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Weather shocks drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as an El Niño season looms

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Mozambique
  • June 2023 - January 2024
Weather shocks drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as an El Niño season looms

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Area of Concern: Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood Zone (MZ22) (Figure 5)
  • Key Messages
    • Most poor and very poor households are facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes supported by food from the 2023 harvest. However, in the drought, flood, and cyclone-affected areas of southern and central Mozambique, a poor harvest, depleted food reserves, disruptions to livelihood activities, and limited income-generating opportunities are resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. In Cabo Delgado, although the security situation is improving, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity outcomes are widespread, as most returnees have not yet recovered their basic livelihoods, and IDPs remain dependent on humanitarian assistance to minimize food consumption gaps.

    • In May, maize grain prices remained abnormally and persistently stable, likely reflecting the slow entry of maize grain into local markets following delays in the harvest and localized crop losses from the climatic shocks that affected the southern and central regions through the 2022/2023 season, along with the impact of the conflict in Cabo Delgado on northern localized maize trade supply dynamics. Maize grain prices in May 2023 were 9 to 54 percent above prices last year and either higher, lower, or similar compared to the five-year average. Rice prices remained relatively stable in all monitored markets from April to May 2023.

    • In the May/June assistance distribution cycle, the Food Security Cluster (FSC) partners assisted around 571,300 people in May, just over 40 percent of the targeted beneficiaries. The FSC partners plan to reach the remaining targeted beneficiaries in June. Distributions are ongoing in 10 districts across Cabo Delgado and are expected to be completed in June. In the May/June distribution cycle, the cash-based transfer voucher value was increased to 4,230 MZN (~66 USD) to maintain beneficiary purchasing power. Different FSC partners also distributed livelihood interventions to 90,840 people in May, including vegetable seeds, tools, livestock treatment, starter kits for income generating activities, or agriculture-related trainings.

    • In May 2023, FEWS NET conducted a rapid qualitative assessment of food security in the districts most affected by tropical storm Freddy in Zambézia province. Findings indicate that farmers lost a significant portion of the cassava, rice, and sweet potato harvest. Interviews with farmers and focus groups reported that very few households received seeds to recover from crop losses following the storm. Therefore, the post-flood harvest for replanted rice and maize is expected to be minimal. However, households with access to the lowland areas will likely have an average to above-average second-season vegetable harvest. Food prices more than doubled after tropical storm Freddy but have been gradually reducing. Most very poor and poor households remain heavily reliant on market purchases for food, but there are limited income-earning opportunities, driving Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among the most affected and vulnerable households.


    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Ongoing harvest: Harvests are ongoing throughout Mozambique, particularly in high-production areas such as the plateaus of Tete, Zambézia, Manica, and Sofala, the interior of Nampula and Cabo Delgado, and Niassa. However, poor to failed crop production is likely in much of southern Mozambique following multiple dry spells, high temperatures, and flooding in January and February. In the central region, the areas most affected by floods and strong winds from tropical storm Freddy in February and March recorded a below-average harvest, particularly in parts of Zambézia, Sofala, and Tete provinces.

    While official production estimates are currently unavailable, yield and production estimates from USDA-FAS estimate that the national maize harvest is likely to be around 1.8 million tons, around 18 percent lower than last year and similar to the five-year average. Satellite-based remote-sensing products, such as the water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI), indicate that there was good to very good moisture for maize production throughout the season across the central and northern regions of Mozambique, but average to failure WRSI in most of the southern region, with the poorest outcomes in western Gaza (Figure 1). However, WRSI cannot incorporate the impact of flooding and wind damage on crop conditions, such as in the tropical storm Freddy affected parts of Zambézia, Sofala, and Tete provinces.

