• Background

The effects of climate change - persistent drought, flooding and pests – compounded by economic challenges, poverty, conflict, gender disparities, and gaps in social accountability, have all contributed to the SADC region’s food security crisis. The Covid-19 pandemic has reduced incomes and disrupted supply chains, further exacerbating poverty in the region. According to the SADC Synthesis Report on the State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability in the Southern Region, released in July 2021, up to 47.6 million people (approx. 13% of total population) in the SADC region are food insecure. While many Member States experienced a bumper maize harvest in 2021, the above-average rainfall was coupled with a destructive cyclone season. In the ten SADC Member States that submitted data, an estimated 47.6 million people are food insecure, a 5.5% increase from 2020 and 34.3% above the 5-year average.[1]

Smallholder farmers, who produce most of SADC’s food, have been impacted by the effects of Covid-19, including lower household incomes, limited access to inputs (seeds, fertilisers) and lack of extension services to combat the ongoing threat of pests and diseases. In particular, the pandemic has affected multiple aspects of the lives of women smallholder farmers, who supply about 50% of total agricultural labour in Sub-Saharan Africa, from undermining their food security and eroding their savings, to increasing their unpaid care workload and heightening their risk of gender-based violence.[2]

In 2003, African Union (AU) member states signed the Maputo Declaration, which committed to increasing agricultural budget allocations to 10%, pursuing agricultural growth of 6%, and to setting up the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).[3] Soon after, SADC member states signed the Dar-es-Salaam Declaration in 2004, which established priority areas for achieving food security, including short-term approaches such as ensuring access to quality seeds, fertilisers, and agrochemicals.[4] Additional regional instruments followed, guiding both regional and national actions: Regional Agricultural Policy (RAP) 2013; Regional Agricultural Investment Plan (RAIP) 2017-2022; SADC Food and Nutrition Security Strategy (FNSS) 2015-2025; and SADC Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (CCSAP) and Strategy, 2015 – 2030.

According to the African Centre for Biodiversity, however, practices that emanate from CAADP which have been implemented by African governments, such as input subsidies through farm input subsidy programmes (FISPs), have not always had the desired effect.[5] While international, continental and regional (SADC) commitments promote support for smallholder farmers as a key strategy for achieving household food security, agricultural policy making in the region has failed to adequately respond to the needs of smallholder farmers.

Instead, large portions of national budgets are directed towards FISPs by providing subsidies that reduce the price of fertiliser and seed (usually hybrid maize). Aside from providing a partial economic safety net, the subsidies have been found to not directly benefit the poor and most vulnerable, who are mostly women. Instead, the FISPs have led smallholder farmers to direct scarce resources towards hybrid maize production, effectively reducing the diversity of food available.[6] In a 2021 global report, the FAO acknowledges that current agricultural support “is biased towards measures that are harmful and unsustainable for nature, climate, nutrition and health, while disadvantaging women and other smallholder farmers in the sector.” FAO advocates that by “repurposing agricultural producer support, governments can optimize scarce public resources to support food systems in ways that make them not only more efficient, but also more supportive of healthy lives, nature and climate. This can also be an opportunity to achieve a strong economic recovery in a post-COVID-19 pandemic world.”[7]

With the effects of climate change causing droughts and flooding throughout the SADC region, the need for long-term measures to reduce the impact of climate shocks and build the capacity of communities and countries to withstand them have become even more urgent. Covid-19 has further highlighted the need to support local, sustainably produced food with shorter value chains to ensure countries are resilient, even in the face of disasters.

