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Food Aid (Southern Africa)

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development if he will estimate for each
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country in southern Africa in the period between now and the next harvest (a) how many people will have insufficient food, (b) what the country's overall food surplus or deficit will be and (c) how much food aid has been pledged by donors. [202851]

Hilary Benn: The UN and the Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VACs) have estimated that around 5.6 million people in southern Africa will be food insecure until June 2005. There is, however, some debate as to how many of these require emergency food relief and how many are part of the caseload of people who are affected by structural, long-term food insecurity outside crisis situations, and for whom short term food aid is an inappropriate and unsustainable response.

Estimates from the Food and Early Warning System Network (FEWS-NET) indicate that the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) region will have a surplus of 1.9 million tonnes of cereals in the 2004–05 growing season, after allowing for planned imports. The situation varies quite considerably for individual countries both at national, sub national and household levels however, and VAC assessments will remain important in determining the appropriate level of short-term, emergency response.

Donors have already covered 80 per cent. of the food aid requirements set out in the current UN Consolidated Appeal for southern Africa, covering the period to December 2004. The WFP plans a Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation to cover January 2005 to December 2007 and has appealed for $404 million of food aid assistance. Most donors are currently considering their response to this latest appeal.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps his Department is taking to promote cash-based and income generating initiatives in place of food aid in southern Africa. [202852]

Hilary Benn: In many southern African countries, significant numbers of poor people are food insecure even when there is no food crisis. Ill health, unemployment, and lack of other means to obtain food (production, welfare payments, or family and non-governmental support) all contribute to a longer-term, structural food insecurity problem.

DFID is increasing its support for income generating initiatives, and is encouraging the development of cash transfer programmes (as part of wider poverty reduction efforts in partnership with Governments), in order to address the long-term vulnerability issue underlying the present food insecurity in the region.

In Zambia, DFID is working with Government to implement cash transfers as part of a wider social protection policy aimed at vulnerable, food insecure groups. In Lesotho, DFID is supporting agricultural income generating programmes as an alternative to food aid provision. DFID is also keen to explore how the Government of Lesotho's plans to pay pensions to senior citizens can be developed to provide cash transfers for a wider group of vulnerable, food insecure people. In Malawi, DFID is supporting the development of Government's new National Food and Nutrition Security Policy. This builds on experience in Ethiopia and Zambia in order to tackle the underlying
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causes of chronic food insecurity by raising agricultural productivity and providing more efficient safety nets to people who are predictably food insecure.

Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what steps the Government take to ensure that responses to short-term food deficits in southern Africa do not undermine longer-term development. [202853]

Hilary Benn: DFID is very concerned and aims to ensure that short-term responses to food insecurity does not jeopardise longer-term approaches to sustainable development.

In southern Africa, DFID has been important supporters of the Vulnerability Assessment Committees (VAC) at county and regional levels. This support has given us detailed information on the numbers of food insecure people who will require emergency assistance and, equally important, enables us to understand what responses are most appropriate to long-term food insecurity in the region. The VAC reports clearly underline that food aid alone is not an appropriate solution to underlying food insecurity conditions in southern Africa.

DFID's support for these country-owned VACs has stimulated discussions about longer-term responses to vulnerability, moving beyond food aid. DFID country programmes in Malawi, Zambia, and Lesotho are already acting on these recommendations and are incorporating a wider range of responses, including cash transfers, into longer-term poverty plans.

Renewable Natural Resources

Mr. Moore: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what his plans are for archiving each of the programmes in the Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy in accordance with the Public Records Act 1958. [202286]

Mr. Gareth Thomas: The Public Records Acts apply to records created by or belonging to Crown Departments and certain public bodies. Information held by programmes contracted under DFID's Renewable Natural Resources Research Strategy is the property of the contractors. Results from these programmes are reported to DFID and made publicly available through the Natural Resources Information System: found at Work is currently under way in DFID to develop a new knowledge management system that will ensure the continued availability of this information when the programmes end.


Hugh Bayley: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what contingency plans are in place to ensure that food aid, if required in Zimbabwe over the next few months, is distributed fairly on the basis of humanitarian needs. [202818]

Hilary Benn: Earlier this year the Government of Zimbabwe announced a bumper maize harvest of 2.4 million metric tonnes and declared that international food aid will not be required in the period up to the next harvest, around April 2005. Several independent
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surveys have suggested that the actual harvest was considerably less than the Government has claimed. The recently released Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment (ZimVAC) indicates that 2.3 million people in the rural areas and 2.5 million people in urban areas will be unable to meet their food requirements in the 'hungry season' preceding the next harvest. Meanwhile, the Government of Zimbabwe appears to be importing substantial amounts of grain. Without accurate information about production or imports, it is difficult to assess food security prospects for the coming months. Donors, UN agencies and others are monitoring the situation closely.

After the last harvest, the Government of Zimbabwe restricted the UN World Food Programme (WFP) to distributing only limited amounts of food aid, mainly through schools and clinics, reaching approximately 600,000 people per month. At this rate, there was a danger that the WFP grain stocks in Zimbabwe carried over from last year's humanitarian operations would spoil before distribution. Faced with the alternative that the WFP would export the grains to other countries in the region where they are needed, the Government of Zimbabwe recently authorised the WFP to undertake a large-scale "one-off" food distribution to 1.8 million of the poorest people in areas experiencing the most severe food shortages, to take place as soon as possible.

This food distribution, likely to be the only donor-funded food distribution at scale during the present season, will be implemented using the same procedures as applied in previous WFP humanitarian operations. Political pressure on agencies implementing relief programmes may increase over the coming months; however, to date such donor-funded programmes have remained relatively free of political interference. DFID Zimbabwe is working closely with the WFP, the UN system and our partner organisations to emphasise adherence to procedures that ensure assistance reaches those in most need. Any incidences of irregularity will be comprehensively reported, investigated and dealt with appropriately, as in previous years.


Accountancy Services

Mr. Bercow: To ask the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry what the total cost to her Department was for accountancy services in each of the last two years. [202369]

Ms Hewitt: Total costs to the DTI for accountancy services are detailed in the following table.
£ million

1. Accounts Services Provision2. PFI Agreement3. System Upgrade4. Services to Internal Audit

1. The Department entered into a contract for the provision of accounts services with Amey plc, effective from 1 April 2002. The contract covers a 12 year period with a break option at seven years and covers a number of additional services not provided under the previous contract.
2. The Department entered into a PFI agreement to maintain hardware to support accounts services provision. The PFI agreement continues until September 2008.
3. The Department implemented an updated financial accounting system in September 2003.
4. Internal Audit services to the Department are delivered under a strategic partnership arrangement with Ernst and Young.

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