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Food security outcomes will deteriorate slightly during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Southern Africa
  • November 2017
Food security outcomes will deteriorate slightly during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Between October 2017 and January 2018, most areas in the region will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes, with the exception of parts of Zimbabwe, central Mozambique, southern Madagascar and the Kasai and Tanganyika conflict zones in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) where Crisis (IPC phase 3) outcomes are prevailing. During the upcoming lean season period, it is expected that area outcomes will transition to Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and 2!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2018 in parts of southern Malawi, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Kasai and Tanganyika in the DRC.

    • Normal agricultural activities are expected to start on time and land preparation is ongoing in the region. The most recent international climate model analyses indicate a normal start to the 2017/18 rainy season is likely and that total cumulative rainfall during the October/November 2017 – March 2018 period is likely to be average tending to below average rainfall in southern areas, including Zimbabwe, northeastern South Africa, Lesotho, and southern Mozambique. Total cumulative rainfall is likely to be average tending to above average across most of Malawi, northern Mozambique, Zambia, and Madagascar. 

    • Maize supplies in the region are above average, owing to high 2016/17 seasonal production. This has ensured stability of food availability in many parts of the region. As a result, maize prices are at or below average levels and expected to remain so throughout the 2017/18 consumption year.  Exceptions to this trend may likely be in Tanzania where prices are expected to remain above average due to the past drought.


    Democratic Republic of the Congo  

    • The main growing season (Season A, with harvests extending from January through March) is gradually getting underway with the planting of major food crops across bimodal areas of the Northeastern, Southeastern, and Central-Eastern regions. It is off to a slow and, in some cases, tentative start in conflict areas of the Kasaï region and Tanganyika province, where there has been very little return migration by displaced households, who represent approximately 20 percent of the rural population in these areas.
    • According to NOAA forecasts, cumulative seasonal rainfall totals across the country will likely be average apart from the Southeast that may be below-average, particularly Haut-Katanga province. This will likely lead to normal crop performance, with generally good harvests at the end of this growing season.
    • The increased presence of government troops in the Kasaï region has led to approximately 106,000 IDPs (7.5 percent of the internally displaced population of the region) to return home in the last 18 months. This flow of return migration could come to a halt without timely assistance, which could trigger a cycle of continuous displacement.

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


    • With the start of the lean season in the next 1-2 months, food security outcomes at the national level are favorable and will continue to be throughout most of the outlook period. Households across the country are consuming own-produced stocks and experiencing stable access to market purchases due to low food prices and the slightly above-average 2017 production. However, very poor and poor households in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mwanza, and Balaka districts experienced localized dry spells and pest attacks. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected in these areas during the outlook period.
    • According to national and international forecast models, a La Niña is expected by the end of 2017 and rainfall for the October 2017 to March 2018 period is expected to tend towards average. Based on the positive seasonal rainfall forecast for the 2017/18 season, normal production for rainfed crops is expected in 2018. 
    • FEWS NET’s integrated maize price projections indicate that national average prices will remain significantly below the five-year average and are expected to follow seasonal trends between October 2017 and March 2018. Maize prices are likely to peak in February and March, but should start decreasing as households begin accessing green harvests in March. 

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


    • Across most of Mozambique, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to prevail through May 2018, following the above-average 2016/17 agricultural season. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are present in parts of Sofala, Manica, and Tete provinces. As the lean season progresses, there is an expected deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in northwestern Sofala until the harvest in mid-April. Poor households in these areas are expected to require humanitarian assistance to cover their food gaps. 
    • Food access remains favorable across the country as the bumper crop production is directly reflected in lower staple food prices. Atypical, stable maize grain prices continued in August, September, and October at below five-year averages. According to FEWS NET price projections, this trend is likely to continue through at least May 2018. As poor households continue to restore previously depleted incomes throughout the 2017/18 agricultural season, these lower staple food prices are expected to ease livelihood recovery.
    • The rainfall forecast indicates a timely start and generally positive cropping conditions, which is likely to lead to near-average 2017/18 crop production. As a result, this is expected to lead to generally favorable food availability and access through May 2018, with a few exceptions. With expected La Niña conditions, there is a chance for increased cyclonic activity that could impact Mozambique, and there is also a moderate to high risk of flooding in some river basins during January to March 2018.

