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Stressed food insecurity conditions continue in parts of semi-arid areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Mozambique
  • May 2012
Stressed food insecurity conditions continue in parts of semi-arid areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • While the countrywide post-harvest food security assessments are expected over the next few months, food security appears to be generally stable in most of the country, including areas affected by dryness and floods. Food is available in the markets and food access is currently favorable for the majority of poor and very poor households.

    • Nominal food prices remain stable and generally below those of last year but still above the five-year average in some places. April/May typically marks the period when seasonal variation in food prices is minimal. Minimal food price variation is typical for this time of year and will last until June/July when prices are expected to start increasing. 

    • Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions are currently present in Machanga, Govuro, Funhalouro, Panda and Chigubo districts, and expected to remain so throughout the scenario period unless reverting measures are timely taken. After September, Stressed conditions will likely be felt in other districts of concern where households may be forced to expand their livelihood strategies to meet minimum basic food requirements.


    Updated food security outlook through September 2012

    While the countrywide post-harvest food security assessments are expected sometime over the next few months, food security appears to be generally stable in most of the country, including in many areas affected by dryness and floods this year. The markets are adequately supplied with last year’s foodstuffs,   as well as food from the recent harvest. While the final estimates are yet to be released, the overall crop production is expected to remain the same as the previous year or slightly larger. Crop production in the northern region was assessed to have fared well, but the southern region performed poorly. Most of the central region of the country experienced average crop production, while other parts in the region were below average.

    The second season, which runs between April and September, depends mainly on residual moisture and the availability of seeds. Maize, vegetables and root crops are the main cultivated crops during this season. At the country level the second season production is minor when compared to the main season, but the second harvest can make a substantial contribution to household income and food production in some areas. Crop yields for the second season are expected to do reasonably well.

    Following several months of drought conditions that negatively impacted agricultural production, the current food security situation in the southern region is satisfactory. Most households in this region have an adequate number of meals per day and a diverse diet. However, poor households in Machanga, Govuro, Funhalouro, Panda and Chigubo districts are currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions and are expected to remain so during this scenario period unless measures are taken to determine the type and level of assistance needed. The World Food Program (WFP) food aid pipeline is undersupplied and unable to expand food assistance coverage to many of these vulnerable households. 

    Markets and Prices

    Food prices from March to April were stable and in general have decreased following seasonal trends. The seasonal availability of beans is slightly delayed compared to maize; causing a delay in seasonal price drops for beans.  Maize is readily available and prices have decreased or remained unchanged following the seasonal trend in all monitored markets. Groundnuts have also followed the same trend with monthly drops in every market while rice prices generally remained unchanged. The increasing availability of the most affordable staple crops, including maize, rice, cassava and groundnuts, has improved food access for poor households in the urban and semi-urban areas that normally depend on markets for food. Food from the main harvest of the 2011/12 cropping season is still arriving at markets in many parts of the country and staple food prices continue to be low.  

    The flow of food commodities into deficit areas has been following normal patterns. For instance, maize from the north is supplying the local major urban centers and parts of the central region, whereas maize from the central area of the country is also supplying local markets and the southern areas including Maputo city. April/May typically marks the period where seasonal food price variation reaches a minimum. This minimal food price variation is expected to last until June/July when prices are expected to start increasing.

    Findings from the Rapid Food Security Assessment, May 5-15, 2012

    For the purpose of updating the April through September FEWS NET Food Security Outlook, FEWS NET carried out another round of rapid qualitative food security assessments in May 5-15, 2012. This assessment covered areas of concern in the central region of the country including the districts of Caia, Chemba and Machanga in Sofala Province, Mutarara, Moatize and Changara in Tete Province and Tambara in Manica Province (Figure 3). The visited areas include the following livelihood zones: Zambezi Valley Livelihood Zone, Semi-arid Northern Zambezi Valley Livelihood Zone and Save Basin Livelihood Zone. The assessment consisted of key informant interviews with district administrative authorities, agriculture authorities, community leaders, farmers, district based NGOs, and households; as well as observations from community visits.

    Generally, in all visited districts rains were below normal, erratic and characterized by long dry spells that forced farmers to engage in multiple planting attempts following successive crop failure. In some cases more than five attempts were made.  Due to these adverse conditions, households considered any available land where favorable growing conditions might exist. For many this included planting in the lowlands where residual moisture was present, along with planting on the many islands that exist near the major rivers. This strategy minimized food deficits in various parts of this zone and resulted in communities in the visited areas likely remaining at minimal levels (IPC Phase 1) of food insecurity throughout the entire Outlook period (April through September).

    Maize is the crop that was most severely affected in the rain fed areas. Other cultivated crops in the rain fed areas, including millet, sorghum and beans, performed reasonably better compared to maize. Most households are currently harvesting part of their sorghum and millet crops while the remainder is still in the field. Most of the beans are also still reaching full maturity but some is already being harvested. Harvested maize has come mostly from the lowlands and island areas, including households living along major rivers such as the Zambezi. As a result of constantly replanting whenever the rains did occur earlier in the season, crops in the field can be found in various growing stages.  In preparation for the second cropping season most households are currently engaged in taking maximum advantage of the existing lands with residual moisture in order to produce mainly vegetable crops and maize. The majority of households’ members have now moved to the islands in the Zambezi River and its main tributaries in order to engage in dry season production and fishing. Agriculture authorities at the district level are massively distributing short-cycle sweet-potatoes cuttings to be planted in every place where poor rainfall conditions existed during the main season. Harvest for sweet potatoes and most of the second season crops is expected in July/August.