    Figure 1

    Water Requirements Satisfaction Index (WRSI) for maize grain, May 31, 2023.
    Maize water requirements were poor to failed in southwestern Mozambique but average to good across the rest of the country

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Qualitative estimates from key informants suggest that national production is likely to be near average, supported by ongoing agricultural investments such as the SUSTENTA program, particularly in the high-production areas. Additionally, heavy rainfall in February and March likely provided the needed residual soil moisture to support second-season production of mostly vegetables in lowland areas of central and southern Mozambique. Additionally, the distribution of seeds by humanitarian partners in flood and cyclone-affected areas is engaging more households in post-flood production than normal.

    Very poor and poor households in the areas directly affected by the climatic shocks in 2023 remain market-dependent, but limited access to income-earning opportunities from petty trade or casual labor is limiting household purchasing power. As a result, these households are prematurely beginning to intensify their typical coping strategies indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), including selling more animals than usual, spending their savings, borrowing money or food, engaging in the production and sale of charcoal, or reducing spending on non-food items to buy food. However, the most vulnerable very poor households in the worst affected areas by this year's climatic shocks, who have few or no livestock, little to no capacity to produce charcoal, and are unable to borrow, are likely already facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and are engaging in consumption-based coping strategies such as skipping meals, reducing meal sizes, consuming less preferred food varieties, and increasing the consumption of wild foods to minimize food consumption gaps.

    Rapid food security assessment in Zambezia Province: In May 2023, FEWS NET carried out a rapid qualitative food security assessment in the Cyclone Freddy-affected districts of Namacurra, Maganja da Costa, Nicoadala, and Quelimane in Zambézia province. Findings indicate that the area's major crops, cassava, rice, and sweet potatoes, were the most affected (Figure 2). Although the distribution of inputs is reportedly ongoing for post-cyclone Freddy recovery, very few households reported receiving seeds, especially in Maganja da Costa. According to a report from the Zambézia Provincial Economic Activities Service (SPAE), around 869,900 hectares were plowed and planted by the end of March for the 2022/23 agricultural season. However, the passage of tropical storm Freddy resulted in around 15 percent of the planted area being lost, while 37 percent of the planted area was affected, along with the loss of livestock, pasture, and farm equipment. Following tropical storm Freddy, SPAE estimated that around 110,455 households are in need of agricultural inputs, particularly maize, cowpea, cabbage, onion, and lettuce seeds and hoes. However, by April only 3000 households have received assistance through the SUSTENA program.

    Figure 2

    Flooded (left) and yellowed rice fields (right) in Maganja da Costa district, May 11-17, 2023
    Pictures of flooded and yellow rice fields in Zambezia

    Source: FEWS NET

    The few households that received rice seeds reported difficulties in planting due to excessive water, resulting in low yields and crop loss. For households that received maize seeds, there has not been enough cumulative rainfall since tropical storm Freddy to sustain maize growth, with less than 165mm of rainfall recorded since March 31, 2023. As a result, the post-flood harvest of rice and maize from July is expected to be minimal. However, households with access to the lowland areas and access to seeds are expected to have an average to above-average second-season production of mostly vegetables.

    Food prices more than doubled right after the passage of Cyclone Freddy and are still high despite declining since then. Most very poor and poor households rely heavily on market purchases to access food following the below-average harvest. Typically, the main sources of income among poor households include the sale of crops, fishing, local brew, charcoal, and agricultural labor by men and women. However, in the worst affected areas, households are relying on income from casual labor in the lowland areas, particularly horticulture production, brick making, sale of mats, charcoal production, and fishing where possible. Most poor households reported consuming maize meal or cassava flour with pumpkin leaves, sweet potato leaves, cassava leaves, and dried fish. However, in the highland areas of Zambezia, including the districts of Milange, Mocuba, Guruè, Alto Molocué, Namarrói, Morrumbala, Lugela, and Ile, crops are in good condition, and the harvest is expected to be above average.

