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Last Updated: Friday, 16 May, 2003, 15:13 GMT 16:13 UK
Southern Africa drought 'ending'
By Martin Plaut
BBC News

Crops destroyed by drought
Millions have been affected by the droughts

The first authoritative report has been published indicating that the Southern African drought is coming to an end.

A report prepared for the region's ministers predicts that this year's crops will be 6% above last year's, when harvests were devastated and millions needed feeding.

Southern Africa's staple crops have still not been harvested, but the prospects are looking good.

We managed to avert a catastrophe
Richard Lee

This is in stark contrast to last year, when the crop was so low, in countries from Lesotho to Malawi, that vast quantities of grain had to be shipped in.

By March this year more than 10 million people were reliant on outside aid.

"We managed to avert a catastrophe," said a spokesman for the World Food Programme in Johannesburg, Richard Lee.

Brighter future

But even this year the outlook is patchy; the Zambian harvest should be up by over 50% but parts of southern Mozambique will face their third year of hardship.

In Zimbabwe the crop should be better than last year but so little land was planted because of farm evictions that the harvest will still be way below average.

Despite these reservations there is no doubt that the future is looking considerably brighter across much of southern Africa.




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