deliver food aid to nearly four million people across northern Ethiopia since March. However, it says intense fighting in the region has prevented food convoys from reaching Tigray since mid-December.

The WFP is appealing to the warring parties to agree to a humanitarian pause so agencies can safely transport lifesaving food, medicine, and other essential relief through the frontlines. It says the lives, the health and well-being of millions of civilians depend on it.

Source: Voice of America

Northern Ethiopia: A record 9 million now need food assistance

After 15 months of conflict in Ethiopia, almost 40 per cent of Tigrayans are suffering an extreme lack of food, according to data released by the World Food Programme (WFP) on Friday.

Meanwhile, across all three conflict-affected regions of the north, more than nine million people now need humanitarian food assistance, the highest number so far, since conflict erupted in November 2020, between Government and rebel forces.

According to the Tigray Emergency Food Security Assessment, 83 per cent of people are food insecure.

Families are exhausting all means to feed themselves, with three quarters of the population using extreme coping strategies to survive.

Diets are increasingly impoverished as food items become unavailable and families rely almost exclusively on cereals. At the same time, families are having to limit portion sizes and the number of meals, to make whatever food is available stretch further.

In terms of nutrition, 13 per cent of Tigrayan children under five, and half of all pregnant and breastfeeding women, are malnourished, leading to poor pregnancy outcomes, low-birth weight, stunting and increased maternal death.

Action now

For WFP’s Regional Director for Eastern Africa, Michael Dunford, the bleak assessment reconfirms that “what the people of northern Ethiopia need is scaled up humanitarian assistance, and they need it now.”

According to him, WFP is doing all it can to ensure convoys with food and medicines make it through the frontlines, but no convoy has reached Tigray since mid-December.

“If hostilities persist, we need all the parties to the conflict to agree to a humanitarian pause and formally agreed transport corridors, so that supplies can reach the millions besieged by hunger”, he warned.

In the neighbouring Amhara region, hunger has more than doubled in five months because the region bore the brunt of recent fighting between the Ethiopian Government’s military forces and Tigray forces.

In Afar province, the fighting has reportedly led to tens of thousands of men, women and children being displaced in the last few weeks.

Deepening crisis

Across the three regions, more than 14 per cent of children under five and almost a third of pregnant and breastfeeding women are malnourished.

Recent health screening data shows malnutrition rates for children under five were at 28 per cent, far above the standard emergency threshold of 15 per cent.

Intensified conflict on the Tigray-Afar border in recent days is expected to force more communities from their homes and deeper into hunger.

WFP estimates that on average, crisis-affected families in northern Ethiopia were getting less than 30 per cent of their caloric needs in the past months, pushing people deeper into crisis.

Constant humanitarian food assistance will be necessary throughout 2022, said the UN agency.

Challenges

Since March, WFP has reached almost 4 million people across northern Ethiopia with food and nutrition assistance.

When access to Tigray improved during the summer months last year, humanitarian assistance from the agency and its partners kept starvation at bay for those who had been cut off from assistance, prior to May. 

With no access to Tigray currently, aid continues to be scaled up in areas of Amhara and Afar, which are accessible.

More than 523,000 people received food in Amhara in the past week, with some 3.2 million men, women and children, having been reached with food assistance since last October.

In Afar province, nearly 380,000 people have been reached in this current round of food distributions.

WFP’s northern Ethiopia response urgently requires $337 million to deliver assistance over the next six months and will begin running out of the capacity to purchase food from February.

Across the entire country, the agency has an unprecedented funding gap of $667 million to assist 12 million people.

Source: United Nations

MEC Debbie Schäfer announces 2021 Story Star winner, 31 Jan

Would it not be every Grade 4 learner’s dream to write, narrate and star in an animated film? Well, that is what has happened to our Story Star winner from Laerskool Mikro.

On Monday, the 2021 Story Star winner will be announced by Minister Debbie Schäfer at Laerskool Mikro, and members of the media are invited to attend.

