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Food Security Outlook through September 2012

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mozambique
  • April - September 2012
Food Security Outlook through September 2012

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  • Key Messages
  • Most likely food security scenario, April through September 2012
  • Most likely scenario, April-September 2012
  • Key Messages
    • A majority of rural households are experiencing no or minimal acute food insecurity conditions and are able to meet basic food requirements throughout the country due to the newly harvested crops and affordable food prices. Localized spots of food insecurity are found in areas that were most affected by weather shocks including severe dryness, floods and cyclones/storms.  

    • From April until June, poor and very poor households in the semi-arid interior zones of Gaza and Inhambane, and southern Sofala Province are expected to remain under stressed food insecurity conditions (IPC Phase 2). From July to September, food insecurity conditions in these areas will continue and are not expected to worsen, but due to poor rainfall in the last three seasons in the southern and central areas, food insecurity will likely extend to very poor and poor households in additional districts in the semi-arid areas of Sofala and Tete Provinces.

    • A countrywide vulnerability assessment is planned for May 2012 and will determine the type and level of needs, as well as the exact duration of interventions. In the meantime about 147,000 people will need humanitarian assistance until June. After June, humanitarian assistance, in the form of non-food and food interventions, is expected to continue through the Outlook period and would keep food insecurity unchanged. The assistance could last until the next main harvest in March of 2013. 

    • Newly harvested crops from the main 2011/12 cropping season are being supplied to most markets and staple food prices are stable and decreasing according to the seasonal trend. Households are currently experiencing improved food access due to increasing food availability and decreasing food prices. It is expected that the trade flows between the northern and southern parts of the country will remain the same in the Outlook period. 

    Most likely food security scenario, April through September 2012

    Current food security conditions

    With the exception of localized areas that were most affected by weather shocks including long dry spells, floods and cyclones/storms, the majority of rural households are experiencing no or minimal acute food insecurity conditions and are able to meet basic food requirements throughout the country. Even with the apparent decline in overall production due to these weather shocks, food is available in most markets. Staple food prices are currently stable and on the decline according to the seasonal trend.

    While households typically consume their own produce at this time of the year, the poor and very poor in the arid and semi-arid areas have inadequate food access through their own production and have limited means to access food in the market because of very limited household cash income. This is the situation in the arid and semi-arid areas where the poor and very poor have experienced significantly low crop yields or crop failure due to periods of long-term dryness from January to March.

    Areas at risk or with stressed conditions of food insecurity include the semi-arid and arid areas of several districts in the southern region including the following livelihood zones: Semi-arid interior maize dominant, Semi-arid interior sorghum and millet dominant, including the districts of Gaza and Inhambane Province; upper Limpopo riverine and the interior zones in Gaza Province. The areas at risk or with stressed conditions of food insecurity in the central region include the following livelihood zones: the Mukumbura border livelihood zone, Chioco and Changara Semi-Arid zone, Semi-Arid Northern Manica Interior zone, Semi-Arid Northern Zambezi Valley zone, Zambezi Valley zone and the Save Basin zone.

    Currently the situation is favorable within most at-risk areas of the central zone because households are consuming this season’s crops. In the southern region crop yields were well below average in the semi-arid areas of Gaza, Inhambane Province and parts of Sofala Province. Poor households are currently under stressed food insecurity conditions following a near total failure of main seasonal crops due to severe long-term dryness. Since the beginning of the 2011/12 agriculture season in October 2011, these areas have had significant rainfall deficits and long dry spells, resulting in a rapid expansion of moisture deficits which affected crops in the field. Many households in these areas were forced to plant multiple times after repeated attempts--resulting in crop failure since the beginning of the season. Some of the late planted crops were severely affected by the dryness during the tasseling and silking stages in January and February, which is when water requirement is critical. This year’s dryness will likely perpetuate the effects of droughts that have taken place in the same area over the past two years, resulting in severely reduced crop yields. During these two years, production outcomes in the semi-arid zones of the south and central zone  have generally been characterized by near to below-average crop yields.

