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Food aid levels atypically low amid expansion of Crisis outcomes in the south

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Malawi
  • October 2023 - May 2024
Food aid levels atypically low amid expansion of Crisis outcomes in the south

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Areas of Concern: Lake Chilwa-Phalombe Plain Livelihood Zone (Figure 2)
  • Areas of Concern Lower Shire Livelihood Zone (Figure 3)
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in much of southern Malawi and are expected to persist through March 2024. Poor households in these areas are facing difficulty meeting their basic food needs following the widespread destruction of crops and a related sharp increase in staple food prices as a result of Tropical Cyclone Freddy. The early half of the projection period coincides with the peak of labor demand; however, agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be lower than normal due to forecasted below-average October to March rainfall. Many poor households will also enter the 2023–2024 season with limited agricultural inputs. Urgent humanitarian food assistance is needed to prevent the persistence of already ongoing acute food insecurity across southern Malawi. 
    • Of highest concern are some very poor households in the southern districts of Chikwawa, Nsanje, Phalombe, Balaka, and parts of Mwanza, Neno, Zomba, and Blantyre, where Cyclone Freddy drove significant crop losses and labor opportunities are sparse due to reduced areas of cultivated land. Available information suggests that many are selling a high number of livestock to cope, which erodes their livelihoods and future coping capacities. Among these worst-affected populations, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected during the peak of the lean season around December to February. 
    • Global, regional, and national rainfall models forecast the persistence of the already ongoing strong El Niño through early 2024. FEWS NET science partners at USGS, UCSB, and NOAA indicate the 2023/24 rainy season will be below-average in southern Malawi, while average to above-average rainfall is expected in central and northern Malawi. The El Niño event is also likely to cause a delayed onset of rains, reducing agricultural income-earning opportunities for poor households who rely on this source during the lean season to purchase food. Overall, the 2024 maize harvest is expected to be 20 to 30 below average due to the combined impacts of the previous cyclone, the forecasted below-average and delayed rains, and limited access to agricultural inputs.  
    • Based on a field assessment conducted by FEWS NET in September, the national maize stock in both local and Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (ADMARC) markets has significantly decreased, with traders reporting access to less than half of their required stocks. Moreover, the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) held only around 56,000 MT in mid-October, relative to their target of 217,000 MT and the Department of Disaster Management Affair’s estimated need of 164,000 MT for humanitarian assistance during the lean season. Equally concerning are maize prices, which have reached their highest point in the recent five-year record, at 120 percent higher than the same period last year and 250 percent higher than the five-year average across FEWS NET-monitored markets.
    • Farming households with access to irrigable land in Malawi typically harvest their crops between September and November, with irrigated production providing almost 20 percent of the annual national maize production. However, recent impacts of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, particularly in southern Malawi, suggest lower-than-normal irrigated production is highly likely. Community interviews conducted during a FEWS NET food security assessment indicated that total irrigated production was expected to decrease by over half in southern Malawi. This reduction in irrigated production will likely keep maize prices elevated because there won't be a significant addition of irrigated stocks to boost supplies.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Seasonal progress: As the winter agricultural production season begins in October, some households with access to irrigable land are already harvesting crops. However, irrigated crop production is estimated to be about 35 to 40 percent below average at the national level and around 50 percent below average in southern Malawi. This decline is attributed to the damage to irrigable land and irrigation equipment caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy earlier in the year. Concurrently, land preparation for the upcoming 2023/24 season is underway.

    Compounding these challenges is the forecast of a strong El Niño event, which is predicted by global, regional, and local meteorological models. Planting for the upcoming main season is delayed given the erratic start to the season, reducing agricultural labor income for poor households who would typically engage in land preparation activities at this time. 

    Adding to the uncertainty for the upcoming season is the slow implementation of the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP). Malawi is reported to currently have around 60 percent of the required fertilizer stock for AIP farmers. Furthermore, the nation is facing a shortage of foreign currency, as highlighted in the September 2023 Bridgepath Capital Economic Report. This shortage is causing uncertainty regarding the importation of an adequate supply of fertilizer. In response to these challenges, in mid-October 2023, the Ministry of Agriculture announced a reduction in the number of AIP beneficiaries from 2.5 million to 1.5 million. This reduction is expected to negatively affect agricultural production in the 2023/24 season. 

