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Food security outcomes expected to deteriorate earlier than usual in drought affected areas

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • March 2018
Food security outcomes expected to deteriorate earlier than usual in drought affected areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Outlook By Country
  • Countries Monitored Remotely
  • Events That Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • Several countries in the region have been affected by the drought conditions experienced between December 2017 and January 2018.  Cropping activities and crop conditions have been adversely affected, indicating reduced prospects for 2018 seasonal production in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Madagascar, Malawi, South Africa, Lesotho and Zambia. In affected areas in these countries, even with the improved rains received in February, many early planted and permanently wilted crops are not expected to recover.

    • Acute food insecurity outcomes are currently mixed across much of the region due to the early and mid-season drought conditions experienced in some areas. Production prospects did improve because of the February rains in northern parts of Madagascar, Mozambique, Malawi, and Zimbabwe resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes projected through September. 

    • However, most households in drought-affected parts of southern Zimbabwe, Malawi, Mozambique, and Madagascar are already experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes and will face a limited or below-normal green harvest this season. Because the 2018 main harvest is expected to be reduced, affected households in these countries will face food gaps and livelihood protection deficits much earlier in the consumption year than usual. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are projected for several areas between June and September. Parts of the conflict-affected Tanganyika and Kasai provinces in the DRC are also likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for the entire outlook period.

    • In general, regional maize grain supplies are still expected to be above average due to the contributions of significant carryover stocks from the 2017 harvests, despite reduced 2018 main harvest prospects. These supplies should help to stabilize food prices in the drought-affected areas. Across the region, food prices are expected to follow the seasonal trend, decreasing during the harvests around May/June and stabilizing through August.  The exception to these trends will be rice prices in Madagascar, which are expected to remain significantly higher than the five-year average due to consecutive seasons of drought.

    Outlook By Country

    Democratic Republic of the Congo  

    • This time of year, coincides with the end of the harvesting period and the commencement of land preparation work for ensuing crop planting activities for growing season B in the northeast and the pursuit of crop maintenance work in the southeast for the upcoming harvest expected to begin towards the end of March 2018. Based on agroclimatic forecasts by the NOAA, rainfall levels are expected to range from average to above-average and, could help produce an average growing season in the north and average harvests in the south.
    • The new outbreak of ethnic fighting in Djugu Territory in Ituri Province triggering new displacements (approximately 25,000 IDPs) and a flow of refugees into neighboring Uganda (29,000 according to UNOCHA) in February 2018 caused massive crop losses in this deficit maize area and, in the very short term, is expected to limit the access of local populations to their livelihoods and, jeopardize the upcoming “B” growing season for which preparations are already underway.
    • The erratic rainfall so far, high temperatures, and the continued fall armyworm infestation are lowering cereal production forecasts for southern Africa for 2018. These factors could have serious effects on food access and adequate nutrition and on the production capacity of farmers in southeastern DRC despite the good agroclimatic forecast for the 2018-2019 consumption year.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook.