    Conflict areas of Cabo Delgado: Activity associated with Non-State Armed Groups (NSAG) has declined from January through May 2023 in Cabo Delgado province due to continued counterinsurgency efforts, the disaggregation of the NSAG, and a westward and southward relocation of the militants amid movement limitations during the rainy season. According to the IOM-DTM Mobility Tracking Assessment, as of May 12, 2023, around 420,000 people have returned to their homes in northern Mozambique. The districts with the highest number of returnees include Mocímboa da Praia, Palma, and Muidumbe. In the interior of Cabo Delgado, most households are already accessing the green harvest from their own agricultural production, except in IDP centers where households remain mostly reliant on food assistance. Most households in Cabo Delgado continue to consume maize and cassava flour, vegetables, and beans. The 2023 harvest is also expected to be higher than the past three years due to increased security and the return of more displaced people to their areas of origin, and an increase in the number of families involved in agricultural activities. However, an erratic start to the rainy season resulted in most households planting in late December 2022 and January 2023, with most of the harvest likely to occur in May and June.

    Food prices: From April to May, maize grain prices in most monitored markets did not seasonally decrease as expected and remained stable, likely reflecting the slow entry and availability of maize grain in local markets following delays in the harvest and localized crop losses from the climatic shocks reported in the 2022/2023 agricultural season (Figure 3). Most monitored markets with available price data in May show that maize grain prices were 9 to 54 percent above last year. However, in Manica and Lichinga markets, maize grain prices in May 2023 were 13 and 45 percent below prices last year, while in Chókwe and Mutarara markets, maize grain prices remained stable. A mixed trend was observed compared to the five-year average across the monitored markets. The higher-than-average prices are reducing the purchasing power of very poor and poor households who depend on food purchases from local markets, especially in areas where the 2023 harvest was affected by climate shocks.

    Figure 3

    Prices of staple goods in Maputo market, January 2018 to May 2023
    Chart showing the price of staple goods in the Maputo market. Diesel prices have increased; however maize, maize meal, and rice prices are stable.

    Source: FEWS NET using data from MASA/SIMA

    Rice and maize meal prices remained relatively stable in all monitored markets from April to May 2023. Rice prices in May 2023 were either stable or above prices in May 2022 in most monitored markets and 6 to 37 percent above the five-year in all monitored markets, except in Chókwe, where prices are similar to the five-year average, and Manica, where prices were 8 percent below the five-year average. Maize meal prices remained relatively stable in all monitored markets from April to May 2023. Maize meal prices were 10 to 28 percent higher than last year in Chókwe, Lichinga, and Inhambane and stable in all other markets. Compared to the five-year average, maize meal prices in May 2023 were either stable or above the five-year average. Maize meal prices were above the five-year average by 12 to 39 percent in Xai-Xai, Chókwe, Lichinga, and Inhambane and were stable in all other markets.

    Inflation and currency trend: According to the National Statistics Institute (INE), the annual inflation rate in Mozambique eased for a second month to 8.23 percent in May 2023, reaching its lowest point since April 2022. Prices softened mostly for food and non-alcoholic beverages (14.07 percent) and transportation (10.67 percent) but remained high. Nationally, Inhambane province recorded the highest annual inflation rate at 11.85 percent, while Nampula province recorded the lowest annual inflation at 5.94 percent. On a monthly basis, consumer prices fell by 0.39 percent in May, the first drop since May 2021. The products that most contributed to reducing monthly inflation were coconut, cabbage, kale, lettuce, maize grain, and tomatoes, with prices dropping 4.5 to 14.5 percent. Despite this deceleration in the inflation rate, the cost of living remains high for most poor and very poor households, especially in areas affected by this year's climate shocks and conflict due to difficulties in accessing income.

