Skip to main content

Most parts of the region expecting poor harvest due to poor rainfall performance or flooding

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • March 2019
Most parts of the region expecting poor harvest due to poor rainfall performance or flooding

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • It is important to note the below food security outcomes are the result of country specific analyses in February and impacts on food security outcomes due to Cyclone Idai and flooding will be updated in country specific analyses in March and April as more information becomes available. Crisis IPC (Phase 3) outcomes are likely to continue in most of Zimbabwe, Eastern DRC, parts of Southern Mozambique, Southern Madagascar and Lesotho between March and May 2019 as conflict continues in DRC and incomes are low due to below average agriculture labor opportunities. Humanitarian assistance is preventing more severe outcomes in Southern Mozambique, Madagascar, and DRC, and areas of Zimbabwe with households experiencing Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes through May 2019.

    • Following heavy rainfall and high winds from cyclone Idai, central Mozambique, southern Malawi, and eastern parts of Zimbabwe were affected by widespread flooding. Current reports indicate death, injuries, and widespread displacement across affected areas. Infrastructure was also severely damaged and many of the affected areas continue to be difficult to access. This has left most people with limited access to food and nearly all affected households are in need of humanitarian food assistance. FEWS NET continues to monitor the situation and will update our analysis as more information becomes available.  

    • Despite average to above average precipitation in Malawi, Mozambique, DRC, and Madagascar, and eastern Zimbabwe, the rest of the region experienced a dry spell from mid-January to mid-February following an erratic and below average start to the rainfall season. As a result, cumulative rainfall from the October to March 20th period is below average in areas of Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho, South Africa, South Western Zambia, southern Mozambique, and Central Madagascar. The below average rainfall is anticipated to negatively affect the 2019 harvest across the region.

    • Regional maize grain and other staple food supplies are stable, however staple food prices continue to increase due to increases in market demand during the peak lean season. In addition, speculation of a poor harvest in parts of the region due to erratic and below average rainfall is likely to continue price increases as well as macroeconomic policy changes in Zimbabwe and conflict in DRC. In January, maize prices in SAFEX markets in South Africa were similar to the 5-year average, while in other regional markets of Madagascar, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe maize prices were above the 5-year average.


    Democratic Republic of the Congo 

    • Growing season A harvests have been underway since mid-December 2018 in northeastern and central-eastern parts of the country. Compared with the previous growing season, average production is estimated, due to the good agroclimatic conditions in key production areas during the season. This situation could lead to an improvement in household food stocks.
    • Since late January 2019, following clashes in South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has received an estimated 5,000 refugees in several villages in the Aru territory in Ituri. These follow the first waves of refugees still residing in the area and will place increasing pressure on local resources, which already face multiple agropastoral challenges.
    • The rainy season from October 2018 to March 2019 started almost a month late in all southern African countries, including Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, with precipitation well below average. It is expected that the resulting projected below-average harvests will affect southeastern DRC, which largely depends on imports from these countries.

    To learn more, see the February 2019 Democratic Republic of Congo Food Security Outlook.


    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are present in most northern areas, while humanitarian food assistance is mitigating outcomes in central and southern areas with Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes present, respectively. Incomes from agricultural labor, livestock sales, and self-employment are below average as a result of a bad 2017/18 production season with most households relying on markets for food.
    • Most areas have received normal to above normal cumulative rainfall to date, despite localized minor rainfall deficits. Due to the favorable rainfall performance and the current average crop stand, preliminary production estimates are showing that the 2018/19 food and cash crop harvests will be slightly higher average as compared to the five-year average.
    • After March, outcomes are anticipated to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most areas as households start consuming foods from their own production. These outcomes are likely to continue through September as most households will most likely still be consuming own foods and not be reliant on markets for food.

    To learn more, see the February 2019 Malawi Food Security Outlook.


    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes continue throughout most of the country due to combination of food stocks from the previous season and relatively near-average staple food prices. However, following an early start of the lean season, poor households in southern and central semiarid areas are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes exist in Chibuto, Chicualacuala, Chigubo, Guijá and Funhalouro districts. In areas affected by attacks by “malefactors” in Cabo Delgado, stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist.
    • The 2018/19 season started late with below average rainfall in the southern region has negatively impacted the ongoing agriculture season. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely with the harvest in areas of the southern region. Most other areas of the country are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Poor households will rely on own foods, including carryover stocks, green foods in March, the main harvest, and market purchases.
    • Maize grain prices on average are slightly above the five-year average and significantly above last year’s prices by 57 percent. In January 2019 prices were above average in Chókwe, Maputo, Nampula, and Pemba. However, prices remained below average in Beira and Gorongosa, and same as average in Chimoio and Mocuba. In Nampula and Pemba, where maize grain prices have been volatile during this marketing year due in part to sporadic increases in demand by the milling companies, prices are now above the five-year average by 8 percent in Nampula and by 60 percent in Pemba.