    National food stocks: An assessment conducted by FEWS NET in September confirmed reports of low maize supplies and elevated prices. Several factors during the 2022/2023 season contributed to this situation, including the late arrival of fertilizer, a key component in maize production under the government-supported AIP, and substantial maize production losses in southern Malawi due to Cyclone Freddy. NFRA reported having only 56,000 MT of maize in stock, while ADMARC has sold a significant portion of its available 12,640 MT of maize since August 2023. According to the Department of Disaster Management Affairs, the country needs approximately 164,000 MT of maize to support humanitarian assistance efforts during the 2023–2024 lean season. According to ADMARC, an additional 100,000 MT of maize is required for subsidized sales to stabilize prices. In response to these challenges, the government has considered importing maize to fill the supply gaps, but foreign exchange shortages are limiting their capacity to do so. 

    Informal maize imports and exports: In September 2023, the dynamics of maize exports and imports in Malawi were notable. Informal maize exports drastically decreased to 20 MT, a significant drop from the 19,200 MT during the same period last year and well below the five-year average of 6,700 MT. In contrast, informal maize imports increased substantially, surging to 135 percent above the previous year's levels and 62 percent above the five-year average. These trends align with the findings of FEWS NET’s September assessment, which revealed that traders across various levels report significantly below-average access to tradable maize stocks within Malawi. This scarcity raises concerns about maize availability during the lean season. 

    Macroeconomic conditions: In September 2023, the Malawian kwacha (MWK) continued its depreciation against the USD, declining by 9 percent compared to September 2022 and 38 percent compared to the five-year average, as reported by the Reserve Bank of Malawi. Fuel prices remained high, with petrol and diesel costing 1,946 MWK and 1,920 MWK per liter, respectively. While these prices are stable compared to the same time the previous year, they stand at 70 percent above the five-year average. The high fuel prices contribute to overall inflation and increased cost of living. Malawi's year-on-year inflation rate for September 2023 was reported at around 28 percent, with food and non-food inflation rates at 37 percent and 17 percent, respectively. These high inflation rates pose challenges for poor households to access essential goods and services.

    On a positive note, the Reserve Bank of Malawi reported improvements in foreign currency reserves, which reached 2.6 months equivalent of import cover. This marked an improvement compared to earlier in the year, when reserves were below one month's import cover. These improvements are attributed to the International Monetary Fund's (IMF) approval of the Malawi Extended Credit Facility, which has prompted other donors to provide aid. While support from the IMF and donors has provided a temporary boost to foreign exchange reserves, comprehensive measures are needed to address the economic challenges.

    Labor opportunities: The impacts of the cyclone have resulted in poor and very poor households having below-average access to labor opportunities, while many better-off households struggle to maintain their usual farming practices. In response to these challenges, some households are turning to cross-border migration, seeking agricultural labor employment in Mozambique. This temporary work abroad is enabling some poor households to bring back essential cash or food to support their families.

    Maize prices: Maize prices in Malawi continue to rise significantly. In September 2023, maize prices in markets monitored by FEWS NET were 120 percent higher than the same period last year and 250 percent above the five-year average. This sharp increase in maize prices is significantly constraining poor households’ access to this staple food. Prices for alternative foods are also on the rise.

    Humanitarian food assistance: Planned humanitarian assistance efforts for the lean season include a plan to reach around 4 million people for a period of time ranging from two to six months from October to March, during the typical lean season. However, the assistance levels are significantly underfunded and are below the typical lean season assistance. Food distributions have commenced in 11 districts, mostly in southern Malawi, where it is anticipated the need is the most severe, but the distributions are inconsistent. Rations covering an estimated 25 to 50 percent of kilocalorie needs have been distributed to less than 25 percent of people in need. To date, 17 districts have not been reached with food assistance. 

