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Dry spells threaten crop maturity across Malawi

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Malawi
  • March 2015
Dry spells threaten crop maturity across Malawi

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Households benefiting from humanitarian assistance due to production shortfalls in the previous season will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food security outcomes in the presence of humanitarian assistance up to April. The humanitarian assistance program has been extended to April in response to the prolonged lean period caused by the delayed start of season, which has delayed green consumption and harvests.

    • A Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee rapid food security assessment in February has identified about 620,000 people in 17 districts across the country that will face acute food security outcomes from March to July and possibly the entire 2015/2016 consumption season due to heavy rains and flooding negatively affecting people’s livelihoods.

    • The highly productive northern and central regions of the country have experienced 20 days of below-average rainfall and these areas are currently facing a prolonged dry spell. The dry conditions are threatening crop maturity, at a critical stage when maize crops need moisture in order to mature.

    Current Situation
    • The government led humanitarian assistance for about 700,000 people affected by production shortfalls in the last production season has been extended by a month to April due to the delayed harvests caused by the delayed start of season.
    • An MVAC assessment this February has identified 620,000 people in 17 districts across the country that are facing acute food insecurity outcomes. All of these people are in need of humanitarian assistance from March to July 2015 as a result of disrupted livelihoods caused by heavy rains and flooding. Out of the affected districts, eleven are in southern Malawi including Balaka, Blantyre, Chikwawa, Chiradzulu, Machinga, Mangochi, Mulanje, Nsanje, Phalombe, Thyolo and Zomba; three are in central Malawi including Dedza, Ntcheu and Salima; and three are in northern Malawi including Karonga, Mzimba and Rumphi.
    • Green harvests that are normally accessible starting in mid-February are delayed due to the delayed start of the season and the main harvest is now expected in late March to mid-April.
    • Average national maize prices stabilized between January and February after registering an increase of 18 percent between December and January. This price stability is likely a result of increased supply of maize in local markets as traders offload older stocks in anticipation of the next harvests.
    • During the recent MVAC rapid assessment, a general increase in maize supplies in local markets was reported. Market visits and interviews attributed the increase to traders’ offloading of stored maize in anticipation of cheaper maize from the next harvest. The increase in local supplies has also seen decreases in month to month informal cross border maize imports from Mozambique and Tanzania, which have recorded a 25 percent decrease between January and February. Overall, cumulative informal maize imports from April 2014 to February 2015 registered a drop and were at 32 percent as compared to the previous consumption season and 53 percent of the five-year average.
    • Despite registering above average cumulative rainfall amounts, the spatial distribution of the rainfall has been poor with planting rains delayed for more than one month, followed by extremely heavy rainfall in January and early February, and then followed by dry conditions from mid-February to March. The current conditions are likely going to negatively affect crop maturity as they are occurring at critical stages. (Figure 1). 

    Updated Assumptions

    The updated assumptions discussed in the February 2015 Food Security Outlook Update are still valid.

    Projected Outlook through June 2015

    About 700,000 people that are receiving humanitarian assistance due to localized production shortfalls in the 2013/14 production season are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes in the presence of the humanitarian assistance. Households that were affected by heavy rains and flooding in the worst affected districts of Nsanje, Chikwawa, Phalombe, and Zomba are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes, while affected households in the remaining thirteen districts across the country are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes.

    FEWS NET projects that between the months of April and June of this year, the majority of poor rural households across the country will likely access adequate food through a combination of market purchases and some of their own produced household stocks, and will be facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, approximately 112,000 households (or 620,000 people) that were affected by heavy rains and flooding this season will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Furthermore, about 105,000 households (or 580,000 people) across the the flood affected districts will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in the absence of humanitarian assistance.

    Figures 10-day total rainfall as a percentage of normal rainfall, March 1-10 (left). Cumulative rainfall from Oct. 1, 2014 – March 10

    Figure 1

    10-day total rainfall as a percentage of normal rainfall, March 1-10 (left). Cumulative rainfall from Oct. 1, 2014 – March 10, 2015 as a percentage of normal rainfall (right).

    Source: DCCMS

    Figure 2


    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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