    As the end of the main cropping season approaches, crop production prospects at the national level indicate a near-average performance, given that the northern zone, the most productive area of the country, and parts of the central region are performing above average. Meanwhile, the second cropping season that relies mostly on residual moisture takes place during the dry season from April to September when minimum rains are expected. On average, the second season production makes up about 15 to 20 percent of household annual food needs, and also contributes to overall household cash income, particularly from vegetable sales. In most of the semi-arid areas, households can only practice a single cropping season during the rainy season from October to March.

    In March, food assistance for vulnerable households typically comes to an end when the new harvested crops become available. However, emergency assistance is expected to continue this year until the second season harvest production for those households affected by the recent shocks.  According to the February rapid food security assessment by the Technical Secretariat for Food Security and Nutrition Vulnerability Assessment Group (SETSAN/GAV), 146,500 people will require humanitarian assistance until the next possible harvest. This assistance could extend from the second cropping season from July to September 2012 or until the next main season in March of 2013. A countrywide vulnerability assessment is planned for May of 2012 and will determine the type and level of humanitarian assistance needed, as well as the exact duration of interventions.

    Markets and Prices

    The increasing availability of the most affordable staple crops such as maize, rice, cassava and beans improved food access to households with less cash resources, mainly the poor and very poor in the urban and semi-urban areas that normally depend on markets to access food. The low staple food prices resulted from the increased food availability from the main harvest (still ongoing) of the 2011/2012 cropping season. In general the monthly food prices from February to March have decreased or remained unchanged following the seasonal trend. Maize prices, one of the staple foods in Mozambique, have decreased in almost all monitored markets. Significant decreases in maize prices were observed in Maxixe (22 percent) and Tete (14 percent). Rice prices have also decreased slightly in many markets or remained unchanged as the availability of maize has increased. During the same period (February to March), significant changes were observed in bean prices. A 20 percent price drop was observed in Gorongosa followed by a 14 percent drop in Maputo. Groundnuts have also followed the same trend with monthly drops in every market.

    The flow of food commodities has been following the normal pattern where the major producing centers are supplying the consumers and deficit areas. For instance, maize from the north is supplying the local major urban centers and parts of the central zone whereas maize from the central zone is also supplying local consumer centers and the southern zones, including Maputo city.

    It is also important to note that the staple food prices that sharply increased in 2008, departing from the five-year average, are now returning to the five-year average. In some markets nominal prices are even lower than the five-year average, reflecting the stability of staple food prices. April/May typically marks the period when seasonal variation of food prices is at its lowest. This period may last until June where prices are expected to start increasing. A normal trend is therefore expected in all monitored markets. The decreasing trend and gradual approach of nominal prices toward the five-year average will improve food access for the majority of households who are market dependent or turning to the markets as alternative to low crop production.

    Rapid Food Security Assessment, March 27 to May 5, 2012

    In order to verify the prevailing food security conditions in the areas of concern, FEWS NET carried out a rapid qualitative food security assessment from March 27 to May 5, 2012 covering Mabote and Funhalouro districts in Inhambane Province and  Massangena, Chigubo, Guijá and Chibuto districts in Gaza Province (Figure 4). The assessment consisted of key informant interviews with district administrative authorities, agriculture authorities, community leaders, farmers, district based NGOs, and household representatives; as well as observations from community visits.

    Crop failure was observed in almost all of Funhalouro district and in much of Chigubo district. Only a segment of the Chigubo district in Zinhane and the Nhanale Administrative Post crops have survived,  but area estimates of food reserves are expected to last for a maximum of three months (up to June). In the Zinhane Administrative Post, sorghum and millet crops have performed reasonably better compared to the rest of the sorghum and millet areas of the district where these crops performed poorly.  Also in the Nhanale Administrative Post in the southeastern part of the district, maize crops performed reasonably better compared to all other maize areas where crop failure occurred.

    The situation in Funhalouro and Chigubo is worrisome because of the failure during the main cropping season, which is the source of basic food for household consumption. Typically households that at this time of the year would have been consuming food from their own produce, but instead some households are starting to adopt consumption behaviors that normally are employed late in the lean season from October to March. In all visited homes, household members are consuming wild foods including wild roots (xicutso and matiwo), wild fruits (n’kuacua, malambe and massala), and drinking wild fruit juice (utchema) well beyond the levels consumed in normal years.

