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Household seed supply and food assistance significantly below needs

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mozambique
  • December 2016
Household seed supply and food assistance significantly below needs

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to continue through March 2017 in the majority of southern and central areas as the poorest households face food consumption gaps and deteriorating coping capacities. Some worst-affected populations, especially in conflict areas, are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Beginning in January, FEWS NET estimates that the number facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse is likely to increase to at least 2.3 million, including potential flood-affected people.

    • Land preparation and planting are underway in southern and central areas, but seed availability at the household and local market levels remains a concern as households were unable to adequately save grain for the 2016/17 season due to two years of below-average production, and commercially available seeds are higher priced. Certified seed distributions are ongoing but delayed, and planned efforts are still below needs. Timely and adequate delivery will be key for a successful agricultural season and household livelihood recovery.

    • In November, food assistance by the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) covered approximately 744,000 people (41 percent of needs assessed by FEWS NET) in the drought-affected provinces, and the same level is expected for December. This level of assistance is significantly below current needs estimates and appears likely to remain so through January. The Mozambique Vulnerability Assessment Committee, SETSAN/GAV, with FEWS NET participation, recently completed a nation-wide assessment, and results expected by early January will update the projected outcomes through the peak of the lean season.


    Generally, in the drought-affected areas, the majority of poor households have long ago exhausted their food reserves and are relying on market purchases, wild foods/fruits, and humanitarian assistance to access food. Local markets are minimally supplied with locally produced food commodities, such as legumes from local lowlands areas, various leaves (pumpkin, cabbage, sweet potato), and other food commodities, such as maize grain, rice, and a number of manufactured products (sugar, cooking oil, rice, etc.). FEWS NET still estimates that there are nearly 1.8 million people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, requiring urgent humanitarian assistance. In addition, it is likely that there are some worst-affected households, who are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), and facing large food gaps and loss of livelihood assets due to the drought and ongoing conflict.

    In order to earn the maximum amount of money for market purchases, the majority of the poorest households are forced to balance their time between farming and self-employment activities, though the greatest effort is invested in farming, and all available income is used solely for food. Payment from agricultural labor has fallen, when compared to average, given the reduced payment power by the middle and better-off households, who were also affected by the drought. In most parts of the central region, there is also an increasing number of young males engaged in artisanal mining at above-average levels. However, with more and more people engaged in similar self-employment activities, especially at a time of year when these activities usually seasonally decrease, the opportunities to sell are lower, limiting incomes. In addition, the severity of the drought, combined with insecurity in the conflict areas, has resulted in an increased level of school drop-outs as children do not have sufficient energy to attend or are engaged in household activities to help access income or food. Collection and consumption of wild foods is increasing to atypical levels, though the availability remains well below average due to the drought even with the resumption of rains.

    The behavior of maize grain prices between October and November had a mixed pattern, but generally they remain on average more than 100 percent above last year and 160 percent above the five-year average. These high prices are expected to continue through February, hindering purchasing power and food access for the poor since they are coupled with lower income-earning opportunities. From October to November, maize grain prices increased by 20 percent in Chókwe, 15 percent in Nampula, 14 percent in Tete, and eight percent in Beira, while they fell by 24 percent in Maputo, five percent in Gorongosa, and remained stable in all other FEWS NET monitored markets (Chimoio, Maxixe, Mocuba, and Pemba).

    Global forecasts point to the persistence of weak La Niña conditions through January 2017, along with a positive Southern Indian Ocean Dipole (SIOD) through March, which continues to indicate average to above-average total cumulative rainfall across Mozambique for the rest of the season. As expected, rainfall has extended from the south, beginning in mid-October, to northern areas, which began receiving steady rains since early December. However, the overall total amount of rainfall between November 1 to December 10, was below average across much of the central region and interior parts of the southern region; however, this is not yet a concern since it is still early in the season. According to the Ministry of Agriculture (MASA), the process of land preparation is almost finished, as more than 90 percent of planned land for this season has been prepared/cleaned in the south while in central and northern regions more than 80 percent has been already prepared. The planting process is also gradually progressing as rainfall is setting in and where there is seed availability. According to MASA estimates as of mid-December, 60 percent of planned areas in the south have been planted, 40 percent in central areas, and 20 percent in northern ones, which is on target and reflects a normal start of season.

    Despite the confirmed onset of rainfall in much of the country, including in the neighboring countries upstream and the international river basins crossing Mozambique, the hydrological situation, particularly in the central and southern regions, is still characterized by below-average levels. While in the north, the major dams such as Nampula, Nacala, and Messica are more than 50 percent full, in the central region, the Cahora Bassa and Chicamba dams are 33 and 25 percent full, respectively. The situation is worse in southern dams where the Pequenos Libombos, Corrumana, and Massingir dams are currently at 15, 7, and 49 percent full, respectively. The dam posing the most concern is the Pequenos Libombos, which provides water for Maputo and Matola cities. As per a decision by the Mozambique water authorities, the Pequenos Libombos dam has ceased providing water for irrigation to conserve water for the two major cities in the south until the situation improves. Fortunately, this is not expected to have a major impact on crops or livestock since the rains are ongoing.

