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Food Security Outlook through September 2012

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

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  • Key Messages
  • Current food security conditions
  • Most likely food security scenario, April through September 2011
  • Key Messages
    • Food security conditions are currently stable throughout the country, including the areas affected by erratic/prolonged dry spells. The current below average and stable maize prices are benefiting poorer and market dependent households, thus ensuring a mild lean period from November to February.  

    • During the April to June period, the food security is expected to improve as the main harvest arrives in markets, replenishing household stocks and increasing market supply to both rural and urban consumers. The areas affected by erratic rainfall will also benefit through increased market flow and stable prices of staple foods. Overall, the acute food insecurity will remain at minimal levels –IPC Phase 1.  

    • Although the country will experience an overall reduced maize production for the 2011/2012 season, the unusually large carry-over of maize stocks from the previous year will guarantee the availability of adequate staple food in order to meet national requirements and have a moderate surplus for export. Given this situation, prices are expected to remain within average to below average levels making the maize accessible to most households during the July to September period. This will ensure stable acute food security conditions in most parts of the country.

    Current food security conditions

    As the 2011/12 marketing and consumption season comes to an end in April, the country’s food security situation remains favorable thus far. Currently the country can best be classified as having minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1). This is supported by the three consecutive years of surplus production ensuring good and stable local market supply of staple food. Given the good supply of staple food, the continued presence of the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) on the market selling maize at fixed prices, and the improved variety of seasonal foods—increased food availability has translated into increased food access in most areas of the country.Seasonal progress and crop conditions

    The production season has ended in southern Zambia and it is just coming to an end in April for the northern parts of the country. Most crops reached full maturity and are drying in preparation for harvesting in the northern half of the country. In the southern parts of the country, the situation is mixed as a result of the late start of the season, coupled with prolonged dry spells during January and February--which are critical periods for flowering and fruiting. Crops prospects vary from moderate to poor in the extreme south and southeast of the country because these areas are traditionally drier so the crops were impacted more by these persistent dry spells. For most of the high producing areas of southern Zambia, the crops are in good to fair condition; however significant yield losses have been reported.

    Current food security situation in areas of focus

    In Luangwa district (Lusaka province), a potential area of concern, the food security situation is currently stable following an improved harvest from the 2010/11 production season. The improved harvest, combined with the large surplus production in the country from previous seasons, has made staple food readily available in markets and at below average and stable prices that are not typical for this time of year. Luangwa primarily receives staples from the two neighboring districts in the Eastern province, Nyimba and Petauke. However the availability of relief maize from the Government is disrupting the inflow of maize from these two districts and affecting prices.  

    Between January and November of 2011, Laungwa received a total of 1,400 MT of relief maize from the Government. Half of this relief maize was received in November. This maize is still being accessed by households because the FRA shed in the district has run out of maize and since the market supply was reduced during the lean season. The availability of relief maize during this period has reduced market demand and may have contributed to an unusual drop in the price of maize between November 2011 and March 2012 (Figure 4).

    Luangwa district has experienced erratic rainfall which had a negative impact on the current state of crops, causing some to wilt. Erratic rains and crop wilting resulted in a green harvest that was smaller than normal, leaving households more dependent on the market and relief food during the green harvest period. Poorer households managed during the green harvest period through a combination of relief food and income from fish and crafts sales. In general the middle and better-off households in this district are food secure, but the poorer households are dependent on a combination of a small green harvest and relief food along with normal seasonal activities, including labor and fishing to acquire food. These conditions put Luangwa into the IPC phase 1 - minimal acute food insecurity.

    Other areas of potential concern where crop yields were negatively affected by the erratic rainfall/dry spells include the Gwembe valley (Siavonga, Sinazongwe , Gwembe districts), parts of Kazungula  (Southern Province) and Sesheke (Western Province). Currently, the food security conditions in these areas is stable because of the above average harvests from the 2010/11 agricultural season, and the fact that grain prices in these areas have remained unusually low and stable for this time of the year (peak price period) and lower than the five-year average. Community sales of maize in these areas by the FRA have also supported stable prices (Figure 4). Overall, the lean season in these areas has been rather mild. An increasing number of households that have exhausted food stocks from last season are now depending on the market and a limited green harvest.  Usually the green harvest period is when households have access to a variety of seasonal foods such as maize, squashes, groundnuts and a wide variety of vegetables, reducing dependency on purchased foods. Since this green harvest is significantly smaller, a number of households are supplementing some of their green harvest production with

    purchases from the market. Households that have exhausted grain stocks are able to find grain in neighboring communities that are being supplied by surplus districts (Monze, Choma and Kalomo) as well as other markets within their districts which still have surplus grain. Poorer households are employing seasonal livelihood strategies and accessing the reduced green harvest to meet their basic food needs.