    Intensification in the consumption of these wild foods may lead to malnutrition-related diseases. The household granaries that normally would have been replenished with staple foods from the recent harvest are instead full of wild foods such as n’kuacua (Figure 5). Throughout the years, households in the semi-arid areas have developed strong resilience to the effects of drought, but two or more consecutive droughts can erode a household’s resiliency over time.

    According to the Administrative authorities in Chigubo district, specifically in the Administrative Post of Saúte, there has also been a noticeable increase in the school drop-out rate due to the drought. Interventions including provision of school feeding were strongly recommended to stimulate children’s attendance to school. The water issue was also frequently raised by interviewed households. Water is getting scarce much earlier than normal, which is a clear indication that harsh times are expected in the remaining of the consumption season.

    On the other hand, Findings from Mabote, Massangena, Chibuto and Guijá suggest relatively stable food security conditions. In these districts the  rains performed reasonably better compared to the other districts, allowing for slightly better development of crops such as maize, millet, sorghum, and cowpeas. In addition, the rearing and sale of livestock are important for livelihoods in these districts. In Mabote and Massangena, erratic rains with less severe dryness have helped the early planted crops to survive, though the crop yields were below the average. Even the late planted crops which are still in the field have been benefiting from the late rains and prospects are still good for successful harvesting. In Mabote and Massangena, food availability and access is guaranteed at least until the onset of the lean season in October. In Guijá and Chibuto districts, mid-January heavy winds and flooding from cyclone “Dando” and flooding from the Limpopo River contributed to crop loss. However, the availability of seeds for massive planting following the recession of flood waters did occur. This has resulted in the maturation and harvesting of mostly maize crops in these areas. In the two districts, food availability and access is guaranteed at least until the onset of the lean season in October. Overall, acute food insecurity outcomes in all four of these districts are minimal. Nonetheless, close monitoring is recommended, especially in the northern parts of Guijá and Chibuto districts, where FEWS NET observations point to much tighter food reserves.

    Most likely scenario, April-September 2012

    Results from the field visit to the southern zone of the country combined with other field information, remote sensing products and the climate outlook for April to June were used to project the food security conditions from April to September 2012. The most likely April to September scenario is based on the following assumptions:

    • The main season production (October-April) was affected by long term dryness in January and February 2012 resulting in low crop yields and crop failure in the semi-arid and arid areas, particularly in the semi-arid areas of interior of Gaza and Inhambane Provinces, southern and northern Sofala Province, southern and northern Manica Province and southern Tete Province;
    • Continued abnormal dry conditions throughout the scenario period;
    • Generally staple food prices will remain stable throughout the consumption year in most areas, although still remaining above the five-year average in most markets. Food access will be favorable for market dependent households with purchasing power;
    • Provision of inputs for the second season will be adequate and timely for the areas where conditions exist for second season performance;
    • Government and partners will provide humanitarian assistance for very poor and poor households affected by recent shocks (cyclones, floods and drought).

    From April to June 2012, very poor and poor households in the semi-arid interior zones of Gaza (Chigubo) and Inhambane (  Funhalouro, Panda, and Govuro districts), and Sofala Province ( Machanga), are expected to remain under stressed food insecurity conditions (IPC Phase 2) following a below-average main harvest and/or crop failure that resulted from poor rainfall this season, coupled by eroded coping strategies and with  undesirable agro-climatic conditions for the second cropping season in most of the area. In most of these districts, the main crops are millet, sorghum, maize and cowpea.  These areas face chronic adverse agro-climatic conditions which compounded by two to three consecutive years of poorly distributed and little rainfall, affected crop yields, resulting in reduced food availability and in most cases in total crop failure.  Food stocks for most households in these areas were exhausted in the beginning of the lean season in October 2011 and have not been replenished.  Sources of income for households are extremely limited, even in a typical year. The income earned through the sale of natural products (such as grass and building poles), and other goods and crafts is negligible. Consequently, to meet food needs, households normally employ a range of typical livelihood strategies, including consumption of wild foods, exchanging labor for food, and receiving gifts and remittances. It is expected that from now, households as a way to cope will intensify the use of these strategies that normally are expected during the lean season in well beyond normal levels. Also, as the area is surrounded by three major national parks, small game plays an important role as a source of food which is expected to intensify as a coping strategy. There are few or no opportunities for causal labor given the fact that a second agricultural season is not practiced or only practiced by a relatively small number of those with access to water sources.