    • Across the country, area acute food insecurity outcomes are Minimal (IPC Phase 1), and a few areas in the extreme south are also Minimal (IPC Phase 1!), in the presence of humanitarian assistance. Incomes from agricultural labor, livestock sales, and self-employment are average to above average because there was less competition among poorer households this cropping season. Most households are still consuming food from their own production because of last year’s above-average harvest.
    • Maize prices in local markets increased during the last week of January after remaining stable and at times below-average since June 2017. The increase may be attributed to an artificial supply decrease as some farmers and traders started hoarding their stocks in anticipation of a below-average 2017/18 harvest.
    • Based on field observations during a recent assessment, FEWS NET expects that the 2017/18 harvest will be negatively impacted by dry spells and pest attacks, which could lead to production that is 10 percent below last season’s production or 5 percent less than the five-year average and national cereal requirements. Production of main cash crops such as tobacco, cotton, and legumes are also likely to register reductions.
    • During the outlook period most areas will be experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes between February and May. Between June and September, areas in Nsanje, Balaka, Blantyre, Mangochi, Neno, and Salima district are projected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to the impacts of prolonged dry spells and pest infestations.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • Following below-average seasonal rainfall in the south and parts of the central region, outside of northwestern Sofala Province, an atypical, gradual deterioration in food security is expected in mostly semiarid areas through September. As a result of expected growing food gaps for poor households, emergency food assistance will be required beginning around late June. However, currently, most areas of Mozambique, except some localized central areas, are experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes due to favorable food access.
    • From February to May, due to significantly below-average crop yields or, in some instances, total crop failure in parts of southern and central zones, particularly in the semiarid areas, there will be an absence or limited green foods. Combined with limited income-earning opportunities and the continued recovery from the El Niño drought in 2015/16, poor households are expected to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In northwestern Sofala Province, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist until the April harvest.
    • From June to September, outcomes in some areas, particularly semiarid zones affected by dryness during the main season, where second season production is limited, are expected to worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Poor households in these areas are expected to intensify their consumption of wild foods, reduce their quantity of food from market purchases, and increase their self-employment activity to cover their food gaps. Food gaps are expected to widen further after September, ahead of the typical lean season in October.
    • Maize prices are currently mixed, with general stability in producer areas, but marked increases in drought-affected areas. This trend is likely to continue through September, with below-average prices in surplus areas, while the south and parts of central semiarid areas are likely to experience further price increases atypically early in May. Above-average maize grain prices in these areas are likely to persist until the next harvest in April 2019.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • The northern half of Madagascar received above average rainfall during the 2017/2018 rainy season 2017/2018 but the southern half received below average rainfall. A deficit was particularly seen in the southwest, including the Tsiribihini Delta production area that is a major food supplier to southern Madagascar, which received only 55 percent of average rainfall between October 2017 and February 2018.
    • The southwest was also the first area infested by Fall Army Worm (FAW) in November 2017. According to the Plant Protection Department in the Ministry of Agriculture, FAW is currently detected in 18 regions out of 22 and is infesting approximately 5 percent of maize fields in Madagascar. A joint assessment will be conducted by FAO and this Department to assess the extent of infested fields and damages to crops in late February 2018.
    • In the highlands, farmers were affected by floods caused by Cyclone Ava at the beginning of 2018 and are still in the recovery process after the loss of much of their main season crops. They are trying to transplant rice again, but availability of young plants is limited following the low production last year.
    • In recent months, prices of rice stabilized at the highest level ever seen in Madagascar, due to low market supply despite the December-January harvest period and the continued depreciation of the Malagasy Ariary. In January 2018, prices of local rice were near 50 percent above the 5-year average which made access difficult for poor and middle-income households in Madagascar. Poor households switched to less preferred staple foods like dried cassava or imported rice, whereas middle income households reduced non-food expenditures to meet their food needs.
    • The Southwest is experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as below normal rainfall compromised poor farmers’ livelihoods and reduced their tuber production. The Southeast was hit by Cyclone Ava in January and is still recovering from last season’s unusual dryness and is currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the Extreme South, although the eastern part of the zone received near normal rainfall, the western part received below normal rainfall and agricultural planting was affected; a situation worse than in 2017 but better than during the El-Nino episodes in previous years. Some households in this zone will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and others in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to May 2018.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 Madagascar Food Security Outlook Report.


    • Following below-normal rains during the first half of the cropping season, as well as a prolonged and abnormally dry and hot spell in January, widespread rains were received in February. The rains have resulted in the recovery of some late-planted crops which were at critical wilting points. Unfortunately for most areas in the south and other parts of the country where crops were planted earlier, much of these crops had permanently wilted. The rains have also improved water and pasture conditions in most areas. National maize production from the 2017-18 production season will most likely be below-average.
    • National maize supply is atypically above-average and is expected to remain so until the end of the current marketing year in March. This is mainly due to high crop production from last season. Significantly above-average national maize carry-over stocks are expected into the next marketing year (2018-19). After experiencing relatively stable prices during most of the current consumption year, maize grain price increases became notable from January. This has been attributed to the dryness and anticipated poor harvests. However, prices continue below last year and the average, a trend that is expected to persist. 
    • Most typical surplus-producing areas are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes during the outlook period. Carry-over stocks from the previous season, as well as stocks from the 2018 harvests, though expected at below-average levels, will ensure maize availability. Some poor households will face challenges meeting non-basic food and other needs due to poor livelihood options. For southern and other typical deficit areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will continue for the remainder of the peak lean season (February-March). Consumption of own-produced stocks from anticipated poor harvests will marginally improve the situation between April/May and June resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. From July through September, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected as poor households’ own-produced stocks are exhausted.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.

    Countries Monitored Remotely


    • In large parts of Mafeteng, Maseru, Berea, Leribe and part of Butha-Buthe districts, total cumulative rainfall has been 55-70 percent of normal. These rainfall anomalies are a slight improvement in comparison to the previous month, but these moisture deficits are still likely to have negative impacts on crop development and yields for the 2018 harvest. Some crops are reported to be stunted, but still growing because of recent February rainfall. Concern for key-growing zones in Lesotho was included in a regional Special Alert recently released by FAO. 
    • Food stocks among households are expected to be depleted in January/February and market purchases will be the main source of food, in addition to in-kind labor payments. Current maize meal prices are lower than last year and at near-average levels. Access to green foods for consumption is usually available in late February but will be reduced this season for most poor households due to the dry conditions.
    • The erratic and poor rainfall this season is expected to contribute to below-normal local labor opportunities between February and July. Normally, household income sources during the months of January/February include remittances from relatives working in mining in South Africa, shearing wool, on-farm weeding labor, self-employment, livestock sales, and safety-net programming. By April, food availability is expected to improve at the household level as harvests become available. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area outcomes are expected to continue in Lesotho between February and May, improving to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) between June and September.

    To learn more, read the complete February 2018 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 on food security outcomes
    Entire regionThe rainy season extends through the end of AprilContinued rains through the end of April will result in improved production prospects in areas where replanting took place in February.
    Entire regionPrice increases significantly above averageSpikes in staple prices will likely result in households in the drought affected areas failing to access staple through market purchases and will further worsen food security outcomes.


    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: Fews Net

    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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