Food Security Outlook

Humanitarian assistance to start in worst affected areas despite inadequate funding

October 2013 to March 2014

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • In most of the south, the lean period will start in October as normal but areas of the central and northern regions began the lean period three months earlier than normal as a result of poor rainfall and poor harvests in the 2012/13 season.

  • Although response programming is underfunded, assistance started in October and is expected to roll out in 12 of the worst affected districts on time. This will result in improved food security outcomes among poor households in the worst affected areas in parts of the southern, central and northern regions. As a result of this assistance, Minimal food insecurity (IPC 1!) outcomes are projected from October to December.

  • Without additional response funding, assistance is likely to drop off in December or January. This may result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in the north, south, and central regions during the January to March 2014 period.

  • Current seasonal rainfall forecasts are pointing to a normal start of season in November and December. Normal to above normal total rainfall is also projected for the season. However, labor demand may be lower than usual because last year’s poor harvests reduced the ability of wealthier and middle-income households to hire labor this season.

National Overview

Current Situation

  • In southern Malawi, October normally marks the start of the lean period, when households exhaust their food stocks and depend more on markets for food purchases.  In central and northern Malawi, the lean period is beginning three months earlier than normal—October instead of December—because poor households experienced a reduction in their own production last season and are turning to market purchases now.
  • National average maize prices were generally stable between August and September, but 175 percent above the five-year average. Informal cross border maize imports for September have significantly increased and are 347 percent higher than the five-year average. Cumulative imports from April to September were 30 percent above the five-year average for the same months. However, September informal cross border maize exports remained low at 86 percent below the five-year average.
  • October also normally marks the start of pre-planting rains, which are locally known as chizimalupsya. According to the Department of Climate Change and Meteorological Services, chizimalupsya rains have taken place in most of the south as well as parts of the central region. Typically, when farmers start land preparation, ganyu[1] opportunities increase.
  • Irrigated crops are maturing across the country, especially maize.  Most irrigated crops are consumed green as a roasted or boiled snack that is sold alongside the roads.  In the Lower Shire Livelihood Zone (LSH), where significant amounts of irrigated dried maize are harvested every year, maize grain price drops were registered in a few markets.  However, these price drops are generally temporary and unlikely to have a significant effect on reducing the overall prices in the livelihood zone.
  • Government of Malawi (GoM) and World Food Program maize stocks are estimated at about 100,000 MT, an improvement from the less than 10,000 MTs reported around July. Private sector players registered under the Grain Traders and Processors Association reportedly have about 27,000 MTs of maize. In addition to these quantities, WFP has also secured funding for about 35,000 MTs for the 2013/14 humanitarian assistance response programming. WFP is importing about 10,000 MTs from Zambia (6,000 MT of which has landed in Malawi). The remaining 25,000 MTs will be purchased locally.
  • The National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) reported making direct local purchases of 61,000 MTs and about 8,500 MTs through ADMARC. The NFRA target for the 2013/14 marketing year is at least 120,000 MTs. Meanwhile, ADMARC received approval from a multi-stakeholder subcommittee that looks at strategic grain reserves and ADMARC maize issues to draw down 8,500 MT from reserve stocks to sell in its markets. The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MoAFS) reported recently that as of mid-October, all ADMARC markets had been stocked with maize. ADMARC sold the maize at the subsidized price of MWK80/kg but restricted each buyer to 10kgs or less per day. The rationing is aimed at ensuring that small and local traders are discouraged from buying in bulk at subsidized prices and reselling at higher prices within the same locality. Private traders in all local markets in the districts identified to be food insecure had some maize for sale while most ADMARC markets had no stocks in September. Following the approval for ADMARC to draw down 8,500 MTs of maize, it is likely that for a few weeks ADMARC markets will have some maize stocks for sale which should offer some respite to some households that are dependent on markets for food purchases. 
  • The GoM plans to distribute subsidized inputs (fertilizers and seeds) under the Farm Input Subsidy Program to about 150,000 poor but labor-endowed farming households. Registration for the 2013/14 program has already been completed. MoAFS reports show that most fertilizer stocks are already available in central depots in the country. All suppliers have already been identified but actual deliveries to rural local distribution centers are yet to start. The latter is of major concern as remote rural roads normally become impassable once rains start in mid-November. 

[1] The word ganyu is used in Malawi to describe a range of short-term rural labor relationships, which involve supplementing household’s incomes through additional casual work on other people’s farms or homes.