    Fishing activities have increased following the lifting of the fishing ban. This has allowed for fishing households, particularly in the Siavonga, Sinazongwe and Sesheke area, to increase their incomes. There has been no report of widespread livestock disease outbreaks in these areas, particularly not in the Sesheke area where livestock rearing is an important livelihood. Lumpy skin disease in cattle has however been reported in the northern districts of Southern Province such as Choma and Mazabuka. Households in these districts of focus can be classified as falling in the IPC Phase 1- minimal food insecurity because both better off and poorer households benefited from surplus grain production in the previous production season, and grain prices are now lower when compared to previous peak price periods.

    Most likely food security scenario, April through September 2011

    The 2011/12 maize crop harvest is expected to be average, although a significant reduction from the previous season’s record production. This is supported by the expected reduced yields in the southern half of the country which experienced erratic rains and a prolonged dry spell during the critical stages of crop development, decreasing overall production. The official crop estimates will be released in May by the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock while the full impact of the erratic rainfall on the affected population’s livelihood will be established through the vulnerability assessment being carried out by the Vulnerability Assessment Committee (VAC) in April/May. Good harvest prospects remain in the northern half of the country. The expected average harvest, coupled with a very large carryover stocks from the 2011/12 marketing season will guarantee adequate maize stocks to meet the national demand, along with a moderate surplus for export. Uncompetitive pricing during the 2011/12 marketing season has resulted in lower exports and therefore large in-country stocks. Given the increasing food stocks at the household level in the rural areas due to the green harvest and main harvest, there will be a reduction in market demand. Maize prices will remain low to the benefit of market dependent households. Generally, most markets should remain well supplied and prices will remain low and relatively stable after the harvest. This will benefit the low producing areas affected by erratic rainfall in the southern parts of the country. Maize prices are expected to follow the seasonal trend and to start rising steadily by August. Overall, households in some of the affected areas are expected to benefit from a regular market supply which should improve their access to staple foods.  These areas will remain in the IPC Phase 1-minimal acute food insecurity during the Outlook period.

    Areas of concern –most likely scenario

    Typically, from April to June, household food stocks are at their highest because this period follows the main harvest season. In Luangwa district, poorer households will be relying mostly on the local markets which will be well supplied when relief food runs out. Typically, traders from Petauke and Nyimba will supply maize to Luangwa district for sell while for the Gwembe valley, Kazungula and Sesheke districts, additional maize will flow into the districts from Monze, Choma and Kalomo. During this time the poorer households will be engaged in off season activities such as fishing, selling of crafts and petty trade. Because the harvest is expected to be less this year when compared to previous years, on farm employment opportunities will be significantly reduced in Luangwa. In the case of the extreme southern districts, migration to more productive districts (Kalomo, Choma, Mazabuka and Monze) in search of casual work will be an immediate response; additionally there will be increased consumption of less preferred grains (sorghum) and wild foods. Households are also expected to increase fishing activities in order to access staple foods.

    From June to July, poorer households will seek off-farm casual employment within and outside their districts in addition to practicing their normal livelihood strategies. During this period the poorer households are expected to experience only minimal food insecurity because they will be able to supplement their small harvest with local market purchases, though with difficulty. It is expected that food will be available in these districts for sell at average to below average prices and through labor exchange. The FRA is expected to exit the market at the start of the 2012/13 marketing season in May, thereby allowing the market to freely function as the main harvest starts to reach the market. With the lower and stable grain prices throughout the country, poorer households are likely to meet their food needs with less difficulty than they would have had if the country had experienced poor harvest in the previous season.

    During the July to September period, households in the better-off and middle wealth groups will have reduced food stocks and will begin to depend on the market by August (slightly earlier than usual) to supplement their food, while poorer households would have fully exhausted their own stocks by this time and will be depending on market purchases to meet their basic food needs by July. The better off and middle wealth groups should still be able to manage to meet their food needs as they have more resources and assets  than the poorer households. The poorer households will shift to less preferred foods and engage in fishing, selling crafts, and off farm labor in order to provide income and food. As long as the markets remain well supplied and prices remain low, food insecurity for most households will remain minimal. Since Luangwa and the Gwembe valley districts are usually low food production areas they rely heavily on neighboring markets for staple food.

    Given current conditions and outcomes, the food security situation will remain generally stable during the Outlook period with only minimal acute food insecurity in the districts of focus, as long as prices of staple food remain within average to below average levels. The poor households will be engaged in various income generating activities which are typical during the off season period of July to September. These activities include off farm casual employment, petty trade, sale of fish and reed mats as well as selling vegetables or gardening. Local markets will mostly supply staple foods, which will likely flow from neighboring districts. Consumers will substantially benefit from the expected reduced maize prices following the main harvest.

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



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Gwembe valley, Kazungula, Sesheke, Luangwa

    Significant reduction of crop output in the high producing districts of Choma, Kalomo, Monze, Petauke and Nyimba (major sources of grain for these areas)

    • The flow of food to these districts of concern slows down, resulting in market deficits and consequently abnormal increase in prices of staple food.
    • This will result in poorer households not being able to access the food even if they stretched their livelihood strategies.
    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 and ZVAC

    Comparative maize retail prices in selected districts

    Figure 3

    Comparative maize retail prices in selected districts

    Source: FEWS NET and Central Statistics Office (CSO)

    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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