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The start of the main harvest in April/May is expected to improve food security across the region

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • March 2017
The start of the main harvest in April/May is expected to improve food security across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook By Country
  • Countries Monitored Remotely
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • As the lean season continues, areas in parts of Mozambique, DRC, and Zimbabwe are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Most other areas are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and 2!) outcomes, with some in the presence of humanitarian assistance. In Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, and Zimbabwe   assistance is allowing households to cover their food gaps. With positive prospects for the main harvest in April/May, acute food insecurity is expected to improve across the region. Outcomes in most parts of the region will be Minimal (IPC Phase 1), while a few areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from June through September.

    • Above-average rainfall across many parts of the region has contributed to very favorable vegetation conditions and positive main harvest prospects. However, increased armyworm and red locust infestations, as well as cyclonic activity will likely reduce harvests in affected countries. Recent cyclones have damaged crops, infrastructure, and impeded agricultural activities in Mozambique and Madagascar, and caused flooding in Zimbabwe. The extent of the impact of the fall armyworm on yields in affected countries is unknown now due to constraints in identifying the pest, controlling it with insecticides, and detecting small infestations before they cause serious damage. Red locust breeding is also ongoing in several countries.

    • Crop conditions across the majority of the region are good and some households have begun consuming green foods with expectations that the dry harvest will begin in the next few months. In sharp contrast to last year, harvest prospects are good and above average staple prices are expected to start decreasing in April/May. In South Africa, the production forecast for white maize is about 8.3 million MT, which is 144 percent or 4.9 million MT more than the 3.4 million MT produced last season. Similar assessments to establish production estimates are ongoing in other countries across the region and results are expected in April/May.

    Outlook By Country

    Democratic Republic of the Congo  

    • The expected average harvests for growing season A in eastern areas of the country with the exception of Haut-Katanga and Tanganyika provinces affected by climatic anomalies will allow poor households to build up several months’ worth of food stocks and improve their current food consumption. There should be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels of food security in most of this area. 
    • The infestations of maize crops by fall armyworms (Spodoptera frugiperda) affecting an estimated 62.5 percent of cropped areas, with crop losses in Haut-Katanga province estimated at approximately 40 percent, and reported white fly infestations in the Kibombo area of Maniema province will continue to spread, resulting in below-average levels of crop production for growing season A in these areas. 
    • The ongoing tribal fighting and clashes between armed groups in the eastern part of the country are triggering continuing internal population displacements. The size of the internally displaced population grew by nearly 16 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2016. The loss of their assets and extremely limited access to their livelihoods will keep these DPs food-insecure and, thus, in continued need of humanitarian assistance.
    • The escalating conflicts between traditional local tribal leaders in Dibaya territory in Kasaï in the second half of 2016 have spread to other parts of Kasaï. The attacks and atrocities perpetrated by local militia groups against local populations will exacerbate the humanitarian situation, limiting their livelihood access during growing season B currently in progress. Thus, there will more than likely be below-normal levels of crop production for season B, rises in prices, and more limited food access for poor households.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook.


    • Approximately 6.7 million people, about half of Malawi’s rural population, will receive assistance in February. Food insecure populations in central and southern Malawi will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity outcomes, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. These outcomes are expected to continue in March, during the peak lean season. Were the humanitarian response not present, these areas would experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.
    • After March, outcomes should improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) for most areas as households start consuming food from their own production. However, households in the Lower Shire livelihood zone, a chronically food insecure area, will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) because they will not have fully recovered from the impact of two consecutive years of drought and the significant reduction in cotton production.
    • Reductions in incomes from cash crops are expected this season due to a decline in the area planted by farmers. Many farmers significantly reduced the area planted for tobacco and cotton because of consecutive poor marketing years for these crops, as well as losses incurred from two consecutive years of drought. This is expected to lead to a decrease in incomes at the macroeconomic and household level this season.
    • Food prices are decreasing earlier and much sharper than expected and this trend will likely continue through May. Factors contributing to these decreases include the large rural population receiving humanitarian assistance, which is reducing pressure on the markets, as well as the normal and above-normal levels of rainfall received this season.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • The number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is expected to reach about 2.3 million between now and March 2017, including potentially 300,000 flood and cyclone affected people. Household food stocks are exhausted, and poor households are relying on limited market access, wild foods, and humanitarian assistance, where available, to try to cover their food gaps. In January, food assistance covered approximately 900,000 people, representing only 45 percent of the 2 million assessed needs, and these levels are likely to continue through March 2017.
    • Tropical Cyclone Dineo hit coastal Inhambane Province on February 15, and according to preliminary estimates, the category 3 cyclone affected nearly 551,000 people and destroyed 27,000 hectares of crops. The most vulnerable households, who already faced Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to drought-related food gaps, are likely to face acute food shortages until at least the end of March, requiring urgent food assistance as well as seeds.
    • Due to largely favorable rainfall, a near-average harvest is expected across southern and central areas, beginning in March, despite some areas that needed to replant due to localized flooding or faced seed access challenges. However, below-average production is likely in coastal areas of Nampula and Cabo Delgado due to erratic and poor rainfall, and to a lesser extent in Zambézia. Fortunately localized cases of armyworm appear under control.
    • From April to May, with the harvests taking place country-wide, besides flood-affected areas, FEWS NET expects the number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will drop significantly as the majority of households will be accessing their own produced food, and staple prices are expected to gradually ease. From June to September, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected across all areas, but there could still be localized households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2), particularly in coastal Cabo Delgado, and even in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), who are recovering from late season shock

