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Stressed outcomes persist in southern and central regions despite harvest season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mozambique
  • April 2018
Stressed outcomes persist in southern and central regions despite harvest season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In the interior of Gaza and Inhambane, northern Maputo, southern Tete, and parts of Manica and Sofala provinces, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist as most poor households are facing depleted food stocks due to a failed 2017/18 cropping season. Beginning in June, food access is expected to worsen in these areas due to rising staple food prices and limited incomes. Most poor households’ outcomes in these areas are expected to gradually deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), requiring urgent emergency assistance.

    • During a rapid food security assessment in late March in Gaza Province, FEWS NET confirmed widespread areas of crop failure. These findings were also recently corroborated by the Crop and Early Warning Unit (DCAP) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA) that indicated there was total crop failure in the south for October planted crops. MASA/DCAP also noted water deficits that affected November and December planted crops in southern and central areas.

    • From February to March, maize grain prices had a slight increase in half of the monitored markets, largely due to production shortfalls, and remained stable in the other half. This is typically when prices peak or begin to decline. On average, March maize grain prices were below the five-year average by 31 percent and below last year’s prices by 46 percent. Maize meal and rice prices were generally stable in all monitored markets and near last year’s levels.


    Current food security: Following below-average crop yields and crop failure in much of the south and parts of the central region, with subsequent failed planting attempts, food availability from the 2017/18 season is well below average. This has forced most poor households to atypically continue employing lean season coping strategies despite it being the harvest season. The affected areas cover much of interior Gaza and Inhambane, northern Maputo, southern Tete, and parts of Manica and Sofala provinces, where poor households were already facing depleted household stocks and below-average incomes as most were still recovering from the 2015/2016 severe El Niño drought and those in parts of the central area by below-average 2016/17 main and second season production. As a result, most poor households in these areas are now facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, it is likely that a few of the most vulnerable poor households could already be facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as they struggle to meet their minimum food requirements with insufficient income. Most of these poor households have limited opportunities for self-employment to earn income for food market purchases as they live in remote areas away from markets. Poor households, who still have livestock, are resorting to distressed sales for needed cash for food purchases, while others are consuming wild foods at above-typical levels.

    Seasonal progress and pests: MASA/DCAP confirmed in an April report that the October and November 2017 planted crops in the southern and central regions were affected by water deficits due to prolonged dry spells, particularly in early December and January. All of the October planted crops in the south were lost. For the north and parts of the central region, MASA/DCAP, indicated that the late start and the excessive rainfall in January affected re-planting attempts. However, in other larger areas of the country unaffected by rainfall shortages, rice, maize, and beans are growing well and mostly in the vegetative stage. According to MASA/DCAP, overall nationwide production prospects are good, particularly in the north and some areas in the central region (highland areas). There are confirmed and typical levels of pest infestations and diseases, but MASA/DCAP is closely monitoring Fall Armyworm (FAW), tuta absoluta, panama disease, and fruit flies, due to their possible negative impacts on production and the economy.

    Despite improved rainfall in February, dry conditions intensified from March to April in much of the south and parts of central Mozambique. The low rainfall in these areas, combined with abnormally high temperatures, led to wilting of late planted crops, particularly those planted in late January and early February, following the crop failure of the earlier planted crops. In less affected areas, the heavy rains in February helped crops to continue growing well. The Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI), as of April 10, 2018, gives an indication of the areas and severity of below-average production for late planted crops, as it shows a range from total crop failure to mediocre levels in much of Maputo, Gaza, and Inhambane provinces (see Figure 1). For the central region, in much of southern Tete, the WRSI shows mediocre to poor crop conditions.

    Markets and prices: March Maize grain prices increased slightly from February in half of the monitored markets and remained stable in the other half. Prices went up by 10 percent in Beira, 11 percent in Chimoio and Chókwe, and by 13 percent in Gorongosa. Generally this is the period when maize grain prices either reach the peak before starting to descend or start to decline in some markets. In all monitored markets, March maize grain prices were below the five-year average and significantly below last year’s prices. March maize meal prices only decreased in Chimoio and Pemba by 38 and 20 percent, respectively, compared to February, and remained stable in all other markets. On average, March maize meal prices were below last year’s prices by 23 percent and above the five-year average by 17 percent. March rice prices increased by 14 percent in Chimoio and Gorongosa compared to February and remained stable in all other monitored markets. On average, March rice prices were the same as last year’s prices and above the five-year average by 43 percent. The changes of maize meal and rice prices are generally caused by temporary changes in the supply level.