    Humanitarian food assistance: In May, Food Security Cluster (FSC) partners assisted around 571,300 people nationally with general food assistance during the May/June distribution cycle, around 42 percent of the targeted beneficiaries. Around 464,335 people were assisted in Cabo Delgado. The FSC partners plan to assist the remainder of the targeted beneficiaries in June. GFA represents about 42 percent of the targeted caseload (while the rest will be assisted during June as part of the May/June cycle). In Cabo Delgado, distributions to Nangade Ancuabe, Ibo, Macomia, Metuge, Mueda, Chiúre, Mocímboa da Praia, Palma, Namuno, and Quissanga are likely to be completed by the end of June. Currently, three of the nine districts where the Vulnerability Based Targeting (VBT) exercise was conducted are distributing assistance based on VBT lists, with all distributions in the nine districts planned to be based on VBT by the September/October cycle. Cash-based transfer (CBT) voucher values were increased to 4,230 MZN (~66 USD) for the May/June distribution cycle to ensure beneficiaries retain their purchasing power. In May, FSC partners distributed vegetable seeds, tools, livestock treatment, starter kits for income-generating activities, or agriculture-related trainings to around 90,840 people across Mozambique.

    Current Food Security Outcomes

    Most rural households face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes supported by food stocks from the 2023 harvest. However, in drought, flood, and cyclone-affected areas of southern and central Mozambique, a poor harvest, depleted food reserves, and limited income-generating opportunities are resulting in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In the worst cyclone Freddy affected districts of Zambézia, Sofala, and Tete provinces, poor households face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as they remain atypically dependent on market food purchases following a significantly below-average to failed harvest. In these areas, below-average income from crop sales, increased competition in self-employment opportunities, and limited access to markets to sell limit poor households' purchasing power, with households engaging in coping strategies to minimize food consumption gaps. Households who managed to access seeds in the flood-affected areas are currently engaged in the post-flood and second-season production, with the harvest expected from July through September. In the conflict-affected areas of Cabo Delgado, although there has been an increase in the number of IDPs returning to their areas of origin, the recovery of typical income-earning opportunities and livelihoods is slow as the threat of unexpected attacks continues to limit economic activity. In the most conflict-affected areas, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist due to limited access to food and income, with Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) present in areas where humanitarian access is ongoing.


    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal calendar for Mozambique. From June to September is the post harvest period, with land preparation taking place in September. From October to January the start of the rainy season, planting, and the lean season occur.

    Assumptions

    The most likely scenario from June 2023 to January 2024 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Based on forecast models, average to below-average precipitation is likely across Mozambique during the remainder of the dry season (June to September 2023). The start of the October to December 2023 rainy season is likely to be mixed with a possible delayed start due to the likelihood of an El Niño. Rainfall from December to March is likely to be below average.
    • Dam levels and the national water supply are expected to be near average, supported by the recharges from the 2021/2022 and 2022/2023 rainy seasons. However, river overflows are unlikely to significantly impact farms along the main rivers during the scenario period.
    • Nationally, maize grain market availability is likely to be near average for the 2023/2024 consumption year, supported by the 2023 main harvest, carryover stocks from 2022, and the post-flood and second-season crop production. However, northern areas, particularly Niassa and Nampula provinces, and some center surplus-producing areas, particularly northern Tete province, and Manica province, are expected to supply maize grain to markets in deficit-producing areas in central and southern regions at normal levels. However, high transport and transaction costs will keep maize prices high.
    • Cross-border trade for maize grain with Malawi is expected to increase, particularly in southern Malawi's flood-affected areas. The trade of food and non-food items with Zimbabwe will be normal. The demand for South African processed foods and some agricultural products like potatoes and onions will remain high in urban and peri-urban areas of Mozambique due to the low national production.
    • From June to September 2023, most households typically engage in non-agricultural labor opportunities to earn income, while others will be engaged in agricultural labor activities related to the production of vegetables and some short-cycle cereals during the second season. In areas affected by shocks, households are likely to increase their reliance on petty trade and the sale of services for income. Increased competition will likely result in below-normal income. From October 2023 to January 2024, most rural households will likely engage in agricultural labor activities such as land preparation, planting, and weddings despite a likely erratic start to the rainy season that could reduce opportunities to below normal levels.
    • Nationally, agricultural wages are expected to be close to the average, except in the semi-arid areas of the south and some areas of the central region where past shocks are likely to result in below-average liquidity of better-off households to pay workers.
    • The second season typically contributes approximately 20 percent of total annual production. Second-season production through September is likely to be average, driven by above-average residual moisture from the floods in February and March.
    • From October 2023 to January 2024, pest damage will likely be average. However, in the semi-arid areas of the southern and central regions, the level of infestation will be dependent on the start of the 2023/2024 rainy season, with suppressed rainfall likely to increase the proliferation of fall armyworm (FAW), grasshoppers, stalk borer, leaf miner, and rodents.
    • Based on FEWS NET price projections, maize grain prices in the reference market of Maputo will follow seasonal trends but remain higher than prices last year and the five-year average due to increased demand and relatively lower availability than last year (Figure 4). High maize grain prices will reduce the purchasing power of very poor and poor households limiting their access to food, especially in areas affected by shocks in 2023. As typical, maize meal and rice prices will likely remain more stable than bulk grain prices, but short-term variations will drive localized supply and demand dynamics.