  • The Potential Role of Agroecology

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) in the United Nations (UN) Committee on World Food Security (CFS) recently defined agroecology as follows:

“Agroecological approaches favour the use of natural processes, limit the use of purchased inputs, promote closed cycles with minimal negative externalities and stress the importance of local knowledge and participatory processes that develop knowledge and practice through experience, as well as more conventional scientific methods, and address social inequalities. Agroecological approaches recognize that agri-food systems are coupled social–ecological systems from food production to consumption and involve science, practice and a social movement, as well as their holistic integration, to address [food and nutritional security].”[8]

Among the key benefits of agroecology, include:

  • Year-round access to healthy, fresh, diverse and culturally-appropriate food for local populations;
  • Reduced poverty and a key contribution to the realization of the right to adequate food and nutrition;
  • Increased climate resilience and reduced greenhouse gasses (GHG) emission;
  • Empowerment of women and reduced workload burden;
  • Diversified livelihoods and valued local, tribal and indigenous knowledge and culture;
  • Improved health through reduced exposure to harmful agrochemicals;
  • More resilient ecosystems, healthier soils and improved water management;
  • Lower costs, less debt and greater autonomy;
  • Enhanced stewardship of seeds, crops, biodiversity, forests and natural resources.[9]

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) have highlighted the key role for agroecology in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).[10] The FAO has recognised it as a “promising option to implement the Paris Agreement,” as it addresses climate change adaptation and mitigation simultaneously.[11] Recent reports by the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES),[12] the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate (IPCC),[13] and the HLPE,[14] all urge support for agroecological systems for smallholder farmers, as opposed to high external input industrial systems, and indicate these can be highly productive, highly sustainable, empower women, create jobs, engage youth, provide greater autonomy, climate resilience, and multiple social, cultural and environmental benefits for women and men in rural and urban communities.

Increasingly, evidence is showing that peasant-based agroecological systems have clear advantages over high external input industrial agriculture. While, historically, there has been a gap between the yields of conventional (high-external-input) agriculture and organic farming, this gap has often been overstated, especially when considering: a) the strong performance of highly developed agroecological farming systems; b) that agroecology produces high yields (especially over time) of a variety of crops, while also generating additional social and environmental benefits. A growing body of research indicates that when appropriately supported and in the right economic conditions, agroecology can outperform conventional systems of agricultural production, especially in dryland areas but also in many other contexts, for example[15] A recent meta-analysis found that alternative agriculture increased yields in 61% of the studies when compared to conventional agriculture, with 20 percent showing no difference.[16] Additionally, the diversification practices used in agroecological practices can reduce or eliminate any yield gap between organic and conventional agriculture.[17]

Despite the urgency and clear benefits of adopting agroecological approaches towards the transformation of food systems, the quality and quantity of finance for agricultural research and development, and food security is woefully inadequate. Globally, there is a shortfall in funding for sustainable food systems, and very little of that is allocated to smallholder farmers. Additionally, almost all of that funding is allocated to encouraging farmers to adopt detrimental forms of high-energy, high-input industrial agriculture. Agroecological approaches are clearly marginalised in existing funding streams, and when they are supported it is often done in unhelpful and even damaging ways.[18]

In its policy brief Agroecology: Scaling Up, Scaling Out,[19] ActionAid identifies key barriers that need to be challenged and seven key steps required to achieve agroecology at scale: ideological barriers, international trade and export orientation, marginalisation of women, monopoly seed laws, lack of agricultural research and development on agroecology and concentration of power amongst agribusiness trans-national coroporations (TNCs).

3.0    What SADC PF and National Parliaments can do

National parliaments play an important oversight role in informing and interrogating the use of national budgetary allocations and foreign contributions towards agricultural development and climate change adaptation.

Already between 2018 and 2021, SADC PF FANR Standing Committee members have considered and acted on issues related to the impact of climate change on agriculture and food security. Among the actions were:

  • Successfully proposing a motion at the SADC PF Plenary Assembly in December 2018 urging SADC Member States to accelerate the implementation of the Malabo Declaration, with a focus on improving social accountability in agricultural services for smallholder farmers.
  • Passing resolutions in 2020 and 2021 calling on governments and donors to strengthen resilience to buffer ever-increasing climatic shocks, and to challenge the current intensive industrial model of agriculture being supported across the region.