    To learn more, see the complete February 2019 Mozambique Food Security Outlook.


    • The 2019 cyclonic season is very active; Cyclone Gelena, the third cyclone of the year passed by northern Madagascar in early February, bringing the cumulative rainfall to more than 50 percent above normal in the north. Elsewhere, cumulative rainfall is near normal except in western Madagascar and localized areas of deficit throughout the country.
    • Western Madagascar received only 50 percent of its normal rainfall over the past three consecutive years, leading to a loss of 80 percent of rice production in that zone. This year, production is expected to be similarly poor as last year.
    • In total, Madagascar imported 668,000 MT of rice in the 2017/2018 marketing year, which was twice the amount of the previous year and of the 5-year average. For the first semester of 2018/2019, rice imports were lower than first semester 2017/2018 but were still above average despite improved national rice production in 2017/2018.
    • Prices of staple foods are largely stable but above normal, particularly in Southern Madagascar. In Tsihombe, a kilo of maize was in mid-January 2019, was a 78 percent more expensive than in December 2018 and almost triple the price from January 2018.

    To learn more, see the February 2019 Madagascar Food Security Outlook.


    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected across most typical food-deficit parts of the country from February to May and will extend through September in some areas. These outcomes are mainly due to depleted own-produced food stocks, anticipated 2018-19 poor harvests, constrained livelihoods, and high food prices. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in high-production areas as poor households may meet their basic food needs but will be unable to meet their other livelihood needs.  
    • A late start of season and below-average rains for the 2018-19 cropping season have resulted in below-normal cropped areas, significant rates of temporary and permanently wilted crop, and poor water and pasture conditions, especially in arid areas. Typical livelihood activities like casual labor have also been affected. The harvest time is likely to be delayed in most areas, starting in April compared to March. The 2018-19 crop production is expected at below-average levels across the country.
    • Economic hardships are expected to continue impacting livelihoods and the food security situation for poor and other household groups across the country. Foreign currency shortages, the parallel market, multiple-pricing systems and high and speculative pricing will likely continue during the Outlook period. The government has introduced new monetary policy measures aimed at addressing these challenges, though the effects and impacts of these measures are yet to be assessed

    To learn more, see the February 2019 Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook.

    Countries Monitored Remotely[i]


    • Despite adequately stocked markets, maize meal access remains restricted to poor households as they continue to earn significantly below average incomes and prices are trending near the five-year average. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist and are likely to continue through April due to the delayed availability of green foods. Due to the anticipated below average harvest, limited availability of labor opportunities, and below average income from livestock production; Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are anticipated with the harvest.
    • Poor rainfall during the 2018/19 season has resulted in poor cropping conditions across Lesotho. Cumulative rainfall through February is significantly below-average. As of second week of February, the Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) extended to the end of the season showed poor to mediocre maize cropping conditions in the majority of Lesotho. These conditions are likely to significantly impact the harvest.
    • Below average rains received to date are resulting in very slow regeneration of vegetation and recharge of water bodies. Lesotho is one of the Southern African countries with the most affected vegetation due to poor rains. The Normalized Vegetation Index (NDVI) as of first week of February show that vegetation in Lesotho was about 60 to 90 percent of normal. This has negative implications on availability of pastures and body conditions for livestock in future.

    To learn more, read the February 2019 Lesotho Remote Monitoring Report.


    [i] With remote monitoring, an analyst typically works from a nearby regional office, relying on a network of partners for data. Compared to countries above, where FEWS NET has a local office, reporting on remote monitoring countries may offer less detail.


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



    Impact on food security outcomes


    Further Increases in Fuel Prices

    • In the event of well distributed consistent rains being received in the region through   April, production especially from the late planted crops will improve

    South Africa, Mozambique and Lesotho

    Improved Winter Harvest

    • Improved Winter cropping in Lesotho and Mozambique will likely help reduce the food deficits expected during the outlook period
    • Improvements in winter harvest   in South Africa will significantly improve regional maize grain supplies


    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top