    Water availability has already become a problem; although this is a chronic situation in the area, this year the severity is higher. The scarcity of water will force households to travel longer distances in search of water, resulting in failure to engage in other activities such as farming and school attendance. The shortage of water will force people to use water from less potable sources, including livestock watering points, which may result in disease outbreaks such as cholera and diarrhea. Although remittances are no longer as important a source of income as they were in the past, FEWS NET observed that some families were expecting to receive these from relatives in South Africa and elsewhere. Poor households will rely mostly on the market to meet food needs. Though a seasonal decline of food prices is expected, prices will remain above average, limiting food access for poor households. Response measures should include food and water assistance. Where market functionality is adequate, interventions to increase access to food among these households are recommended. In general food assistance beyond normal safety‐net programming is strongly recommended for the very poor and poor households with limited coping options.

    From July to September, it is expected that stressed food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) will extend to very poor and poor households in additional districts of other semi-arid areas where crop yields were reduced following erratic and poor rains. The area of focus will then include other districts such as Chicualacuala in the Gaza Province; Guro and Tambara in Manica Province, Chemba and Caia in Sofala Province, and Mágoè, Cahora Bassa, Changara, Moatize and Mutarara districts in Tete Province. For the majority of the households in the focus areas, food stocks from the main and second season production, in addition to market purchases, will be the primary sources of food during the July-September period. In these areas, a near failure of the main cropping season poses a great challenge to the capability of poorer households who are chronically food insecure to cope until the next harvest in March/April of the following year. Poorer households in the above areas will likely make up for some of their food deficits by adopting livelihood strategies that are normally expected during the lean season from October to March. The extension of the lean season during this period will result in households consuming unusually high amounts of wild foods (consumption levels that are well above the HEA baseline of 10 percent), skipping meals, reducing diet quality, selling natural products including grass, building poles, selling firewood, charcoal, domestic animals, along with informal labor. Casual labor opportunities will still be very limited in this time of the year. However, for mapping purposes only the districts where the population under stressed conditions of food insecurity (IPC Phase 2) exceeds or is expected to exceed 20 percent of the total district population are marked yellow (IPC Phase 2). For this scenario period those districts are Funhalouro, Panda, Chigubo, Govuro and Machanga while in all other districts, the total population at stressed levels is expected to be less than 20 percent of the total district population.

    Once in place, the humanitarian and food assistance recommended for the April to June period will likely need to continue and additional assistance may be required in some districts. Elsewhere, assistance will also be required if the second season harvest (July to September) does not perform well, and if food prices increase. These affected areas include the northern parts of Chibuto and Guijá districts.  The vulnerability assessment in May will provide critical information on the evolution of food security in these areas and will recommend interventions appropriate for addressing access to food, water, inputs and health services that may be needed until the next major harvest in March/April 2013.

    Table 1. Less likely events over the next six months that could change the above scenario



    Impact on food security outcomes

    All focus areas

    Traders do not respond as anticipated and there are no additional flows of staple foods to the deficit areas.

    Local markets would be undersupplied, pushing food prices even higher than current expectations. Food deficits, especially for poor households, would be larger, particularly in the late second half of outlook period in September.

    Inadequate supply of agriculture inputs.

    Inadequate input availability will prevent households able to practice the second cropping season from benefiting from the expected favorable agro-climatic conditions during the second season.

    Inadequate humanitarian assistance response.

    Failure to respond in a timely manner will cause poor households to begin employing crisis and even distress coping strategies (irreversible coping strategies), including consumption of improper foods on a large scale such as wild foods that are highly toxic.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events Timeline

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    Districts (in orange) covered by the FEWS NET rapid assessment, April 27 to May 5, 2012

    Figure 3

    Districts (in orange) covered by the FEWS NET rapid assessment, April 27 to May 5, 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    Households barns with wild food known as “n’kuacua” instead of food from farming – photo taken in Saúte Administrative Post i

    Figure 4

    Households barns with wild food known as “n’kuacua” instead of food from farming – photo taken in Saúte Administrative Post in Chigubo district on April 3, 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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