National Level Assumptions

The Food Security Outlook for October 2013 to March 2014 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

Start of season and labor

  • Based on SADC and Malawi climatological analysis, the start of season will likely see average conditions. FEWS NET assumes that seasonal rainfall will start on time and will be near average in amounts. Based on the median start dates from 2001-2012 for Malawi, the start for the southern and central region is assumed to be November, and for the northern region, December.
  • Based on these dates, labor opportunities associated with land preparation and planting for the 2013/14 agricultural season are expected to follow normal trends between November and December. Opportunities could remain depressed, however, due to limited incomes of wealthier households who experienced poor harvests last season.
  • In general, agricultural labor opportunities and wage levels are expected to follow normal trends in most areas during the preparation, ridging, planting, and weeding period between October 2013 and January 2014. A separate assumption is made below for the areas that are projected to face food insecurity in Mzimba Self Sufficient (MZS), Kasungu Lilongwe Plains (KAS), and Middle Shire (MSH) livelihood zones.

Irrigated farming

  • Total irrigated farming for 2013 is likely to be below the 550,000 MTs estimated in the 3rd Round Agricultural Production Estimates (APES) in June 2013. MoAFS is in the process of consolidating irrigated maize estimates for the current consumption year. However, FEWS NET assessment in Mzimba, Kasungu, and Balaka districts suggest that these districts are likely to harvest less production than was projected in the earlier 3rd Round estimate mainly due to the reduced water table as a result of less or erratic rainfall experienced in the last season.
  • In the LSH, about 10 percent of farming households have some access to irrigable lands along the Shire River and are currently harvesting enough maize and other grain legumes to last until November or December. However, most poor farming households in LSH do not have access to irrigable lands and are unable to access adequate quantities of food through markets.

Humanitarian assistance

  • Humanitarian assistance, in the form of food assistance and cash transfers started in October in some districts identified in the July 2013 MVAC (Malawi Vulnerability Assessment Committee) report as being food insecure during the 2013/14 consumption period. However, since early October, FEWS NET has noted that funding for response programming is only at about 60 percent of the levels needed. If funding does not increase, response programming will likely drop off between January and February. 

Markets and trade

  • National average maize prices will likely remain very high in the coming months. FEWS NET projects that during the outlook period, current (September) average maize prices could increase by as much as 20 percent by December  and by March 2014 these prices could be approximately 60 percent above September 2013 prices. The current drivers of high maize prices include lingering effects of last year’s localized production shocks, macro-economic instability, high production costs associated with the current crop being transferred to consumers, limited supplies, and high demand due to low production in some areas. Low national household stocks may also be contributing to higher than normal prices as the country moves into the traditional lean period. The slow but steady depreciation of the Malawi Kwacha is expected to continue until March 2014, when the next tobacco sales season is expected to start.
  • The higher than normal informal cross border imports of maize from Mozambique and Zambia are expected to continue throughout the outlook period even though some borders with Zambia will become impassable with the rains. Lower exports flows from Malawi are likely to continue because there is less maize grain available and local prices are more competitive. 

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

During the next quarter (October to December), the majority of poor rural households across the country are projected to access adequate food through a combination of purchases from markets and some own household stocks, and will be facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, poor households in Kasungu Lilongwe Plains, Mzimba Self Sufficient, Western Rumphi and Mzimba, Rift Valley and Middle Shire livelihood zone have already exhausted their own production and have been relying on food from markets. Due to limited ganyu opportunities, early exhaustion of household food stocks and reduced incomes from animal sales and dimba cultivation limited, poor households in the above livelihood zones are currently facing Stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2). Since humanitarian assistance is starting in these livelihood zones in October, poor households are likely to face Minimal food insecurity as a result of humanitarian assistance (IPC Phase 1!). With very high retail maize prices expected and a likely interruption of humanitarian assistance, poor households will likely be unable to access adequate food through markets in the areas listed above, and as conditions deteriorate, households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from January to March 2014.

Areas of Concern

Kasungu Lilongwe Plains (KAS)

Current Situation

Currently households are preparing their land earlier than normal because of the erratic rainfall last season. Most households prefer to plant their crops as early as possible because some rely on local varieties of maize that typically require a longer planting period. In terms of food availability and consumption, most households finished consuming their own production in August and have since been relying on getting cash from ganyu and charcoal sales for market purchases for food and some are sharing or receiving food from relatives and the community. Last year, which was a normal year in the zone, poor households consumed three meals a day. Currently they are taking one to two meals a day. Most of the poor households are consuming nsima, vegetables, and porridge with vegetables and a lesser amount of beans and other pulses. Poor households are meeting basic needs by extending their typical livelihood strategies. There are no signs of atypical sales of productive assets, though charcoal and firewood sales are atypically high. Most of the poor households’ expenditures are going towards food or market purchases. It should be noted that earlier in the consumption year (June 2013) approximately 38 percent of households in KAS experienced borderline food consumption or worse based on an Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) and Nutrition Survey conducted by the MVAC.

In September, the maize grain prices in KAS ranged from MWK 110-150/kg. Purchasing power for households is much lower due to lack of household incomes and inadequate ganyu opportunities.