Outside SADC, the Caribbean to the Latin American and Caribbean Parliament (PARLATINO) is in the process of developing a Model Law on Agroecology, informed by newly developed FAO guidelines on the development of legal frameworks to promote agroecology in the Latin American and Caribbean region.[20]

  • Objectives of the FANR/TIFI Standing Committee Joint Meeting


The FANR/TIFI Standing Committee meeting will specifically seek to achieve the following objectives:

  • Review evidence on the potential of agroecological approaches to ensure sustainable and productive agricultural development in the southern African region.
  • Assess the level of national and regional investment in SADC on agroecological approaches, and potential opportunities to increase this investment.
  • Reflect on national parliament and SADC PF interventions that could contribute towards expanding investment in agroecology in the SADC region.
  • Participants and resource persons

The session will draw upon the expertise of resource people from ActionAid, Eastern and Southern Africa Small-Scale Farmers’ Forum, the UN Food and FAO, and the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA). A panel of experienced resource persons will make presentations, followed by an interactive session focusing on possible policy interventions that could be made by SADC PF and national parliaments.



Concept Note for FANR and TIFI Meeting


[1] SADC Synthesis report on the state of food and nutrition security and vulnerability in Southern Africa:

[2] FAO SOFA Team & Cheryl Doss, (2011). The Role of Women in Agriculture’ ESA Working Paper No. 11-02, FAO.; FAO, (2011), 2010-2011 The State of Food and Agriculture. Women in Agriculture: Closing the gender gap for development.; ActionAid, (2020), Covid-19 Food Crisis: Monitoring research.

[3] For the Maputo Declaration, see:

[4] For Dar-es-Salaam Declaration, see:

[5] African Centre for Biodiversity (2016). Farm Input Subsidy Programmes (FISPs): A Benefit for, or the Betrayal of, SADC’s Small-Scale Farmers?

[6] African Centre for Biodiversity (2016). Ibid; PSA Alliance (2019) PSA Policy Brief on Social Accountability

of FISPs in Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

[7] FAO, UNDP and UNEP (2021), =;l

[8] HLPE (2019), Agroecological and other innovative approaches for sustainable agriculture and food systems that enhance food security and nutrition. A report by the High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition of the Committee on World Food Security, Rome.

[9] ActionAid International (2018), Agroecology: Scaling up, scaling out.

[10] IFAD (December 2019), How agroecology can respond to a changing climate and benefit farmers. ; FAO (2018), FAO’s work on agroecology: a pathway to the SDGs.

[11] FAO (2018). Ibid.

[12] IPBES (2019), Summary for policymakers of the global assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services.

[13] IPCC (2019), IPCC Special Report on Climate Change, Desertification, Land Degradation, Sustainable Land Management, Food Security, and Greenhouse gas fluxes in Terrestrial Ecosystems.

[14] HLPE (2019).

[15] ActionAid (2021 – to be published), Shifting Funding to Agroecology for People, Climate and Nature. Written by Colin Anderson and Janneke Bruil;  Pretty, J.N., Morison, J.I.L., Hine, R.E. (2003), Reducing food poverty by increasing agricultural sustainability in developing countries. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 95, 217-234. 10.1016/s0167-8809(02)00087-7; Ponisio, L.C., M'Gonigle, L.K., Mace, K.C., Palomino, J., de Valpine, P., Kremen, C. (2015). Diversification practices reduce organic to conventional yield gap. Proc Biol Sci 282, 20141396. 10.1098/rspb.2014.1396.

[16] Alonso-Fradejas, A., Forero, L.F., Ortega-Espès, D., Drago, M.n., Chandrasekaran, K. (2020), Junk Agroecology. TNI, Friends of the Earth International, Crovevia.

[17] Ponisio (2015).

[18] CIDSE (2021) Policy Briefing – Making Money Move for Agroecology: Transforming Development Aid to Support Agroecology.

[19] ActionAid (2018).

[20] FAO (2021), Legislation to promote agroecology in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Sobre nós

O Fórum Parlamentar da Comunidade para o Desenvolvimento da África Austral (SADC PF) foi criado em 1997, em conformidade com o Artigo 9 (2) do Tratado da SADC como uma instituição autônoma da SADC. É um órgão interparlamentar regional composto por Treze (14) parlamentos representando mais de 3500 parlamentares na região da SADC. Consulte Mais informação


Address: ERF 578, Love Street off Robert Mugabe Avenue Windhoek, Namibia

Tel: (+264 61) 287 00 00