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Parts of central semiarid areas likely to be in Crisis during the lean season

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mozambique
  • August 2017
Parts of central semiarid areas likely to be in Crisis during the lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue through September, except in parts of northwestern Sofala Province where long dry spells in February 2017 caused crop losses and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes persist. These central semiarid areas are projected to move to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to an early lean season onset in October, and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are also likely in nearby Mutarara District in Tete and Tambara in Manica. 

    • The ongoing mice infestation, which is particularly severe in the central and southern regions, is posing a serious threat to second season crops. According to local authorities, in some places the number of mice has reached unprecedented levels. The impact of Fall Armyworm and other pests on second season production continues to be minimal. 

    • On average, from June to July, maize grain prices remained stable and are currently below the five-year average by nine percent. Among the falling maize grain prices, the largest monthly drop occurred in Pemba by 25 percent. Generally July is likely to mark the lowest maize prices for the year before they begin an ascending trend. Maize meal and rice prices slightly decreased or stabilized in July. 


    Currently, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes persist countrywide, except in the central semiarid areas of Chemba, Caia, and Maríngue districts in Sofala Province, which are currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Though the cumulative rainfall was above average, its distribution was erratic, particularly in February 2017 when long dry spells caused crop losses and replanting efforts were futile. Also, most of these areas were previously affected by the armed conflict, which had caused disruption of households’ livelihoods. As result, poor households are facing below-average food availability from both the main and second season harvests and limited income-earning opportunities.

    Food availability: The main harvest has ended, and the flow of food commodities from producer areas to consumer areas is progressing well. While the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MASA) is finalizing the analysis of its national crop assessment and the food balance sheet, projected figures suggest adequate cereal availability, particularly for maize grain, to meet national consumption needs through March 2018. As typical, second season production, which is ongoing, mostly in southern and central areas, is contributing to food availability and access, but at lower amounts than initially projected due to an unprecedented level of mice  consuming and damaging second season crops as well as moisture deficits in localized central semiarid areas that has affected production levels.

    Food access and market prices: Market food access has been favorable due to relatively low prices since April 2017 (below or same as average), particularly for maize grain, the most important staple food in Mozambique. In July, prices decreased in most markets, though in some markets, prices tended to stabilize or increase. The largest drop in maize grain prices was again recorded in Pemba by 25 percent due to the delayed main season harvest in parts of Cabo Delgado. On average, July maize grain prices are 54 percent below last year’s prices and nine percent below the five-year average. July is likely to have the lowest maize prices of the year before they begin to seasonally ascend. Maize meal and rice prices had small decreases or remained stable. The change between current maize meal and rice prices and last year’s prices has decreased substantially during the last three months compared to 2016, with current prices being only six percent higher for maize meal and two percent for rice. Compared to the five-year average, maize meal and rice prices were 66 and 54 percent higher, respectively, which marks a gradual reduction from previous months.

    Rapid food security assessment in parts of Sofala, Tete, and Manica provinces: In early July, FEWS NET carried out a rapid food security assessment, as part of the Technical Secretariat of Food Security and Nutrition (SETSAN) post-harvest assessment, in parts of central semiarid areas, including Caia and Chemba districts in Sofala Province, Mutarara and Doa districts in Tete Province, and Tambara district in Manica Province to assess the food security situation. FEWS NET had not been able to visit these districts due to security reasons as most of the areas were affected or close to the political-military conflict that ended in December 2016.

    Out of all areas visited, the greatest area of concern was in northwest Caia district and much of Chemba district, and similar conditions were reported for the northern part of Maríngue, but FEWS NET did not visit this district. FEWS NET determined that the long dry spells in February 2017 in these areas, when most of the crops were at flowering stages, resulted in widespread crop losses, except for drought-resistant crops, such as millet and sorghum. However, production for even these crops was below average, and households stocks are estimated to last only through the end of August. Regardless, food availability in the local markets in all central semiarid areas is adequate. Most markets are supplied by nearby areas or from the producer areas within the region, particularly from the southern part of Maríngue District and Gorongosa District. Staple food prices were found to be close or below the five-year average.