    Current Food Security Outcomes 

    Cyclone Freddy drove significant crop losses among many poor and very poor households. As such, they have atypically depleted their 2023 food stocks earlier than usual. In the absence of typical levels of own maize production, these households are relying heavily on labor employment to earn sufficient income to purchase food. While labor wages have increased to some extent, they are not keeping pace with the sharply rising prices of staple foods. In fact, staple food prices have more than doubled compared to last year, and many households are unable to purchase sufficient food to compensate for crop losses. Field assessments by FEWS NET confirm that many poor households are likely experiencing food consumption gaps and are engaged in several consumption-based coping strategies reflecting Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario for October 2023 to May 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The 2023/24 rainfall season: The October 2023 to March 2024 rainy season will likely be below average in southern Malawi driven by strong El Niño conditions, while rainfall in parts of central and northern Malawi is forecasted to be average to above average. 
    • Irrigated crop production: Irrigated crop production (through the end of 2023) is estimated to be 35 to 40 percent below average nationally and will minimally contribute to current food stocks. Although there are localized areas benefiting from residual moisture, overall lack of agricultural inputs and damage to irrigable land and irrigation infrastructure due to floods, cyclones, and landslides have limited irrigated crop production.
    • Crop production: The area planted in 2023 and overall 2024 crop production will likely be lower than last year’s and 20 to 30 percent below the five-year average due to AIP cuts, anticipated fertilizer supply shortages, reduced capacity of farmers to invest in farming after losing assets and income during Cyclone Freddy, as well as the forecasted El Niño-driven below-average rains that are likely during this season. 
    • Livestock herd sizes will remain below average due to losses from flooding associated with Tropical Cyclone Freddy, in addition to increased livestock sales at below-average prices to obtain income for food purchases, especially in southern Malawi districts. However, livestock body conditions are likely to be average, given normal access to water and pasture.
    • Incomes from agricultural and non-agricultural labor will likely be below average due to reduced opportunities amid the poor seasonal outlook. In addition, many middle and better-off households that typically hire laborers have reduced incomes with which to do so, following lower 2022/2023 crop sales. Income from self-employment opportunities such as firewood and charcoal sales and brickmaking will likely be below average due to increased competition for casual labor amid fewer agricultural labor opportunities. 
    • Maize imports and trade flows: The recent market assessment by FEWS NET suggests informal maize imports into Malawi will continue to rise as the lean period progresses. Malawi will likely register net positive informal imports of maize staple throughout the consumption season. FEWS NET informal cross-border trade monitoring data shows an increase in maize imports into Malawi from Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania. In a recent FEWS NET market survey in August/September 2023, most small and large traders reported markets in Mozambique, Zambia, and Tanzania as their main source markets for maize grain because of acute supply shortages in traditional source markets within Malawi. However, government restrictions both within Malawi and in the source countries (Mozambique and Zambia) are likely to limit the level of imports.
    • National maize stock: Malawi is likely to see a negative maize staple net balance from the 2023 harvest, carryover stocks from the 2022 harvest, and imports. As of October 2023, the NFRA reported holding around 56,000 MT of maize stocks, with ADMARC reporting that it has almost depleted the stocks it held for subsidized sales. Maize stocks held by private traders are reported to be significantly below average, and FEWS NET estimates that these stocks are expected to be lower than reported earlier, as some drawdowns for humanitarian assistance and ADMARC sales should lead to reduced stocks. 
    • Maize prices: Prices of the maize staple will trend atypically above the five-year average due to the below-average harvest, high demand from industrial processors, low supplies of subsidized food in ADMARC markets, and the effects of negative macroeconomic conditions. Price information from FEWS NET-monitored markets indicates that maize prices are already ranging from 550 MWK to 900 MWK per kilogram across the country, over 220 percent higher than the five-year average. The northern and central parts have an average of 550 to 700 MWK, while markets in the south are in the range of 800 to 900 MWK per kilogram. The price of maize is expected to increase by around 50 to 60 percent through March, as food stocks are likely to be depleted in the lean season (Figure 1), before prices stabilize around April. 

    Figure 1

    Nsanje market maize price projections 2023/24
    Nsanje market maize price projections

    Source: FEWS NET

    • Macroeconomy: Further deterioration in macroeconomic conditions is expected during the analysis period, characterized by high food inflation, continued shortage of foreign exchange, and shortage of essential imported goods such as fuel and fertilizers. Due to growing macroeconomic challenges and high debt burden, the unofficial MWK/USD exchange rate is expected to range between 70 to 80 percent higher than the official rate. Already high fuel costs, at around 6.10 USD per gallon for petrol and 6.50 USD per gallon for diesel, are expected to drive high prices for food, goods, and transportation throughout the projection period. 
    • Humanitarian food assistance: The Malawian government and partners have developed a lean season humanitarian food assistance response plan, which aims to target around 4 million people in 28 districts. Humanitarian food assistance is down from similar lean season responses by October. Based on limited available information, it is expected that assistance funding will remain lower than typical and that only a small proportion of those planned to be targeted will be reached. It is FEWS NET’s assumption that humanitarian assistance will be limited to households in a few worst-affected areas (around 30 percent of the districts). Rations are expected to be inconsistent and reach less than 25 percent of the population in need.  