    Figure 4

    Maputo maize grain prices and projections (MZN/kg)
    Chart showing the maize grain price projection for Maputo market from December 2022 to April 2024. Prices are likely to be higher than last year and the five-year average but follow seasonal trends.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on MADER/SIMA data

    • In the southern semi-arid areas and parts of central regions affected by shocks during the 2022/2023 agricultural season, household food availability is expected to be below average due to a poor to failed harvest. In the northern zone and most of the central zone, the availability of food reserves at the household level will be at near-normal levels.
    • In most of the south, livestock body conditions are expected to deteriorate as pastures deteriorate seasonally before the start of the rainy season in late 2023. However, the forecast of erratic onset of rainfall will likely slow down the recovery of rangeland conditions. Due to lower-than-normal body conditions, livestock prices are expected to be slightly below average from October to January. However, favorable grazing and watering conditions are expected in much of the north through the scenario period.
    • The availability of wild foods is likely to be average throughout the country.
    • The security situation is expected to continue improving in Cabo Delgado through the scenario period, with the frequency and intensity of militant attacks remaining at depressed levels. Small insurgent cells are expected to stage sporadic attacks against villages in central, coastal, and northern Cabo Delgado throughout the outlook period, while local and regional security forces will work to sustain ongoing joint anti-insurgency efforts despite separate controls and operations. The rehousing of IDPs and the resumption of commercial operations by multinational companies will likely improve agricultural activities and civilian movements, further incentivizing extensions of SADC forces and ensuring the sustainability of security gains in the province for long-term stability.

    Most Likely Acute Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2023, most poor households will continue accessing food from their own production and face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. However, in areas affected by climatic shocks in 2023 and where main production was severely affected, most poor households will be reliant on the second season and post-flood production to minimize food consumption gaps but unable to cover costs of non-food items, remaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Poor and very poor households unable to participate in the post-flood and second-season production will likely intensify their typical coping strategies such as selling chickens and goats, producing and selling charcoal, collecting and selling firewood, brewing traditional beverages, and collecting and selling forest products (straw, construction stakes, reed) and increased consumption of wild foods. In the worst flood and cyclone-affected areas of Zambézia, Sofala, and Tete, very poor and poor households unable to engage in a second season and with no livestock to sell or the capacity to produce charcoal will likely engage in consumption-based coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) such as skipping meals, reducing meal sizes, and increased consumption of wild foods to minimize food consumption gaps. In Cabo Delgado's conflict-affected areas, displaced households are expected to continue returning to their places of origin throughout the outlook period to better access food and income due to limited livelihood opportunities in their resettlement areas. However, the number of IDPs is likely to remain high through 2023. Most areas impacted by conflict are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while areas receiving regular humanitarian assistance are expected to remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