While ganyu opportunities are expected to improve to near normal levels once the rainfall starts in November and December, fewer wealthier households are offering ganyu compared to the same time last year because middle income households had lower production this season too and have less money to hire workers. Typically households casually look for ganyu during this period only to supplement incomes, but currently households are looking for ganyu in order to meet their basic food needs. Wages have decreased slightly. For example, making ridges was MWK 2,000/acre, down from MWK 3000/acre. In-kind payments are limited because households have less food stocks as we move into the lean period. Current labor types and activities include firewood and charcoal making, land clearing and preparation, ridging and tilling. Income sources are charcoal sales, firewood sales, land clearing and preparation (agricultural ganyu), ridging and tilling land, petty trade (buy and sale of vegetables), migratory labor (to Mzuzu and other districts), and dimba  cultivation was taking place at a limited scale.

Assumptions

In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about KAS livelihood zone:

  • Maize prices will likely continue increasing throughout the outlook period. FEWS NET projects that average maize prices in KAS will follow the patterns observed in the past five years; between October 2013 and March 2014, prices will likely increase approximately 20-60 percent when compared to September prices in the livelihood zone
  • The lean period will peak between January and March 2014 when ganyu opportunities will be at their lowest.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Poor households experiencing food insecurity in this zone will face Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1!) between October and December as a result of humanitarian assistance in the form of cash transfers and food assistance. Poor households will be able to cover their basic food needs from full monthly rations of assistance, which started in October. They may not be able to afford some essential non-food items. From January to March 2013, humanitarian assistance is likely to be interrupted in these areas due to inadequate funding. As a result, food security outcomes are likely to deteriorate. Poor households will likely engage in ganyu activities but wage rates will be lower than last year as has already been observed in the current month. Without assistance, poor households will be unable to meet their basic food needs due to extremely high prices and limited ganyu opportunities. Households in this area will likely experience an acute food insecurity level of Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

Mzimba Self Sufficient Livelihood Zone (MZS) 

Current Situation

In terms of food availability and consumption, some households are bartering (i.e. vegetables in exchange for maize). Last year (a normal year in this zone) households had three meals a day and now they only have one to two meals a day. Most households typically run out of own production in December/January; this year, they ran out in August and are already depending on market purchases. Households are meeting their basic needs through typical livelihood strategies and there are no signs of atypical sale of assets except, however there is an atypical reliance on firewood and charcoal sales. Most households are consuming nsima and vegetables and a lesser amount of pulses and fish. Most of their expenditures are going towards food purchases. Earlier in the consumption year (June 2013) approximately 30 percent of households in MZS were experiencing borderline food consumption or worst based on an Emergency Food Security Assessment (EFSA) and the MVAC Nutrition Survey.

Fewer people are able to offer ganyu opportunities. Wages have increased slightly due to inflation (i.e. from MWK 2,000/acre to MWK 3,000/acre). Some ganyu in-kind was available in limited quantities. Poor households are selling charcoal and firewood, and cultivating dimba areas (although moisture was extremely limited). Land preparation was frequently mentioned as the typical ganyu activity this season. Most households prefer to plant their crops as early as possible because some rely on local varieties of maize that typically require a longer planting period.

Maize is locally available on the market but the average price reported by Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security/Agricultural Marketing Information System (MoAFS/AMIS) showed that average maize prices in September 2013 in MZS markets was  83 percent higher than prices in September 2012. Current maize prices are around MWK 100/kg and household purchasing power is reduced because, in addition to the higher than normal prices, many households do not have income. None of the ADMARC markets in the zone were buying or selling maize. 

From April to September 2013, the ACTESA (Alliance for Commodity Trade in Eastern and Southern Africa) Informal cross border trade monitoring system recorded atypical maize imports from Zambia into Mzimba district through Mqocha border. Normally, commodities including maize, flow out of Malawi and into Zambia, but this year, the flow reversed due to low local supplies in Malawi and more competitive prices. Some of the traders that are purchasing this informally imported maize from Zambia reported that they were supplying that maize to the NFRA for the strategic grain reserves. This strongly supports the case for localized production shortfalls and stronger maize demand among households in this area.