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


    • Both national rice and maize production are below the 5-year average and less than last year. This year the country’s main rice producing region had the lowest production ever recorded. National cassava production is also below the 5-year average and less than last year, but the harvest period is ongoing in the south, in addition to the ongoing off-season sweet potato harvest.
    • The price of imported rice is currently 22 percent above the 2012-2016 average. Prices of local cereals are above the five-year average while prices of local rice are 21 percent higher than last year, and those of maize decreased by 9 percent. Prices for tubers are 7 to 22 percent lower than last year, cassava are similar to the five-year average and potatoes are 27 percent lower.
    • Many households are still consuming their own production from recent harvests, but some very poor households have depleted their stocks and are consuming purchased foods. Consumption of imported rice, which is the main substitute for locally grown products for poor households during the lean season, has started to increase in urban centers and northern Madagascar due to high prices of other foods, and in Southern Madagascar where the shift comes when cassava/sweet potatoes stocks are depleted.
    • Areas of the extreme South area expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from October 2017 to January 2018, except the urban districts of Manakara and Vohipeno in the southeast. The situation in the region will likely improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to May 2018 with the expected maize and pulse harvests.

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


    • Acute food insecurity remains Minimal (IPC Phase 1) following the above-average harvest this year, resulting in increased food availability for farming households and improved food access for households that dependent on market purchases. Poorer households will be accessing additional food or cash when hired for labor by better-off households during the peak period (Oct-Dec) for agricultural labor demand for the 2017/18 production season. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area outcomes are likely to continue throughout the entire outlook period. 
    • Since the arrival of harvest supplies on the market in June 2017, market activity has been lower than normal. Prices are at an all-time low due to the large harvest, large carryover stocks from the previous season, and limited regional markets for large traders. Maize prices are expected to remain below average and will peak at much lower levels than typical during the February and March 2018 period. 
    • Even in the absence of the export ban, formal maize export volumes this season are much lower than in previous years. In contrast, informal exports to the Democratic Republic of the Congo are normal and demand for maize meal is higher than demand for grain due to the reduced meal prices. High demand from Tanzanian traders in the northern parts of the country has increased the flow of maize to deficit areas in the East Africa region. 

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


    • Most northern and high crop-producing areas are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes and these are expected for the entire outlook period. Several marginal production areas in the southern, central, and extreme northern regions are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) because of reduced or depleted own-produced food stocks, depressed livelihood activities, and reduced household incomes due to prevailing economic challenges. These outcomes are likely to continue during the October to January period.
    • From February to March, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in some areas during the peak lean season. Humanitarian assistance is expected in several areas in the south, west, and extreme north, and is likely to improve outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). The main harvest is expected to start from April to May and will result in mainly Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.
    • National shortages in local bond notes and foreign currency continue to adversely impact livelihoods in both rural and urban areas. The use of alternative modes of payment is contributing to the increased costs of goods and services. With reduced incomes because of depressed livelihood activities, the ongoing macroeconomic situation is expected to constrain food access for poor households this consumption year.

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

    Countries Monitored Remotely[i]


    • Following a well above-average national harvest, food supplies are readily available in markets even as the lean season period approaches. The upcoming lean season is expected to be much less severe than what was experienced last year because of the 2015/16 El Niño-induced drought. According to the Global Information and Early Warning System (GIEWS, July 2017), maize imports for the 2017/18 marketing year are expected to be about 55,000 MT. 
    • As reported in July, the estimated food insecure population for 2017/18 is much lower than average, however the annual Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis still estimates that approximately 225,000 people are likely to be food insecure at the peak of the lean season (Dec. 2017-Feb. 2018). Very poor and poor households in marginal production areas, particularly Mohale’s Hoek, Mafeteng, Mokhotlong, and Quthing districts, are likely to have livelihood protection deficits and very small food consumption gaps. Some areas are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and this is expected to continue through February, with a chance of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among households in isolated areas. 
    • Food prices remain stable and seasonal increases are expected for the remainder of the year. Many off-farm labor opportunities are decreasing as on-farm labor slowly increases for very poor and poor households. October rainfall provided much needed soil moisture, enhancing agricultural preparations for the next season. A normal start to the 2017/18 rainy season is likely and total cumulative rainfall during the October/November 2017 – March 2018 period is likely to be average tending to below average rainfall. This rainfall forecast is likely to affect agriculture activities in some areas. 

    To learn more, read the complete October 2017 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.

    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes
    Entire region Significant fall armyworm infestation and crop damage during the 2017/18 cropping seasonThis could lead to an increase in localized crop yield loss or worst. 
    Traditionally cereal- deficit areas Change in normal flow of cereal supplies to deficit areasThis may affect local cereal availability during the lean season and drive prices to higher levels than projected, reducing household purchasing power and constraining food access for poor households. 

    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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