    From October 2023 to January 2024, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely emerge in El Niño affected areas where the erratic start of the season will affect the availability of agricultural labor activities. Additionally, poor households will continue to increasingly face low purchasing power and market access due to higher-than-average food prices and lower-than-average income. As the lean season continues, these poor households will likely begin engaging in more severe coping strategies such as withdrawing children from school-unless meals are provided at school or sending household members to eat elsewhere. The poorest households, without livestock to sell and the ability to produce and sell charcoal, will likely intensify their engagement in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In November, the start of the rainy season is likely to increase agricultural labor opportunities such as land preparation and planting. However, agricultural labor wages in weather-shocked areas are likely to be lower than typical due to middle and better-off households having lower-than-normal liquidity following below-normal crop sales from the 2023 harvest. In parts of Zambézia and Tete province, areas most affected by tropical storm Freddy are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as households deplete their food stocks from the second season and continue to recover their livelihoods. However, limited access to seeds and agricultural inputs is likely to restrain agricultural labor opportunities and access to income during the lean season. In Cabo Delgado, conflict-affected areas will likely remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), with areas receiving humanitarian assistance expected to be Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1

    Table 1. Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario

    Area Event Impact on food security outcomes
    National Average to above-average rainfall Timely onset, well-distributed, and average to above-average rainfall would improve the start of the 2023/24 agricultural season and wild food availability. Increased access to wild foods will improve household food availability and consumption. Additionally, the rainfall would support near-average agricultural labor opportunities and improved pasture and water availability.
    National Severe flooding Severe flooding in January 2024 would negatively affect poor households in the major river basins, particularly in the north and the coastal and Lower Zambezi and Limpopo rivers. As a result, poor households would likely need food assistance for at least three to four months until the post-flood crops are harvested, which is beyond the scenario period.
    Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood zone (MZ22) Traders do not respond to market demands as anticipated Local markets will be undersupplied, increasing food prices. Food access for market-dependent poor households will be more difficult, particularly in areas affected by shocks. Reduced market access will increase food consumption gaps among poor households. 
    Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood zone (MZ22) Inadequate humanitarian assistance An inadequate response to humanitarian assistance needs in southern Mozambique will likely increase households' engagement in more severe coping strategies to minimize food consumption gaps. Additionally, there will likely be an increase in the prevalence of acute malnutrition.

     


    Area of Concern: Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood Zone (MZ22) (Figure 5)

    Figure 5

    Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood Zone (MZ22)
    Area of concern reference map for Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood Zone (MZ22)

    Source: FEWS NET

    This area was chosen as an Area of Concern (AOC) following a consecutive poor harvest in 2023 and the likelihood of a third below-average harvest in 2024 due to the forecast El Niño (Figure 6).

     

    Figure 6

    Percentage of average rainfall using select years since 1981 when El Niño was present from December to February
    Map showing the average rainfall during years when El Nino was present in December since 1981. Below average rainfall across much of central and southern Mozambique, particularly southwestern Mozambique.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Current Situation

    Cropping/harvest conditions: The recently completed 2022/23 agricultural season was characterized by erratic rainfall in December 2022 and January 2023, with prolonged dry spells and high temperatures resulting in wilting and crop loss. During this period, households planted several times to try and recover a harvest. Heavy rainfall was recorded in February, but it was too late for replanting or crop recovery, particularly in western parts of Gaza Province. Additionally, the heavy rainfall in February resulted in the overflow of rivers and flooding, particularly in low-lying areas.

    Available remote sensing products like Water Requirement Satisfaction Index (WRSI), field assessments, and key informant interviews confirm that the 2023 harvest will likely be 30 to 40 percent below average as most non-drought tolerant crops like maize failed. However, the harvest of drought-resistant millet and sorghum, also a staple of the area, is expected to be around 50 to 60 percent of the average. In Inhambane province, the harvest in livelihood zone 22 is similar as crop production was affected by flooding and strong winds from tropical storm Freddy in February. This marks the second consecutive below-average season after prolonged dry spells resulted in a poor harvest in 2022 across the livelihood zone.

