Food Security Outlook

Anticipated below normal seasonal rains will constrain food access in the south

October 2015 to March 2016
2015-Q4-1-1-ZW-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • In the southern areas of Matabeleland, Masvingo, Midlands, and Manicaland Provinces, the majority of poor households are predominantly in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but with the recent start of lean season food assistance, many areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) between October and March, in the presence of assistance. 

  • The food security situation between January and March 2016 will largely depend on the performance of the rainfall season and levels of humanitarian assistance, especially in the south. 

  • Most northern areas are expected to experience Minimum (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, in the presence of assistance. Lean season food assistance is planned to increase in the south during this quarter in terms of both targeted areas and beneficiaries. The planned scale of assistance will result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes improving to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of assistance. 

National Overview

Current Situation

  • It is the dry and agricultural off-season across Zimbabwe. Locally produced maize grain and maize flour are the main foods being consumed by households, along with some imports from neighboring countries. The lean season started earlier than normal in the south due to a very poor 2014-15 rainfall and crop production. Rural food insecurity was estimated by the ZimVAC as 10 percent of the rural population from October to December 2015.  
  • In the southern areas of Matabeleland, Masvingo, Midlands, and Manicaland Provinces, the majority of poor households are predominantly in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), but with lean season food assistance recently starting, some areas will soon be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of assistance. Perennially cereal deficit areas in the extreme northern parts of Mashonaland Provinces are also currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and outcomes in some areas will improve as coverage of lean season assistance expands. Cereal surplus areas in the north continue to face Minimum (IPC Phase 3) acute food security outcomes.
  • Zimbabwe continues to face one of the largest national maize deficits in the region, leading to significant import requirements for the 2015-16 consumption year. So far, about 245,000 MT of grain was formally imported between April and August 2015, with over 99 percent of it coming from Zambia. According to ZIMSTAT, during the same period over 11,600 MT of groats (crushed maize) and maize flour were formally imported, with 95 percent of it from South Africa and the rest from Zambia. Informal imports of both maize grain and maize flour continue to flow in.
  • Households in most of the northern Mashonaland Provinces, with the exception of the northernmost Zambezi Valley areas, are currently consuming own-produced food stocks Maize grain is readily available on most markets in these areas. Surplus grain from Hurungwe, Zvimba, Makonde, Bindura, Mazowe, and Gokwe districts is flowing into markets in cereal deficit areas such as Masvingo Province in the south. Maize grain prices in source areas ranges between USD $0.23-$0.29/kg and are higher than last year and the five-year average.
  • The majority of households in the southern provinces are relying on cereal purchases for their food needs. In some areas, purchases started during or immediately following the harvests (April-May). Cereal production levels in their region were at their lowest in the past five year. Maize grain is largely unavailable on markets in Matebeleland North and South Provinces. In markets where maize grain is available, prices average USD $0.46/kg. In Masvingo Province maize grain is available for between USD $0.34-0.46/kg on most markets and source markets remain predominantly outside the province. The main suppliers of maize grain in this area are local and itinerant traders and long distance truckers. The majority of households in most districts in Manicaland and Midlands (except Gokwe) are also relying on markets for cereal purchases. Small grains are unavailable on most markets, except for Mwenezi and Tsholotsho.
  • The national average maize grain price for October is $0.37/kg, which is 132 and 119 percent of last year and the five-year average, respectively. In parts of the Mashonalands and Midlands Province maize grain and maize flour prices recently stabilized and decreased in some markets. These trends can be attributed to relatively good supplies of local grain on markets in these areas, availability of cheap Zambian maize imports, and low effective household demand due to poor livelihood and coping options.
  • Maize flour is the main source of cereal currently being consumed in the Matebeleland Provinces, and markets are being supplied exclusively with local brands. Prices are generally stable, averaging USD $0.65/kg, compared to the national average of $0.60/kg. Maize flour prices are highest in Matebeleland North and cheapest in Masvingo Province. Informal flows of imported maize flour, notably from South Africa, are being reported in border districts in the south.
  • Partner monitoring reports indicate that livelihood and coping strategies are generally poor in most parts of the country, though worse in the south where critical water challenges are affecting vegetable production and sales. Pasture conditions are mainly poor, with cattle travelling long distances to water points, or being moved to better areas. The availability of supplementary stock feed is low. Cattle body conditions are generally poor, and the current prices ($300-$500) reflect a drop since the harvest period.
  • Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) is still active in some areas and the ban on movements is affecting the marketing of cattle. Private cattle buyers are taking advantage of the situation to offer farmers low prices. Goats are in fair to good condition and prices have remained stable between $30-40. Chickens are selling between $5-6 in most areas. 
  • In most northern districts crop and vegetable sales are lower than typical. Livestock sales, brick molding, construction, casual ag-labor, and informal mining are some of the activities taking place. Self-employment opportunities across the wealth groups are lower than typical due to the below average 2014-15 crop production and less disposable income.
  • The South African Rand continues to weaken, a process which intensified at the end of August when it dropped by about 9 percent against the US Dollar to trade at an all-time low of USD $1: ZAR 14. The Rand depreciated by almost 20 percent between January and August 2015, and is no longer widely accepted for business. This has negatively affected poor households earning incomes in South African Rands and those receiving income through remittances. In response, some households in the south now prefer to receive remittances in-kind through the services of omalayitsha, the cross-border couriers, or transporters. The omalayitsha remittance system is typical and widely upheld in the southern districts in the Matabeleland Provinces.
  • The national economic environment is marked by poor liquidity and hardships in rural and urban areas despite the availability of food commodities in the majority markets. The Zimbabwe National Statistical Agency (ZIMSTAT) and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe (CCZ) report a general decline in the family and food expenditure baskets. The CCZ family basket has dropped by 4 percent between January this year (USD $584.91) and September ($559.110) and the food basket is down from USD $140.50 to $116.74. Deflation has persisted for over a year, with the annual inflation for September at -3.11 percent. This decline has been associated with low household incomes and reduced purchasing power.
  • In early October, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID) jointly launched a USD $43 million lean season food assistance support program for 2015-16 to target 650,000 people in 29 food insecure rural districts. The assistance will be in the form of mobile cash transfers and food. Distributions started in September in selected districts. Cash transfers will largely be informed by multi-partner market assessments conducted in 50 of the 60 rural districts over the last four months. The United Nations, at the request of government, has just appealed to humanitarian and development partners for an extra USD $86 million to cover the shortfall that will enable 1.5 million people to be targeted at the peak of the lean season (January to March 2016) in 52 districts. The UN Resident Coordinator’s Office is issuing out regular updates of the “Response Plan” for food insecurity for 2015-16.
  • The AMALIMA consortium is providing ongoing supplementary feeding activities in four districts in Matebeleland North and South Provinces, reaching over 53,000 beneficiaries monthly. Some 12,000 people are also benefiting under their Cash for Assets (CFA) component running until September 2017. ENSURE runs similar activities to those of AMALIMA in 6 districts of Masvingo and Manicaland Provinces, with over 42,000 beneficiaries under supplementary feeding. ENSURE has added sorghum and pulses to the rations as a drought response measure. 
  • The government’s safety net program, Harmonized Cash Transfer, continues in 22 districts across the country. In September, it reached 48,000 beneficiaries (92 percent of target) through monthly transfers of between $15-25 per household. This program targets the most vulnerable and mainly labor-constrained households. Other non-USAID and DFID supported pipelines (e.g. Red Cross, Dan Church Aid), are also running across some districts in the country, and coordination issues become of paramount importance.

Assumptions

The Food Security Outlook for October 2015 to March 2016 is based on the following national level assumptions:

Food availability

  • 2015-16 seasonal rainfall forecast: In August, the SADC Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) forecast indicates a likelihood of normal to below normal rains across much of Southern Africa due to strengthening El Niño conditions, anticipated to be among the strongest in the last 35 years. The National Climate Outlook Forum (NACOF) for Zimbabwe reported that for the entire season, normal to below normal rains are expected across most of the country. Only the northern and eastern areas of the country are expected to record normal to above normal rains during the January to March 2016 period. There are high chances of a late or erratic start and an early cessation of rains leading to a short growing season. Combined with likely mid-season dry spells in January and February, a second consecutive year of poor rains will have widespread impact on livelihoods and the economy across the country, and especially in the south.
  • Cereal availability:  The country is facing a cereal deficit for the rest of the 2015-16 consumption year. Total national cereal production from the 2014-15 cropping season was 49 percent lower than the previous year and 60 percent below the five-year average. The areas most-affected include Matebeleland South and Masvingo, where production was 24 percent and 35 percent below the five-year average, respectively. In Matebeleland North and Midlands Provinces, production was 43 and 41 percent below the five-year average. Markets in these areas (especially Matebeleland North and South) will continue to have low levels of maize grain, so maize flour will be the preferred cereal from October to March 2016. Formal imports: The national cereal deficit will be partly covered by formal imports, mainly from Zambia. The Government of Zimbabwe reportedly plans to import 80,000 MT of maize, with the rest expected to come through the private sector and humanitarian actors. Informal imports and trade flows: As usual, informal cereal flows are expected to continue from October to March. Also, surplus maize-producing farmers in the north are expected to dispose of their grain when prices are high between October and December. Any additional sales of carryover stock will depend on stock levels and the performance of the rainy season.

Food access

  • Agricultural and non-agricultural labor demand: The compounded impact of a poor 2014-15 harvest, forecasted normal to below normal rains for the upcoming 2015-16 season, challenging economic circumstances, and the depreciation of the South African Rand are likely to affect household food access from October 2015 to March 2016. The demand for agricultural/casual labor is likely to be significantly reduced. Increased labor supply during the lean season and anticipated lower than normal labor rates will affect poor household incomes and access to food.
  • Staple food prices: Maize grain prices will continue to be atypically high. In the northern provinces prices are expected between 15 and 25 percent above last year and the five-year average from October through March. Price levels in the southern provinces, though likely to remain higher than in the northern areas, will be largely cushioned, and influenced by maize flour supplies.
  • Livestock conditions and prices: Deteriorating pasture and water conditions especially in the south will continue to affect livestock conditions and prices from October through December, when the rains are expected to start. If the El Niño event continues, the impact is likely to be felt beyond December. Livestock prices and sales will also continue to suffer from movement restrictions imposed following the outbreak of FMD in some southern districts. Efforts by government and partners to contain the situation are likely to have limited impact due to resource constraints. Poor livestock prices and livestock-to-grain terms of trade will affect poor food access.
  • Macroeconomic environment: The challenging economic environment will likely result in an increasing number of households in both rural and urban areas facing food access challenges from October to March. The continued weak levels of the South African Rand are likely to lessen the quantity of food than can be purchased by households that rely on remittances.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Between October and December, the northernmost low-lying areas of the Mashonaland Provinces are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). However, as the lean season assistance coverage expands, some targeted areas in Crisis will become Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of assistance. In the southern provinces, most areas will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) given livelihood protection and survival food deficits and high food prices.

The food security situation between January and March 2016 will largely depend on the performance of the rainfall season and levels of humanitarian assistance, especially in the south. Most northern areas are expected to experience Minimum (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, in the presence of assistance. Lean season food assistance is planned to increase in the south during this quarter in terms of both targeted areas and beneficiaries. The planned scale of assistance will result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes improving to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), in the presence of assistance. 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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