    High demand for seeds

    Due to two consecutive years of below-average production, particularly last year, most poor households were unable to keep some of their harvested grain to be used as seeds for this year as normally occurs. This factor has significantly reduced seed availability at the household level and has reduced the current level of planting despite the largely favorable agroclimatic conditions in the drought-affected areas. During a recent visit by FEWS NET to Tete Province as part of the SETSAN/GAV assessment, it became evident how serious the issue of seeds is in the drought-affected districts. Vast areas had been prepared, but planting was hampered due to a lack of seeds. Through key informant interviews, FEWS NET learned that poor households are doing whatever they can to access seeds. This includes purchasing from markets, when available and if there is enough household income, borrowing from neighbors or relatives, and from distributions by the Government of Mozambique and NGOs.

    However, the certified seed distribution that is taking place remains well below the needs and has also been delayed due to vendor supply issues. Seed distribution is being carried out by CHEMO, a consortium of NGOs comprised of World Vision International and Food for the Hungry; COSACA, another consortium of NGOs composed of Concern, Oxfam, Save the Children, and CARE; and also by the Government of Mozambique through the district agricultural offices (SDAES). Planned seed assistance by FAO, which was supposed to start in mid-November for approximately 42,000 households in Gaza, Sofala, Manica, and Tete provinces, has not started yet due to vendor delays, and it is unclear when distributions will begin. In total, the Food Security Cluster (FSC) community plans to reach 96,000 households with seeds during the 2016/2017 season. To date, only 7,104 households have received seeds. According to the FCS, the small number of people reached so far is because seed distribution only began in late November/early December, but the number of beneficiaries is expected to increase significantly by the end of December. Access to certified seeds has been a challenge this season, and it is likely that beneficiaries will not receive the full package of assorted seeds originally planned from FSC partners due to the lack of some seed types on the commercial market.

    Adequate seed availability through early January is critical for a successful agricultural season and recovery of households’ livelihoods. If seeds only become available after mid-January, this will pose a serious risk given the uncertainty of rainfall beyond March in southern and central regions. Rainfall in April can help late planted crops (late January) to complete the phonological cycle, but chances are low given the uncertainty of prolonged rains in April and also the typical occurrence of mid-season dryness in late January and early February that can affect newly planted crops. Late planting would also delay the availability of green food usually found in February in the south and central regions and slow the seasonal decrease of staple food prices. If this occurs, this may require humanitarian assistance programming to continue past March 2017.

    Food assistance significantly below needs

    Humanitarian assistance, in-kind and through cash vouchers, continues to be carried out in all seven drought-affected provinces but remains below the current needs. In November, the HCT organizations provided food assistance to 744,280 people, which was below the targeted number of 1.2 million for the HCT and represents only about 41 percent of total needs, according to FEWS NET estimates. For December, the level of assistance is expected to remain close to the actual November level. Based on the recent assessment and current data analysis being undertaken by SETSAN/GAV, FEWS NET may adjust higher the number of people in need of assistance from January to March 2017. The SETSAN/GAV results, expected by early January, will update the estimates provided in August 2016 about total numbers in need through the peak of the lean season, March/April 2017. 


    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the October 2016 to May 2017 Food Security Outlook remain valid. 


    From December to January 2017, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are still expected as poor and very poor households face food consumption gaps as they continue to expand their livelihood and coping strategies to help cover these gaps. For some poor households, the seasonal wild foods will be their only source of food. Some worst-off populations in the conflict-affected areas are likely to experience larger gaps in their basic food needs and be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) acute food insecurity. Since January marks the traditional peak of the lean season, the number of poor households moving into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to increase. In non-affected drought areas of the country, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected to continue during this period, and in less impacted areas, there are small pockets of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.

    It is estimated that from January until March 2017, the number of food insecure people facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity or worse may reach at least 2.3 million, including potential flood-affected people, who will require emergency food assistance. The February to May 2017 FEWS NET maps indicate how additional areas in Tete and Zambézia provinces are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. (Note that the maps reflect the most severe food security outcomes that are expected during February and March and not the gradual improvement that will happen later.) Inadequate food assistance could worsen food insecurity outcomes beyond Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) because households will lack the ability to earn enough income that would support their minimum basic needs due to the extremely high staple food prices and through exhausted coping capacities. From April, with the availability of harvested crops, most poor households will be accessing food from their own production and their food security outcomes will lessen and are likely to range from either Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to None (IPC Phase 1) depending on the severity of their previous situation. The forecast for enhanced cyclonic activity and above-average rainfall could cause localized flooding in some of the major basins. Depending on the extent of any flooding, which is possible through March, some flood-affected households may still be facing food gaps until they recover through post-flood production in May/June.


    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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