    Due to the severity of the 2015/16 drought and limited alternative coping mechanisms, FEWS NET learned that in the most drought-affected central semiarid areas, the total number of livestock on average at the household level, particularly for goats, has decreased by about 30 to 50 percent due to excessive sales that primarily took place from October 2016 to March 2017. As a result, most households are not selling their animals in an effort to recover their herd sizes, which has pushed the price of livestock, especially for goats, above five-year averages. In general, livestock body conditions remain good due to the favorable availability of pasture and water.

    According to district agricultural authorities, the presence and impacts of Fall Armyworm (FAW) on the main season harvest was minimal in all visited districts, particularly in Mutarara. In Chemba, Caia, Doa, and Tambara, the authorities could not confirm whether there was even any FAW. FEWS NET discovered that there is a very limited level of knowledge about FAW among the agricultural technical community and at the household-level. Currently, MASA is developing a countrywide emergency action plan to address the containment of FAW, primarily for the 2017/18 production season. The plan was initially estimated to require USD 1.8 million in funding, but it is currently under revision and costs will likely be adjusted, accordingly.

    In all areas, there was a reported presence of African maize stem borer and grasshoppers, but the level of infestation was typical. However, the mice infestation, particularly in districts located in the southern part of the Zambezi River (Caia, Chemba, and Tambara) has reached unprecedented levels, making it difficult for local authorities and households to manage/control through usual means. Households have been employing traditional traps to minimize the impacts of mice but with limited effect. The mice have been consuming primarily maize grain, but also beans, sweet potatoes, and tomatoes. In order to cope with the large numbers, households are even consuming and/or selling the mice, which is a typical practice by local households but just not at this scale. Urgent control and mitigating measures are needed to minimize further negative effects on crops during the remaining second season period. The level of damages varies depending on the area, but ranges from five to 50 percent of all crops. 


    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the June 2017 to January 2018 Food Security Outlook remain valid, except second season production is now expected to be below average due to the mice infestation in parts of the southern and central regions.


    August to September 2017: Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to persist across the country due to stable and adequate food availability and access, except in parts of the central semiarid areas of Chemba, Caia, and Maríngue districts in Sofala Province, which are currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In these areas, poor households are still reestablishing their livelihoods and will meet their minimum food requirements but likely forgo essential non-food needs. Beginning in September, poor households in these areas are expected to employ coping strategies earlier than usual. Some of the strategies will include atypical levels of consumption of wild foods and fruits, including massanica, chikanherera, kapepe, matondo, and masala. Households will also aim to get needed income through the production and sale of charcoal and illegal hunting. Although FEWS NET’s mapping does not show any districts in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), there are poor households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, who are expected to face food gaps during this period.

    October 2017 to January 2018: Following FEWS NET’s July assessment to central semiarid areas, FEWS NET revised its projections for these areas and now anticipates that the districts of Chemba, Caia, and Maríngue will worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this period, as there are now expectations that a larger proportion of poor households were affected by the long dry spells during the rainy season and had their basic livelihoods disrupted by the conflict. In addition, Tambara in Manica Province and Mutarara in Tete Province will move to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the lean season due to localized irregular rainfall distribution during the 2016/17 rainy season. The lean season in semiarid central areas is expected to begin atypically early in October due to below-average food availability, expected higher staple food prices, and limited income. For the rest of the country, the lean season is expected to begin as usual in December. As a result, beginning in October, poor households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to further intensify the consumption of wild foods, reduce their meals (quantity and frequency), consume less preferred foods, and rely on help from others. Due to lower herd sizes caused by excessive sales, poor households will have a limited ability to sell their livestock, and most will resort to relying on forest products to get needed income, including producing and selling charcoal and selling poles and grass. 


    Figure 1


    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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