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    As noted in the Current Situation section, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in much of southern Malawi currently, and the number of areas experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) are expected to increase throughout the projection period, which coincides with the lean season. Specifically, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in Nsanje, Chikwawa, Mulanje, Phalombe, Chiradzulu, Neno, and Balaka districts starting in October. Poor household who rely heavily on markets during this time to meet their food needs are expected to earn below-average income from agricultural and casual labor throughout the projection period, and this income will not keep up with expected increases in staple food prices. Coping mechanisms practiced by households will include reducing the number and size of meals, consuming less-preferred food or wild foods, and withdrawing children from school. 

    Central and northern Malawi are generally likely to have a more stable food security situation supported by the anticipated nearly average main season harvest, but a few lakeside areas in the central region will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes due to severe damage from Tropical Cyclone Freddy and reduced cultivated land. 

    Of highest concern are areas in Nsanje, Balaka, Mulanje, and Phalombe districts, which suffered severe crop losses due to the impacts of the cyclone. These areas are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, some worst-affected households in southern Malawi likely to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from October 2023 to January 2024.

    From February to March 2024, southern Malawi will continue to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security conditions, with an increasing number of people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as the end of the lean season approaches. However, food security outcomes will start to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) around April and May for districts like Balaka and Mulanje when households harvest their crops and start accessing own-produced food. In contrast, most households in central and northern Malawi will likely maintain None (IPC Phase 1) food security conditions as most of these areas are expected to receive average rainfall, experience lower impacts of El Niño, and have access to average levels of agricultural labor to earn income for food and basic non-food needs, benefiting poor households. 

    In the areas of highest concern in Nsanje, Balaka, Mulanje, and Phalombe districts, households will likely face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from February to May 2024 due to the anticipated impact of El Niño, localized dry spells, and below-average cultivable areas. These factors are likely to limit labor opportunities for the poor households that rely on this source of income. However, as the main harvest starts in April, the households who were facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) are expected to transition to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to increased availability of food from own production. Acute malnutrition levels in children under five years of age will likely increase in southern Malawi but remain low in central and northern Malawi. However, overall malnutrition rates will likely remain within acceptable levels as per the WHO standards, although more districts in the south are likely to be at Alert (GAM 5–9.9 percent) levels.  

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Southern MalawiFunding is secured to implement humanitarian food assistance plans at planned levelsShould humanitarian food assistance plans be implemented as planned, covering two to six months of food needs at a 50 percent ration or higher, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes would be likely across much of southern Malawi. 
    NationalMaize export bans in Mozambique and ZambiaStrict enforcement of maize export bans would lead to significant shortages in Malawi, which would put upward pressure on maize prices, raising them by 20 to 30 percent across the country. As prices are already high in the south, the impact is likely to be bigger relative to other parts of the country. Maize export bans would be expected to increase the share of the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. Malawi informally imports an average of 40,00 tons of maize, but this number reaches about 70,000 tons in years of severe internal shortages. 

    Areas of Concern: Lake Chilwa-Phalombe Plain Livelihood Zone (Figure 2)

    Current Situation

    The Lake Chilwa-Phalombe Plain livelihood zone (Figure 2) encompasses parts of the Machinga, Zomba, Mulanje, Phalombe, and Chiradzulu districts in Malawi. It stretches from the northern region of Lake Chiuta to the northeast of Thyolo and the western area of Mulanje, including the areas surrounding Lake Chilwa and the highland plain of Phalombe. Soils in this livelihood zone are generally of poor quality, ranging from sandy to clay loams. In terms of rainfall, the area experienced relatively favorable conditions throughout the season until March, when Tropical Cyclone Freddy struck southern Malawi. According to district agriculture office reports, the district received a total of 1,242 mm of rainfall due to the tropical cyclone, which was significantly higher compared to the 517 mm received at the same time last year. The impacts of Tropical Cyclone Freddy, coupled with limited access to government-provided fertilizers through the Affordable Inputs Program (AIP), have led to below-average agricultural production in the area. The cyclone has caused significant damage to crops and agricultural infrastructure, resulting in reduced yields and productivity and low labor incomes. Very poor households make up 30 percent of the population in the livelihood zone, while 34 percent are poor households, 21 percent are middle, and 15 percent are better-off. 