    Poor households in areas situated far away from the major rivers and with no access to lowlands or irrigation schemes cannot meet their basic food needs through their own production and will rely heavily on the markets. Currently all households have enough food to meet their basic needs, but these food reserves will likely last until August/September. From this time on, local markets will be the main source of food for most poor households. In order to obtain cash poor households will engage in self-employment activities including the sale of firewood, charcoal, construction timber and poles. The better-off households are able to employ workers for the construction of houses, grain stores, latrines and livestock pens. The poor will also sell thatching grass locally and alongside roads. Members of very poor and poor households will migrate to distant fertile lands belonging to the better-off wealth groups to work on land clearing, planting, weeding and harvesting in exchange of cash. New self-employment opportunities have emerged in the recent years including wood logging and brick production. In Moatize district the mineral industry, including coal exploration, is growing and provides job opportunities to local household members.

    In this region of the country cash crops have a significant impact on household income. In most of the areas households tend to cultivate cotton and sesame in addition to food crops. Generally sesame, sweet potato and cotton are planted as single stands. In most visited areas, especially in Caia and Chemba, cotton and sesame crops were observed in the field. It is expected that cash crop yields will also be affected by the erratic rains experienced in this region.

    In all visited districts, wild foods play an important role as a complement to food crops. The visited zones have a wide range of wild foods including mainly nhica (nenuphar) and malambe (baobab fruit), water lily, massanica (ballanites), matondo and many other less utilized roots and fruits are common in the zone.

    In order to guarantee food availability in deficit areas during the peak of the lean season at relatively affordable prices, the Government is providing financial credit to local traders that buy maize from the surplus areas and sell to local markets in the deficit areas. However, in all of the visited areas most informal traders were already bringing maize from surplus areas to the deficit areas using their own resources. The maize supply in the local markets is currently high while the demand is extremely low. Current prices are at normal levels for this time of the year.

    Table 1. Brief description of district-level food security.

    District

    Food Security Description

    Chemba

    Acute food insecurity conditions will remain at minimal levels throughout the scenario period. In Mulima, food security is guaranteed due to good millet, sorghum and bean production. In Chiramba and Chemba, households will rely heavily on second season cropping and fishing.

    Caia

    District is well supplied from the recent harvest and no acute food insecurity conditions are envisioned throughout the scenario period.

    Tambara

    Due to sorghum crops at maturing and harvest stages, no acute food insecurity is envisioned before November. Nhacolo was affected by erratic rains but has easy access to the lowlands and islands, along with a second cropping season and fishing.

    Changara

    The combination of the household food reserves, sales of animals, and wild foods will stabilize food access in the district throughout the entire scenario period and beyond.

    Mutarara

    In Inhagoma and Charre, acute food insecurity conditions will be minimal throughout the scenario period. In Doa and Nhamayabuè, the combination of food reserves, purchases from local markets, wild foods availability and self-employment will be able to guarantee food security throughout the scenario period.

    Moatize

    In Zóbue, maize production was a success with surpluses being flown into the deficit areas of Kambulatsisi and Moatize. In Kambulatsistsi and Moatize, the household food reserves, purchases from local markets, self-employment, employment from coal industries, second season production will be able to guarantee food security throughout the scenario period.

    Machanga

    The crop failure was evident in all visited places of the district. The poor and very poor households have already reduced the number of meals from three to two, and sometimes one. In these areas, current acute food insecurity conditions are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In the visited places, maize was widely seen in good condition, but conditions during the dry season will be crucial to determine the success or failure of the second season in non-lowland areas. Local markets are fully supplied with maize from neighboring districts but purchases by locals are still very low.

    Update of Food Security Scenario

    Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity conditions are currently present in Machanga, Govuro, Funhalouro, Panda and Chigubo districts, and expected to remain throughout the scenario period.   For these areas, failure to respond with assistance in a timely fashion could result in the deterioration of food security in poorer households. It is strongly recommended that resources be allocated to prevent further decline of the food security situation, particularly for the period between October and February/March 2013, when seasonal foods become available in the 2012/13 cropping season.

    The food security conditions in other areas of concern are assumed to remain the same as indicated in the FEWS NET Outlook report released in April. Additionally, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) conditions will likely be felt in poor households after September when these households will be forced to expand their livelihood strategies in order to meet minimum basic food requirements. Apart from the lack of essential and basic foods, very limited access to clean water may potentially lead to the further spread of diseases including cholera and diarrhea in the areas of concern. Food prices are expected to remain stable throughout the scenario period but in many cases still above-average. Access to food in markets by poor households will remain difficult, forcing them to intensify livelihood strategies in order to meet their minimum food requirements.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Source: FEWS NET

    Districts (not including Machanga) covered by the FEWS NET assessment, May 5-15, 2012.

    Figure 2

    Districts (not including Machanga) covered by the FEWS NET assessment, May 5-15, 2012.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Sorghum and millet recently harvested in Cado, Chemba district (left); selling maize in Machanga (middle) and recently planted maize (second season) in Machanga district (right).

    Figure 3

    Sorghum and millet recently harvested in Cado, Chemba district (left); selling maize in Machanga (middle) and recently planted maize (second season) in Machanga district (right).

    Source: FEWS NET, May 2012

    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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