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Rainfall in December supports replanting, but cumulatively below-average rainfall is expected

  • Key Message Update
  • Southern Africa
  • January 2024
Rainfall in December supports replanting, but cumulatively below-average rainfall is expected

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In December, poor households in southern and western Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, eastern DRC, and central and southern Mozambique are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as the lean season begins to peak driven by below-average access to agricultural labor and income due to the poor onset of rainfall, delayed planting, reduced area planted, increased dependence on markets, and high food prices. In eastern DRC and Cabo Delgado, Mozambique,  households’ ability to engage in typical livelihood activities is constrained, with conflict disrupting household access to seasonal harvests in the DRC due to a lack of access to cultivated areas. In the DRC, the deterioration of the security situation over the past three months has driven an increase in the population facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. In Cabo Delgado and southern Madagascar, the ongoing distribution of humanitarian food assistance (HFA) supports Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes.
    • From mid-December into January 2024, average to above-average rainfall supported the replanting of crops lost during the prolonged November dry spell, as well as the start of planting, the application of agricultural inputs, and weeding across much of the northern and central countries of the region. Although agricultural labor opportunities were more available during this period, agricultural labor opportunities remained largely below-average due to the below-average area planted and lower than-normal liquidity among better-off households. Late planted crops are in the emergence to early vegetative crop growth, while crops planted in October and November had largely wilted before the start of rainfall in mid-December. The rainfall in December and January has supported pasture recovery and water availability for livestock across many agropastoral regions. Still, some areas of southern Zimbabwe have only reported marginal improvements in pastures, with ongoing low water availability for livestock and domestic use and poor crop and livestock conditions. 
    • Rainfall from January to March will likely be cumulatively below average in southern and central Mozambique, Zimbabwe, southern Malawi, southern Madagascar, and southeastern Angola. The below-normal rainfall will likely negatively impact the remainder of the 2023/24 agricultural season, with below-average green and dry harvests most likely in affected areas. However, rainfall is expected to be cumulatively average to above average in central & and northern Malawi and parts of northern Mozambique, northern Madagascar, and DRC, supporting crop growth, livestock production, and other livelihood activities. Between January and March 2024, an average to below-average number of cyclone strikes are likely in Madagascar and Mozambique. If a cyclone makes landfall, it will likely damage crops, kill livestock, damage infrastructure, and disrupt livelihoods. 
    • Food and non-food prices remained high in December, with prices continuing to rise seasonally across much of the region due to depleted stocks, increased demand, deteriorating macroeconomic conditions in some countries, and inflationary pressures. In Malawi, the FEWS NET markets monitoring system indicated that maize grain prices were up to 80 and 250 percent higher than last year and the five-year average, respectively. In Zimbabwe, significant price increases were recorded for most basic food commodities in December, including maize grain, maize meal, cooking oil, sugar, and vegetables. Although there was some month-on-month stability in maize grain prices in Mozambique, prices remained up to 80 percent higher compared to last year. The high food prices continue to keep poor households' purchasing power lower than normal, reducing food access and increasing the cost of living for poor households heavily dependent on purchases during this lean season period.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Southern Africa Key Message Update January 2024: Rainfall in December supports replanting, but cumulatively below-average rainfall is expected, 2024.

    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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