Date: Monday, 31 January 2022

Time: 10h00

Venue: Laerskool Mikro

Location: Spruit Street, Kuilsriver, Cape Town

The learner was approached at the end of last year, so that the WCED could begin the animation in preparation for the announcement on Monday and the launch of the 2022 series of the competition. Minister Schäfer will premiere the animated film to the winner and the current Grade 4 learners who will have the opportunity to enter this year.

Here is a sneak peak of the winning learner and the character that has been created:

Please see the video that was written and narrated by Grade 4 learners in 2019 and the 2020 Story Star winner Keshrie Booysen, which launched the competition in 2021: https://wcedonline.westerncape.gov.za/story-stars(link is external)

The 2021 instalment will be released on Monday.

In addition to writing, starring in and narrating the video, which will be watched by thousands of learners across the Western Cape, the 1st prize Story Stars winner receives a tablet, bookbag and branded stationery.

The 2nd and 3rd prize winners will also receive a tablet and book bag and stationery. The winning school has received a R10 000 transfer payment for learner support material.

We look forward to the winner finally seeing how her creative writing skills can be transferred into a real-life animation!

Source: Government of South Africa

UN Weekly Roundup: January 22-28, 2022

Editor’s note: Here is a fast take on what the international community has been up to this past week, as seen from the United Nations perch.

UN chief: We cannot abandon the Afghan people

The U.N. secretary-general warned on Wednesday that Afghanistan is “hanging by a thread,” as the organization appealed for a total of $8 billion to scale up humanitarian assistance to more than 22 million Afghans this year.

UN Chief: Afghanistan ‘Hanging by a Thread’

Norway hosts talks between Taliban and Afghan civil society

Norway hosted three days of talks in Oslo between a Taliban delegation and members of Afghan civil society. Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said at the U.N. this week that the meeting did not confer recognition or legitimacy on the Taliban but was “a first step” in dealing with the de facto Afghan authorities to prevent a humanitarian disaster in that country.

Norway Defends Hosting Talks with Afghan Taliban

Military coup in Burkina Faso

Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern about the January 23 military coup in the West African nation of Burkina Faso that deposed President Roch Marc Christian Kabore and his government. Guterres said the role of militaries must be to defend their countries and people, not attack their governments and fight for power.

The secretary-general’s special representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, will travel to Burkina Faso this weekend on a good offices mission.

West African Nations See String of Coups

In brief

A U.N. team of experts arrived in Lima, Peru, on January 24 to assess the social and environmental impacts of an oil spill linked to the underwater volcanic eruption that triggered a tsunami in the Pacific island nation of Tonga. The team is specialized in contamination assessment and will advise authorities on how to manage and coordinate their response.

Some good news

World Health Organization chief Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a meeting of the agency’s executive board on January 24 that if countries change the conditions driving the spread of coronavirus infections, it is possible to end the acute phase of the global pandemic this year. That includes vaccinating 70% of their populations, monitoring the emergence of new variants and boosting testing.

A small but important glimmer of hope in Libya: the U.N. political chief told the Security Council on January 24 that the overall humanitarian situation improved in 2021. Rosemary DiCarlo said the U.N. recorded a 36% decrease in the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance, from 1.3 million at the start of 2021 to 803,000 by the end of the year. Additionally, about 100,000 of the more than quarter million displaced Libyans returned home last year.

Quote of note

“Were we to observe a minute of silence for each victim, that silence would last more than eleven years.”

— U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, addressing a virtual U.N. memorial ceremony marking the International Day for Holocaust remembrance on January 27.

What we are watching next week

On January 31, the U.N. Security Council will hold an open meeting to discuss tensions between Russia and Ukraine. The meeting was requested by the United States, and Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told reporters, “This is just one more step in our diplomatic approach to bring the Russians to de-escalate and look for an opportunity to move forward.” The meeting will take place one day before Russia assumes the rotating presidency of the 15-nation council for the month of February.

Did you know?

The ancient Greek tradition of an Olympic truce goes into effect on January 28. It starts seven days before this year’s Winter Olympics open in Beijing and continues for a week after the close of the Paralympic Games. The U.N. General Assembly endorsed the truce during a meeting on January 20. The U.N. secretary-general is headed to Beijing for the opening ceremony on February 4.

Source: Voice of America