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Localized production shortfalls result in reduced household stocks and income

  • Alert
  • Malawi
  • September 17, 2014
Localized production shortfalls result in reduced household stocks and income

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    Maize harvests were 50-75 percent below average during the 2013/2014 agricultural season in Central Karonga (CKA), Middle Shire (MSH), and Phalombe/Lower Chirwa Plain (PHA) livelihood zones due to poorly-distributed rainfall and an early cessation of rains (Figure 1). As a result, market dependence for households in these areas began four to six months earlier than usual. In addition, maize prices have been above-average throughout the country since the devaluation of the Malawian Kwacha in 2012 and resulting macroeconomic disruptions. Reduced labor demand in the affected livelihood zones has reduced incomes, resulting in significantly below-average purchasing power.  Food security outcomes for more than 600,000 people in parts of northern and southern Malawi will deteriorate to Stressed and Crisis (IPC Phase 2 and 3) between now and March 2015. Humanitarian assistance is needed immediately and through the next harvest in April for affected areas, particularly for populations in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).



    Extensive field visits by FEWS NET and partners to CKA, MSH, and PHA zones between February and September 2014 indicate that poor rainfall distribution between January and February and an early cessation of rains between February and March impacted main-season crop development. Due to favorable national-level and regional production conditions in 2014, markets have started recovering and prices declined considerably in the post harvest period and are now below their respective 2013 levels. As a result of significant localized maize production deficits, as well as the 50 percent devaluation and subsequent depreciation of the Malawian Kwacha vis-à-vis the U.S. Dollar in 2012, maize prices remain 30 to 80 percent above the five-year average across all monitored markets.  The ongoing transition between governments, has delayed government purchases of maize for the strategic grain reserve. Once these purchases take place in the coming months, maize prices are expected to rise.

    Purchasing power is significantly below average in CKA, MSH, and PHA due to reduced income from crop sales and off and on-farm labor. CKA is typically a surplus producing area with Minimal acute food insecurity, but poor households this year have significantly reduced income earning opportunities. In all three zones, labor-seeking households that would normally find work in August/September on three occasions are now only able to find work once a month on average. At the same time, payment mechanisms for agricultural labor this year have shifted away from the usually preferred in-kind payment systems in favor of cash payments due to the scarcity of maize among employers. Poor households in the most-affected areas are increasingly borrowing at high interest rates, reducing purchase of essential non-food items, and increasing reliance on handicraft sales and firewood/charcoal production.

    Emergency assistance, which usually starts during the month of October, is not scheduled to start until December at the earliest. Due to reduced food access and delays in assistance, approximately 50 and 30 percent of the households in affected areas in MSH and PHA, respectively, are not able to meet their minimal non-food or food needs and will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while about 36 percent of the population in  CKA will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between now and March 2015. Immediate action by the government and partners is needed to offset these acute food insecurity outcomes, particularly in the areas experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    Figures Figure 1.  Three affected livelihood zones.

    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Three affected livelihood zones.

    Source: Fews Net

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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