    Figure 2

    Lake Chilwa-Phalombe Plain Livelihood Zone (PHA)
    Lake Chilwa - Phalomber Livelihood Zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    A recent FEWS NET food security assessment in September 2023 found negligible availability of the maize staple and other foods in most ADMARC markets selling food at government-set subsidized prices, forcing households to rely on private traders for maize purchases. At the beginning of October 2023, no ADMARC markets in Phalombe had any maize stock available. While the government-subsidized price for selling maize in ADMARC markets was set at 600 MWK per kilogram, maize was sold by traders at a range of 750 to 900 MWK per kilogram. Prices for alternative foods, especially cereals and tubers (rice, beans, sorghum, groundnuts, pigeon peas, soybeans, dry cassava) have also increased by a range of 20 to 145 percent, averaging 75 percent above the previous year. 

    Income-earning activities have decreased significantly due to infrastructural damage to roads and bridges and erosion caused by flooding and mudslides triggered by Tropical Cyclone Freddy. According to the September FEWS NET assessment, households reported being able to access only 30 percent of normal labor opportunities, and petty trade declined by 50 percent. In some areas, households were not able to transport fresh vegetables to the nearest market and were forced to sell them at a cheaper price elsewhere. For example, a 20 kg dish of tomatoes, which sold at 12,000 MWK in nearby towns, is now selling at 1,000 MWK in remote villages due to broken roads. As a result of these factors, very poor and poor household are facing below-average food and income access, forcing households to resort to crisis-coping strategies such as reducing the number of meals per day, withdrawing children from school (especially from secondary schools), and consuming maize bran, wild foods, and unripe green mangoes. One of the most common and widespread coping mechanisms is the exploitation of natural resources, with most households selling firewood or charcoal on a daily basis. The assessment also found that the middle and better-off households that used to offer casual labor to very poor and poor households were no longer able to provide local employment, as they lost most of their assets during the flooding. As per August 2023 national nutrition data from the Malawi Community-Based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), overall severe acute malnutrition (SAM) admissions for children under five years of age were almost the same as in the year 2022. It is expected that acute malnutrition will increase in the livelihood zone in the absence of humanitarian assistance during the peak of the lean season. 

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Prices for the maize staple will continue trending higher than the previous year and the five-year average, following seasonal trends. Maize grain month-on-month prices at Phalombe Boma market are at 767 MWK per kilogram, increasing by 14 percent over last month, 120 percent over the previous year, and 250 percent over the five-year average. 
    • Informal imports of maize grain into the Phalombe district, especially from neighboring Mozambique, will likely be higher compared to the same time last year as stocks in source markets within Malawi continue dwindling.
    • Agricultural labor access for very poor and poor households in Phalombe district will be below average due to a likelihood of reduced investment in agriculture by the middle and better-off households who lost their assets due to Tropical Cyclone Freddy.
    • Temporary migratory labor to Mozambique will be above average as households can access limited labor opportunities in Malawi and will continue seeking labor across the border in Mozambique.
    • Poor infrastructure will likely lead to scarcity of food and non-food commodities, including agricultural inputs, when the rains start. FEWS NET assessments in September showed that a lot of infrastructure, especially roads, damaged during Tropical Cyclone Freddy-induced floods has not been permanently repaired and may be washed away with the first rains.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Due to the significant decrease in main and irrigated harvests caused by Tropical Cyclone Freddy, very poor and poor households in the Lake Chilwa-Phalombe Plain livelihood zone depleted the little food they harvested between May and August 2023. Most households have been meeting their minimum food needs mainly through market purchases and in-kind labor exchange payments, especially across the border in Mozambique. Households, especially the poor and very poor, are facing below-average income access due to increased competition for labor opportunities, forcing household members to scramble for labor opportunities in Mozambique, thereby depressing the labor market and wages. 

