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Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail despite effects of inclement weather

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Southern Africa
  • March 2013
Minimal food insecurity outcomes to prevail despite effects of inclement weather

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity outcomes remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) over most parts of the region despite this being the peak of the lean season. Funding for humanitarian programs and food assistance pipelines are adequately meeting needs in food insecure areas of Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, and southern Mozambique. In Lesotho however, on-going humanitarian programs remain underfunded, and inadequate to cover the needs of identified food insecure populations.

    • Despite the negative impacts of flooding and dry spells, crop conditions are reported to be good in many parts of the region including parts of Malawi, central and northern Mozambique, South Africa, Zambia, and north-eastern Zimbabwe. Average to above average harvests are expected in some of these areas.

    Current Situation

    As the lean season peaks, most households continue to depend mainly on markets to access food; in a few areas, this is being supplemented with available seasonal crops including pumpkins and melons. In general, prices of the main staples are following normal seasonal patterns. Atypically high price exceptions noted in parts of the region have resulted from localized production shortfalls and overall tight supplies, strong export demand, macroeconomic instability, and high transport and marketing costs. These factors have put upward pressure on prices in certain reference markets in Malawi, Mozambique, and Zambia. 

    A prolonged dry spell (Jan 21 – Feb 27) has resulted in rainfall deficits in parts of southern and central Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, southern Mozambique, northwestern maize producing areas of South Africa, and southern Angola. Many of these areas received an average of about 1mm/day – which is well below what is necessary to sustain cereal crops over such a long time period. Consequently, soil moisture levels have decreased substantially; significant rainfall is required immediately to avoid permanent wilting of maize crops in affected areas. The dry spell came at a time when many crops were in the flowering stage, a time when yields are very susceptible to moisture stress.


    • With nearly all resources secured, humanitarian assistance is currently reaching 1.97 million people identified as food insecure and is expected to continue as planned through March. Households in 15 of the 16 districts receiving assistance are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March, while households in Chikhwawa district are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to high levels of mandatory sharing of rations and limited migratory labor. Between April and June, all households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes as harvests become available. Green harvests are expected in March and harvests in April through June.
    • Average national maize prices remained high in January and were 89 and 58 percent above the five-year average and last year’s price levels, respectively. Although prices are expected to decrease with the start of the harvest in April, they are likely to remain above both the five-year average and the previous year’s level through June 2013.


    • Acute food insecurity outcomes for the majority of rural households across the country are Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected until March in affected districts in the central and southern zones (Figure 1), due to limited access to food resulting from production shortfalls last season and restricted flow of goods due to heavy rainfall in some areas. Stressed outcomes (IPC Phase 2) are expected in Chókwe district due to the negative impacts of floods. Emergency assistance is being provided to flood affected populations.
    • Despite the late start of season, heavy rains, and localized flooding in the major basins, crops are generally good. The season’s national harvest prospects are good; substantial contributions are expected from the central and northern zones. 


    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes continue across the country. Most households are depending on markets to access food. Due to the late rainfall onset, along with armyworm infestations, crops are at varying stages (especially in the central, south and eastern maize belt areas,). Most green harvests in these areas will be delayed; extending the period of market dependency for most poor rural households. Harvest prospects are average on account of the late delivery of subsidized top dressing fertilizer (which has resulted in localized yellowing and stunting of some crops), and waterlogging from extremely heavy rainfall in January.  


    • Despite seasonal staple food increases, the food security situation across the country remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as a result of a steady food imports and the continued distribution of food assistance to rural households.
    • Rainfall performance for the second half of the season has been favorable with most areas having received normal and above-normal rains by the end of January. Most maize crop conditions range from fair to good. There are still chances that the replanted crops in the southern region will mature if good rain distribution continues into early April. However, inaccessibility to fertilizer will likely result in lower yields due to soil leaching and the need for additional top dressing fertilizer for crops.  


    • As the lean season continues many poor rural households will continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes through March, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. Prospects of a good harvest in April are likely to be hampered by the occurrence of pest infestation and crop destruction by armyworms in the early weeks of February. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has affected some of the regional assumptions used in the February Outlook for the period of January – June 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 February Food Security Outlook.

    • In the February Outlook, it was assumed that due to prospects for an above average maize harvest in South Africa; maize prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) would decrease (or remain stable) until the harvest. However, due to the prolonged dry spell that has affected parts of the maize producing areas, yield expectations have dropped, and spot prices have begun to increase. This trend is likely to be sustained until the harvest if rainfall performance does not improve through March.
    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

     In the February Outlook, it was assumed that due to prospects for an above average maize harvest in South Africa; maize pri

    Figure 2

     In the February Outlook, it was assumed that due to prospects for an above average maize harvest in South Africa; maize prices on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) would decrease (or remain stable) until the harvest. However, due to the prolong

    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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