    FEWS NET Gaza Assessment: In late March 2018, FEWS NET carried out a rapid food security assessment in parts of the severely affected areas of Gaza Province, covering Chókwe, Chibuto, and Guijá districts. The assessment revealed and confirmed the WRSI results of crop failure and recently planted wilting crops. Generally, the replanted crops in January benefited from the heavy rainfall that occurred in February. However, another long dry spell in March negatively affected the planted crops. As result, the availability of green food or newly harvested crops was currently well below average with areas where no harvest was expected at all. Exceptions included some households along the Limpopo River Valley, where moisture was relatively more available and some newly harvested crops were available, though with well-below crop yields. The majority of households had exhausted their food reserves and had started employing atypical coping strategies for this time of year, including selling small animals (chickens, goats, pigs, etc.) and resorting more to forest products, including production and sale of charcoal. In remote areas, where these strategies were not possible, poor households were gradually employing more severe strategies, including skipping or reducing the quantity of meals, and consuming less preferable foods and atypical levels of wild foods.

    During the visit, households with access to lowlands and residual moisture, near the Limpopo River, were focusing on second season crops, particularly for vegetables. However, according to district agricultural authorities, most poor farmers had no vegetable seeds. In the major reference market, Chókwe, food availability was adequate, with plenty of maize grain originating from the central region (Manica Province) and some locally produced maize grain. The price of maize grain in March had increased from January by 33 percent. As FEWS NET observed in a previous visit to the same area, generally the early crop losses were mostly due to dryness and a pest infestation and occurrence of FAW was minimal in the area. Prospects for the 2017/18 agricultural season remain poor.


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the February to September 2018 Food Security Outlook remain unchanged except the following assumptions:

    • Residual moisture for second season: In southern and central areas that do second season cropping (May to August), residual moisture levels from main season rains are expected to be above average in most central areas but below average in southern areas and parts of Tete Province.
    • Hydrology: According to the National Directorate of Water Resources Management (DNGRH), in April, as the dry season typically begins, the majority of the country’s dams are well supplied, except in the south where the Pequenos Libombos is still below the typical level at only 29.74 percent of its capacity. However, given the substantial improvement during the final part of the rainfall season, particularly in the catchment area in neighboring eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), combined with the introduction of other alternative sources of water, Mozambique’s Council of Ministers (CM) has decided to lift the water restrictions in the southern major cities of Maputo and Matola. According to the CM, the overall water supply capacity in the south has increased from 60 to 80 percent.


    April to May: During this period, the majority of poor households will typically be able to gradually harvest and rely on their own production for food and through market purchases. Many areas will be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1), particularly in the northern and much of the central regions. However, in this year’s drought affected areas, covering much of interior Gaza and Inhambane, northern Maputo, southern Tete, and parts of Manica and Sofala provinces, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity outcomes will prevail due to limited or no household stocks and little cash for needed market food purchases. The most affected households will be the poor and very poor, who are expected to require humanitarian assistance to protect their basic livelihoods. The most vulnerable, representing a small proportion (less than 20 percent of each total district population), are already likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and be in need of urgent food assistance. Most of these households will be unable to purchase food from markets due to limited incomes and their remoteness that limits their coping strategies. In the absence of emergency food assistance, these households will engage in unsustainable coping mechanisms, including excessive consumption of wild foods or gradual depletion of livelihood assets. In northwestern Sofala Province, particularly in Chemba District, which was affected by irregular distribution of rainfall characterized by long dry spells and an unprecedented mice infestation during 2017, near-average rainfall was received during the current season. As a result, outcomes are expected to improve from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2), following the harvest in May.

    June to September: Harvested food from the producer areas, unaffected by the dryness, will become widely available in the markets in June. However, even though this season is slightly better as compared to the El Niño season (2015/16), total crop production will be below average. While the majority of the north and much of the central regions, unaffected by dryness, are expected to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes, the poorest households from the affected areas in the central and southern regions (see list of these areas in the previous paragraph) are expected to gradually move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as their food access is further constrained. With rising staple food prices and no alternate sources of income, these poor households are expected to be in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. In August and September, the harvest from second season production typically becomes available. However, it is expected that due to this season’s dryness and pest infestation, conditions for second season crop production in southern and parts of central Mozambique will be poor, with very limited harvests. Acute food insecurity outcomes are likely to further deteriorate seasonally after September, even with the beginning of 2018/19 agricultural labor opportunities, as there will be an early lean season in southern and central areas. As a result, the overall number of people in need of food assistance is likely to increase until the staple harvests in 2019.

    Figures Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) for maize grain, as of April 10, 2018

    Figure 1

    Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI) for maize grain, as of April 10, 2018

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    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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