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • The central high plains and southeastern Madagascar experienced severe dryness and drought in January and early February. In the south, however, although the rainy season was approximately 5 – 7 weeks late overall levels of precipitation were near average during the month of January.
    • Food prices, particularly for both domestic and imported rice, increased rapidly on key references markets in January and February as traders reacted to prospects of a potential second consecutive rice crop failure. In Antananarivo, rice prices increased by 25 percent during the last week of January and the price of maize doubled. In February, prices remained high. All urban centers were affected as well as some communes of the southeast that rely heavily on market purchases.
    • Half rations assistance distributed in the south by WFP, ADRA, and CRS is still playing an important role in reducing food consumption gaps until May 2017. Despite the near average rain and the expected near average harvests of maize and pulses, areas in the south that were affected by drought in the past 3 years will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through the remainder of the lean season.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Madagascar Food Security Outlook Report.


    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue in most parts of the country during the first half of the outlook period. In the extreme southwest and southeast, areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the February and March period as poor households continue to rely on income from labor and face diminishing purchase power due to high staple prices.
    • Given the good seasonal rainfall, crop conditions are good and households will start consuming their green harvest and supplementing it with market purchases by March. By April and May, household level food stocks will significantly improve, reducing dependency on food purchases. By June, households will start consuming staples other seasonal foods, improving their food consumption and dietary diversity. With the improved food availability at the household level, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are projected for the June to September period throughout the country.
    • Maize and meal prices have remained exceptionally high despite the large in-country stocks and the continued maize export ban. These above average prices are increasingly making it difficult for poor households to access food. Given the continued high demand for maize and meal from the DRC and Malawi, maize prices are projected to remain high up until March. In April, maize prices typically begin to decrease as food supplies from the green and main harvests enter the market and demand for food purchases declines. By June, maize prices will remain above the five-year average, but will fall to levels below last season.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Zambia Food Security Outlook.


    • Last season’s El Niño-induced drought has been compounded by increasing macroeconomic challenges that the country is facing. During the current 2016/17 lean season, significant populations in the south and marginal areas in the north continue to experience food gaps and face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes between February and April. For the bulk of the north, Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected for February through March, both in the presence and absence of humanitarian assistance respectively.
    • The food insecurity situation is expected to improve starting in May, during the main harvest period. Despite favorable rainfall, areas in the south are expecting below-normal cereal production due to crop input shortages, pests, and low cropped area. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the southern and marginal northern areas between May and August. These areas are then projected to deteriorate into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in September. The north and other high maize producing areas are expected to have average production this season. So, for the bulk of the north, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected from May to September, as poor households consume own-produced cereals. 
    • All areas in the country received normal to above normal rains in January. By the third week of February, cumulative rainfall for more than half of the country was 125-200 percent above normal levels. The good seasonal rainfall has improved water availability for human, cropping, and livestock usage. However, the heavy rainfall has also contributed to soil erosion, crop damage, waterlogging, and leaching in most areas. This is compounded by a national shortage of fertilizers and an outbreak of the hard-to-control Fall Armyworm in all provinces and some peri-urban areas.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.


    Countries Monitored Remotely


    • As the lean season progresses, households face limited options for income and food sources and are relying mostly on casual labor for cash to purchase food and essential non-food items. Food prices remain above average, but have gradually declined since April 2016.
    • FEWS NET has learned that approximately 90 percent of the population facing survival food deficits this consumption year are receiving in-kind and cash assistance, allowing households to cover their food gaps and non-food needs. As a result, Lesotho is projected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from February through April 2017, in the presence of humanitarian assistance. In the absence of ongoing assistance, the country would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected for the remainder of the outlook period once the harvesting period peaks in May.
    • Similar to the rest of the region, rainfall in Lesotho continues to be above average. In general, crops are currently in good condition and harvest prospects are positive. Assuming current rainfall conditions prevail, it is expected that an average harvest will be achieved this season. This should improve food insecurity outcomes in Lesotho during the next consumption year.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2017 Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.

    AreaEventImpact of Food Security Outcomes
    Entire regionFall armyworm attacks on maize cobsFall armyworm on maize cobs will further reduce on regional maize harvest.
    Zambia, Mozambique, and MalawiRed and African Migratory LocustsOutbreaks of locusts could reduce crop yields.
    Entire regionSignificant decline in maize grain pricesThe collapse of maize grain prices due to the expected bumper harvest could significantly reduce household incomes from their crop sales this consumption year and will possibly increase livelihood protection deficits among poor households later in the consumption year.



    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.

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