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The delayed start of the rainfall season narrows the planting window across the region

  • Key Message Update
  • Southern Africa
  • December 2023
The delayed start of the rainfall season narrows the planting window across the region

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in most deficit-producing parts of the Southern African region as poor households have largely exhausted their food stocks from the 2023 harvest amid high and rising food prices and limited agricultural labor opportunities due to El Nino induced dryness in November. In eastern DRC and localized areas of Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, ongoing conflict is constraining poor households' access to income and food from their livelihoods. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are still present in relatively productive parts of southern Africa, such as central and northern Malawi, central and northern Mozambique, high-producing areas of Zimbabwe, and much of Madagascar, where households are managing to meet their food needs from harvested stocks and purchases. However, lower than normal purchasing power is containing household access to meet their non-food needs.
    • The distribution of humanitarian food assistance is ongoing in southern Madagascar and parts of Malawi affected by Cyclone Freddy. The anticipated increase in beneficiaries in January 2024 in parts of southern Madagascar will likely further improve area-level classifications. Humanitarian food assistance in Zimbabwe is expected to start in January 2024. However, there is likely a rising population in need of assistance due to the impact of the below-average rainfall on crop production and rising food prices. In Cabo Delgado, Mozambique, ongoing humanitarian food assistance is being distributed across most of the province, supporting Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, but Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are ongoing in areas most affected by conflict. 
    • Dry and hot conditions in November due to the ongoing strong El Niño led to the wilting of crops planted in October. However, moderate rainfall in mid-December has supported planting and replanting and the recovery of pasture and water resources, particularly across central and southern areas of the region. Before the onset of rainfall in mid-December, pasture conditions and water availability for livestock were deteriorating, resulting in poor livestock body conditions and livestock deaths in some areas of southern Zimbabwe. Although the rainfall received from mid-December is supporting crop and livestock production. The late onset of rainfall has shortened the agricultural season and likely reduced the area planted. Lower-than-normal planting is likely resulting in below-average labor opportunities, impacting poor household access to income for market food purchases during the lean season. 
    • As the lean season progresses, food prices have remained elevated across monitored markets in the region. Headline inflation has been increasing and remains close to the upper end of government targets in a few countries. However, the stable fuel prices in November have kept transport price inflation moderate, offsetting annual food price inflation increases. South Africa and Tanzania continue to export maize within the region, meeting supply gaps in deficit countries of this region. Zimbabwe and Mozambique have ramped up imports of maize from South Africa since August, with 129,000 and 88,000 MT of total maize imported, respectively, in response to anticipated poor maize harvests in the coming months due to El Niño.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Southern Africa Key Message Update December 2023: The delayed start of the rainfall season narrows the planting window across the region, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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