    Household food reserves and food access: Food reserves for most very poor households are very low following the poor 2023 harvest in May. Typically, very poor and poor household food reserves can last up to six months. However, following the poor maize harvest, poor households are reliant on their millet and sorghum food stocks which will likely be exhausted by around September 2023.

    Agriculture labor and wages: Consecutive below-average harvests have reduced agricultural labor opportunities and access to income from crop sales by better-off households. The lower-than-normal liquidity of middle and better-off households also results in lower demand for casual labor and petty trade during the dry season.

    Self-employment and coping strategies: Poor households remain atypically dependent on market purchases for food following the 2023 harvest and rely on income primarily from casual labor and petty trade. However, limited income-earning opportunities are resulting in some households selling chickens for income, which is typically done during the November to March lean season. Most poor households own chickens, some own two to five goats, and very few own pigs.

    Households are also increasing their engagement in producing and selling charcoal, construction, handicrafts, selling forest products, and brewing beer or fetching water for better-off households. Poor households are receiving payment through in-kind food and cash. However, increased competition and limited demand are reducing household access to income and leading to lower-than-normal purchasing power. The collection of wild foods, mainly for consumption but also for sale, occurs whenever possible. The availability of wild foods is reportedly close to average and supplementing household food consumption. Household access to income varies greatly, as buyers tend to dictate prices taking advantage of poor families' need for income. Poor families closer to trading centers can command higher prices, such as 300 to 500 MZN per 50 kg bag of charcoal (~4.70 to 7.80 USD/50-kg bag). However, the price will typically drop to 100 MZN (1.56 USD) per 50-kg bag of charcoal the further households are from the trading center. Some families living in remote areas also temporarily migrate closer to the main trade corridors to increase sales opportunities or to areas with forest resources to produce charcoal and sell it. Households living in remote areas have few market opportunities to sell their products, forcing some households to travel to distant markets to sell chickens or charcoal; however, high transportation costs limit income-earning opportunities and few poor households travel to far-away markets.

    Household food consumption: Despite the below-average harvest and limited access to income, most poor households can meet their basic food needs but are not able to meet their non-food needs. Most poor households are reducing their payments for school expenses, health services/medicines, fertilizers and other agricultural inputs, working tools, transportation costs, clothes, batteries, coal, building materials, and other household items. However, the most vulnerable very poor households are engaging in consumption-based coping strategies such as the excessive consumption of wild foods such as macuacua, xicutsi, tinhire, and tinhlaru and increased consumption of less preferred foods. Households engaged in the excess consumption of wild foods are reportedly struggling to meet the daily 2100 kilocalorie requirement per person per day due to a lack of income to purchase food at the markets following successive shocks over the few years.

    Current food security outcome: Following the poor harvest and below-average food stocks, most poor households in the area are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as they can meet their food needs but not their non-food needs, while the worst affected very poor households likely engaging in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Assumptions

    In addition to the national-level assumptions, the following assumptions apply to this area of concern:

    • Erratic and below-average rainfall. The 2023/24 rainy season is likely to be less than 75 percent of normal from December to March based on analog years since 1981 when El Niño was present in December (Figure 6). The Southern Semi-arid Cereals and Cattle Livelihood Zone (MZ22) is also likely to be the most impacted area in Mozambique by El Niño.
    • Below-average agricultural labor availability and wage rates. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be below average from October 2023 to January 2024 due to an erratic start to the 2023/24 rainy season. Additionally, wages and in-kind payments are expected to be below average due to below-normal liquidity and food reserves for middle and better-off households.
    • Pest infestations. Suppressed rainfall is likely to increase the prevalence of Fall Army Worm (FAW), impacting crop development and production during the scenario period. Historical data suggests that crop damage from rodents is also likely to increase, particularly for maize in its reproductive stage. The Ministry of Agriculture estimates that pest and disease damage can contribute up to 40 percent of crop losses when control measures are not implemented on time.
    • Agricultural inputs. Following multiple planting attempts over the past couple of seasons, poor households have exhausted much of their seed stocks and will likely face difficulties in accessing seeds for the 2023/24 agricultural season, contributing to less land being planted. Most farmers will likely use retained maize seed for planting, typically of poor quality and less resistant to pests and diseases.
    • Low household food stocks. Most poor households will likely have lower than normal household food stocks through the scenario period. Food stocks are expected to last one to three months for very poor and poor households, diminishing around September.
    • Below-average livestock prices. From August until the start of the rains in November, livestock prices will likely decrease slightly to below-average levels, as owners may be tempted to sell their remaining chickens and goats for income.
    • High maize grain prices. Based on FEWS NET integrated price projection, maize grain prices are likely to be high than last year and close to the five-year average through much of the projection period (Figure 7.) However, from October 2023 to January 2024, maize grain prices will likely be higher than last year due to increased demand and higher transportation costs from the central zone, which may result in lower maize supply to distant markets. Although prices are close to the five-year average, they are still considered high for poor households with low purchasing power. Over the past ten years, maize prices have increased from 8 MZN/kg in 2014 to 23 MZN/kg in 2023.