Assumptions

In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about MZS livelihood zone:

  • Generally, equal amounts of ganyu in-kind and in cash are expected to be similar during the outlook period.
  • Labor opportunities are likely going to be limited throughout the outlook period (October-March) due to reduced levels of household incomes made by the middle and better-off income groups; this reduced income is expected to result in a moderate decrease of ganyu wages offered to poor households.
  • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated analysis, abnormally high prices and lower than normal maize supplies in markets in MZS are expected to continue throughout the outlook period. Maize prices in MZS markets could increase to between 10 percent in October 2013 to 40 percent in March 2014 in comparison to September 2013 prices.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

FEWS NET projects that between October and December, poor households in MZS will face Minimal food insecurity as a result of humanitarian assistance (IPC Phase 1!). Poor households will be able to cover their basic food needs with this assistance, but they may not be able to afford some essential non-food items. The food security situation will likely deteriorate in this zone during the January to March 2014 period as humanitarian assistance will likely be interrupted in these areas due to inadequate funding. Poor households are likely going to sell some small stock animals but prices are likely going to be lower. Based on the uncertainty of assistance programming during this period, in the absence of any humanitarian food security assistance, poor households will be unable to meet their basic food needs due to extremely high prices and it is likely that there will be an acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in this area.

Middle Shire (MSH) Livelihood Zone  (parts of Blantyre, Balaka and Zomba districts)

Context

Normally poor households in the MZH livelihood zone produce less food because their land holding sizes are smaller compared to middle and better-off wealth categories. In normal years, poor households spend a disproportionate amount of time doing ganyu for others in order to buy food instead of working on their own land. It should be noted that some households in this zone are facing a chronic food insecurity problem. Typically, during the October-March period poor households rely on ganyu in dimba wetlands and uplands, but because of poor rainfall levels over the past four years these opportunities are lower than usual. Due to limited local ganyu over the years, many households cope by participating in the selling of charcoal and firewood. For the past four consecutive years Balaka district in MSH has been receiving some type of humanitarian assistance from as early as August through March in some of the years suggesting that there is chronic food insecurity problem in this livelihood zone.

Current situation

Households are preparing their land through land clearing, some ridge making, and cotton stocks were already uprooted in most of the fields. Local ganyu opportunities are limited because of reduced income from cotton sales. As a result, most poor household members are migrating to Ntcheu or Balaka town to seek short-term income earning opportunities in order to meet their basic food needs. Agricultural labor wages have increased slightly due to inflation (from approximately MWK 3,500/acre to about MWK 4, 000/acre). In some cases, poor households were given payment in-kind (i.e. a 50 kg bag of maize). Poor households are also engaging in charcoal sales, firewood sales, and very limited dimba cultivation.

Currently, local sourcing of maize is no longer possible, but it is still available for sale in all local markets. Traders are sourcing their maize stocks from the nearby district of Ntcheu. Local prices ranged from MWK 130-150/kg. Poor households’ purchasing power is extremely low. None of the ADMARC markets located in the MZS livelihood zone were buying or selling maize grain.

Currently, humanitarian assistance in the form of cash transfers is set to start in MSH (Balaka and Blantyre districts) by the end of October. This will enable poor households to access adequate food in the short-term.

Assumptions

In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about MSH livelihood zone:

  • Local ganyu is very limited, and poor households have to migrate to the neighboring districts of Ntcheu district. During the January to March period, distant and local ganyu opportunities are expected to improve, but competition will be very high and wages will be moderately reduced.
  • Maize prices are likely to continue increasing throughout the outlook period. FEWS NET projects that if average maize prices in MSH follow the patterns observed in the past five years, then between October and March, they will likely increase about 21-64 percent when compared to the September 2013 price levels for the livelihood zone.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Based on ongoing humanitarian assistance, FEWS NET projects that poor households will face Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1!) between October and December. Poor households will be able to cover their basic food needs from the assistance, but they may not be able to afford some essential non-food items. The food security situation is likely to worsen in this zone during the January to March 2014 period if humanitarian assistance is interrupted in these areas due to inadequate funding. Most poor households have no or very little livestock and, as a result, depend on minimal available ganyu opportunities, which are likely to pay very low rates due to high competition among workers. Based on the uncertainty of assistance programming during this period, in the absence of any assistance poor households will be unable to meet their basic food needs due to extremely high prices and it is likely that there will be an acute food insecurity Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in this area.

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Area Event Impact on food security outcomes
KAS, MZS, MSH, WRM, SLA, RFT and PHA Livelihood zones

ADMARC is unable to get an additional authorization to draw down stocks for commercial sales due to low SGR stocks.

GoM and other agencies source adequate funding for the humanitarian response through March 2014.

This would create pressure on poor households which will have to only depend of expensive maize from local traders.

Poor households in all livelihoods zones identified by MVAC as experiencing food insecurity able to meet food needs.
  Delayed arrival of Zambian maize imports due to logistical problems. WFP will be unable to pre-position food stocks in rural areas and may not be able to deliver the food due to bad roads once rains start. 
  Inability of the GoM to fund any importation of maize due to lack of funding. Inadequate stocks affecting commercial sale of staple maize resulting in very high prices and at worst maize scarcity.
  Donors suspend aid to Malawi. Very high inflation as well as failure to pay for fuel and fertilizer imports which could result in inability of households to access food and inputs on local markets.

 

About Scenario Development

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.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics