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Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail over most parts of the region

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • January 2013
Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail over most parts of the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity conditions are expected to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) over most parts of the region despite this being the peak of the lean season. Poor households in both rural and urban areas are meeting their food needs through market purchases, humanitarian assistance, own production and social protection services. 

    • Improved humanitarian assistance funding flows are expected to result in improved food security outcomes for households between January and March in southern Malawi and south-western Zimbabwe. 

    • Recent African Armyworm outbreaks in several countries could threaten food security during the 2012/13 agricultural season. 

    • The delayed start of season and poor rainfall performance in many parts of the region is likely to delay and reduce green harvest food supplies that are normally expected around February/March, which could extend the lean season for poor rural households.


    Current Situation
    • Despite it being the peak of the lean season, favorable food security conditions exist for most households in southern Africa and many are meeting their basic food needs through summer and winter production, market purchases and social protection services.
    • Humanitarian assistance funding flows improved in southern Malawi and south-western Zimbabwe, resulting in improved food security outcomes for households in these areas of concern.
    • Poor households in Zimbabwe’s maize deficit areas are able to meet both their survival and livelihood protection needs in the presence of humanitarian assistance and acute food insecurity outcomes are Minimal (IPC Phase 1). 
    • In areas of concern in southern Malawi, poor households that are now receiving assistance are still experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes. Households that have yet to start receiving assistance are projected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) until assistance distributions begin in early January--during which time conditions are expected to improve from Crisis to Stressed.
    • Since early December, several African armyworm outbreaks have been reported around the region, including Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Malawi, and Tanzania. These outbreaks could potentially have a negative impact on the main season harvest that begins in April.
    • Zambia and Zimbabwe report that adequate response and control measures have been taken in affected areas. In Zambia, the government responded by distributing pesticides and over 2.3 MT of early maturing maize seeds by late December. Most replanting has been completed and if good rainfall performance continues the impact of the infestation on 2012/13 production will be minimal. 
    • Staple food prices continued to rise in most monitored markets across the region in December; however these price increases are typical for this time of the season due to dwindling supplies. Higher than average food prices in maize deficit areas were observed in Malawi and Zimbabwe in December, and this is likely due to increasing fuel and transportation costs in these countries.
    • In South Africa the average December spot prices for white and yellow maize on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) decreased by 6 and 4 percent, respectively, compared to November prices, however these prices still remain above the five-year average. The observed price decreases are likely attributed to the strengthening of the Rand against the US Dollar during the December period, as well as the current favorable outlook for the 2013 maize harvest.
    • The start of season was delayed by 20 to 30 days in several areas in the region, including parts of Lesotho, central and southern Malawi, central Mozambique, central South Africa, southern Tanzania, parts of Zambia and central, northern and southern Zimbabwe (Figure 3). Crops in many parts of the region are still in their early vegetative stages, which is atypical for this time of the year.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has affected some of the regional assumptions used in the November Outlook for the period of October 2012 to March 2013. However the updated assumptions below are not expected to change the projected food security outcomes for the outlook period. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the November Outlook.

    • In the November Outlook, it was assumed that maize prices on the SAFEX would continue to increase throughout the outlook period, resulting in sustained maize price increases in importing neighboring States. Updated data shows a slight decrease in prices between November and December that is mainly due to the strengthening of the Rand against major currencies as well as the favorable maize production outlook. This decrease in maize prices on the SAFEX is likely to be short-lived in view of on-going fluctuations in the money and commodity markets in reaction to global trends.
    • The November Outlook stated that rainfall performance during the first half of the 2012/13 agricultural season is likely to be normal to above-normal across most parts of the region based on the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Climate Services Centre seasonal outlook for November 2012 to January 2013. Based on rainfall estimates (RFE) and start of season (SOS) data, the 2012/13 agricultural season was delayed and rainfall was erratic in many parts of the region, including parts of Lesotho, central and southern Malawi, central Mozambique, central South Africa, southern Tanzania, parts of Zambia and central, northern and southern Zimbabwe. During November, which is normally when the season starts, rainfall was well below-average in most of these areas, delaying land preparation and planting. This is likely to delay the green harvest normally expected around February/March and extend the lean season for poor households. Food supplies from the green harvest are also likely to be less than normal if rainfall performance is also poor from December 2012 through March 2013.
    • In the recent Outlook it was assumed that the under-funding of humanitarian responses in the region was likely to continue throughout the outlook period and most response/assistance programs in Malawi, Angola, and Lesotho were expected to remain inadequate in reaching food insecure populations, or would be prematurely discontinued due to lack of funding. Funding flows for humanitarian response programming in Malawi have improved considerably and identified food insecure populations in the areas of concern are expected to receive assistance during the peak of the lean season period. 

    Updated Assumptions
    • Favorable food security conditions in most parts of the region are projected to prevail throughout the outlook period, with the exception of localized pockets of acute food insecurity in southern Malawi and southern and central Mozambique.
    • Even in the presence of assistance, poor households in the areas of concern in Malawi are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and have minimally adequate food consumption as food prices continue to rise and purchasing power continues to erode during the peak of the lean period. In the absence of assistance, households in parts of southern and central Mozambique will have limited access to dwindling market supplies and will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) until the next harvest.
    • The delayed start of season and poor rainfall performance in many parts of the region are likely to delay and reduce food supplies from the green harvest that is normally expected around February/March. This delay in the green harvest could extend the lean season. Affected areas include parts of Lesotho, central and southern Malawi, central Mozambique, central South Africa, southern Tanzania, parts of Zambia and central, northern and southern Zimbabwe. Crop damage by African armyworms in Malawi, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Zambia could also adversely impact 2012/13 harvests. All of these areas will need to be monitored closely over the outlook period.
    • The SADC Climate Services Centre predicts normal to above-normal rainfall during the outlook period and the forecasted normal rains may be sufficient to significantly reduce moisture deficits, improving yields and production from early planted crops, increasing food supplies during the outlook period. However, this forecast comes in the absence of any major climatic features such as El Niño, and La Niña, among others, which can generally result in reduced forecast skill and increased forecast uncertainty.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Onset of Rains in Southern Africa, January 2013

    Figure 2

    Onset of Rains in Southern Africa, January 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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