    Figure 7

    Chókwe maize grain prices and projections (MZN/kg)
    Chart showing maize grain prices in Chokwe market. Prices are projected to be similar to last year and follow seasonal trends.

    Source: FEWS NET estimates based on MADER/SIMA data

    • Above-average maize grain flows into the zone. Throughout the scenario period, informal and formal trade flows from the central region are expected to increase to compensate for zonal market supply shortfalls. However, overall maize grain availability will remain below average until the harvest in March 2024, keeping prices high.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    From June to September 2023, most poor households will likely increase their reliance on market purchases as their food stocks decline. Households will also continue engaging in self-employment opportunities for income for food purchases. However, household purchasing power is likely to be below average due to high food prices during the post-harvest period and increased competition for income. An increasing number of poor households are expected to expand livelihood coping strategies to cover or minimize food consumption gaps. However, around September, an increasing number of poor households will likely begin facing food consumption gaps, particularly in the remote semi-arid areas of Gaza province, where there are limited opportunities for income from self-employment activities, low demand for petty trade and casual labor, and high food prices due to the remoteness of the markets. Very poor and poor households will likely continue to intensify their engagement in typical income-generating activities to earn income, including sending household members to seek casual labor opportunities in major urban centers in Mozambique and South Africa. However, remittances are likely to be below average due to lower-than-normal economic activity in major urban areas and increased xenophobia in South Africa. As food stocks deplete, poor households will increasingly engage in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes, such as sending a household member to eat elsewhere, increased consumption of wild foods such as xicutsi that are normally eaten later in the year, consume seed stocks, withdraw children from school, skip or reduce meals, and consume less preferred foods.

    From October 2023 to January 2024, the start of the 2023/23 agricultural season is likely to be impacted by El Niño with an erratic and likely delayed start of rainfall. A delay in an effective start of rainfall will limit the availability of agricultural labor opportunities for most poor households and impact their access to cash or in-kind payments during the typical lean season. However, most households will be involved in land clearing in October and, from November, will start planting if an effective start-of-season rainfall event occurs. However, household access to seed is likely to be below average following consecutive below-average harvests. During this period, poor households will also increasingly seek opportunities to earn money for market purchases from casual labor, petty trade, and charcoal production and sale while increasing their consumption of wild foods to minimize food consumption gaps. However, household purchasing power will likely continue to be below average due to increased competition for income and limited demand and liquidity from better-off households. Additionally, the seasonal increase in staple foods will keep household purchasing power low. After two consecutive poor harvests, most poor and very poor households will likely struggle to generate income to buy food due to limited income-earning opportunities, increased competition, low liquidity among middle and better-off households, and increased scarcity of wild foods. Very Poor households are expected to increasingly engage in consumption-based coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as livelihood-based coping strategies like selling chickens are exhausted.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Mozambique Food Security Outlook June 2023 to January 2024: Weather shocks drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes as an El Niño season looms, 2023.

    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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