    From October 2023 to January 2024, most very poor and poor households will be consuming one meal per day or reducing meal sizes as they access limited food from market purchases. Households will be consuming mostly maize with vegetables and pulses (mainly pigeon peas) and occasional dry fish. Some households will be consuming dried cassava, which is used as a substitute for maize and considered as a cheaper option. Very poor and poor households will still be unable to meet their food and livelihood protection needs in the absence of humanitarian assistance and will be expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security conditions. 

    From February to May 2024, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) conditions among very poor and poor households will likely deteriorate, with increased numbers of households experiencing food and income gaps and failing to meet their basic food and non-food requirements in the absence of humanitarian assistance. However, food security outcomes are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the April to May period when households begin to access food from their own production after main harvests.


    Areas of Concern Lower Shire Livelihood Zone (Figure 3)

    The Lower Shire Valley livelihood zone (Figure 3) includes large parts of Chikwawa and Nsanje districts. It is the southernmost zone in the country and borders Mozambique on its southern edge and the Shire Highlands on its northern and eastern edges. Vegetation in the zone includes forest, grassland, and marshland. Soils are predominantly sandy clay and clay loam, which, paired with the low precipitation and high temperatures, makes the area deficit-producing.

    Figure 3

    Lower Shire Livelihood Zone
    Lower Shire Livelihood Zone

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cyclone Freddy led to flooding, siltation, and water logging in the areas where households cultivate their winter crops. Coupled with the effects of fall armyworm, this has reduced crop yields and overall crop production. Below-average production and reduced income-earning opportunities have created significant food consumption gaps. The inconsistent supply may not help stabilize maize grain prices on the local market during the peak of the lean period. However, informal imports of maize grain continue to flow to Nsanje, especially from neighboring Mozambique through Marine and Makhanga, registering around 80 MT in the month of August, nearly similar to last month’s volumes and an 8 percent decrease over last year’s volumes due to the poor harvest as well as export restrictions in Mozambique. However, households that depend on the market for food are sourcing incomes from a number of activities, including selling of livestock such as goats and poultry, brick production, labor migration to Mozambique, and construction labor. 

    The FEWS NET food security assessment in September 2023 indicated that most poor and very poor households in the livelihood zone are facing moderate food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, resorting to crisis-coping mechanisms such as consuming one meal per day and mostly eating less-preferred foods. Many of these households are also consuming wild foods known as nyika, which are commonly eaten during lean periods, or just vegetables without any starch. 

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Maize supplies at Nsanje market are expected to be below average during the outlook period, owing to reduced winter production and increased transportation costs. Despite ADMARC being open, it has limited capacity to supply to markets. As a result, maize prices are expected to be higher than last year and the five-year average.
    • Traders will continue to supply the maize staple to Nsanje markets from higher-producing neighboring districts in southern Malawi and central Malawi throughout the outlook period. In addition to local supply, maize grain from Mozambique is expected to continue flowing through Makhanga and Nsanje Boma borders.
    • Informal imports of maize grain, especially from neighboring Mozambique through Marine and Makhanga, will continue to flow to Nsanje but at a decreasing rate.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From October to January 2024, most very poor and poor households will be consuming one to two meals per day instead of three meals. Households will be consuming mostly maize, millet, or sorghum meal with pulses, small fish, and vegetables. The meals will likely start decreasing in both quantity and quality as the lean period approaches, and households are likely to deplete their own stocks. Households severely affected by Tropical Cyclone Freddy and floods in the 2022/23 agricultural seasons are facing significant food gaps and many are eating once a day or consuming less-preferred food. 

    Poor households are likely to face increased food consumption gaps from February to May 2024, as they are likely to deplete their stocks earlier than normal due to below-average production. As the anticipated El Niño weather pattern is expected to cause below-normal rainfall resulting in below-normal crop production, agricultural labor opportunities will likely decrease, reducing incomes for poor and very poor households that rely on this source of income. As a result, an increasing number of households will start applying crisis-coping mechanisms such as eating less and consuming wild foods and are expected to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes. 

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Malawi Food Security Outlook October to May 2024: Food aid levels atypically low amid expansion of Crisis outcomes in the south, 2023.

    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.

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