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Rainfall performance improves

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zambia
  • January 2014
Rainfall performance improves

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Area of Concern
  • Key Messages
    • Food insecurity outcomes are expected to be Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the January to June period despite some populations mostly in the south experiencing livelihood protection deficits. Consumers continue to face high staple food prices and this situation is expected to persist up to the peak price period of March.
    • The supply of maize to millers and communities by the Food Reserve Agency (FRA) should stabilize prices and improve the supply of maize in rural areas; reducing the distance households travel to purchase maize meal.
    • The seasonal forecast update for the January to March period indicates a likelihood of normal to above normal rainfall, similar to the earlier seasonal forecast released by the Department of Meteorology in October. This could entail some localized flooding in flood prone areas of the southern and western regions of the country. The forecast update also implies that there will be recovery of crops in areas that experienced a delayed start of season and erratic rainfall.

    National Overview
    Current Situation
    • Food security outcomes have remained Minimal (IPC Phase 1) during the lean season despite most households finishing their own staple food stocks. Most households are depending on the market for their staple food.
    • Maize and meal prices have remained atypically high in most districts due in part to higher marketing costs, increased local market demand, along with continued high regional demand.
    • The Government of Zambia (GoZ), through the FRA, has started selling maize on the market to help stabilize prices and to make staple food more accessible to poorer households in both urban and rural areas. The FRA is selling to millers at K85/50 kg and to rural communities at K80/50 kg; both are within the prevailing market price. So far 162,900 MT has been allocated for sale on the local market by the FRA.
    • Maize stock levels in the country are still adequate to meet demand during the outlook period of January to June. The ban of maize exports by GoZ and continued patrol along the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) border is contributing to maintaining comfortable national level stocks. Informal exports to the DRC have drastically decreased and this has pushed up maize meal and grain prices by 25 percent and 21 percent, respectively, in Kasumbalesa (DRC) between November and December 2013. Informal exports into Tanzania have dropped to insignificant levels and there is an observed flow of maize from Tanzania through Zambia that is destined for the DRC. The atypical maize flow from Zambia into Malawi has dropped by approximately 50 percent since farmer supplies are substantially lower.
    • Following a very late start of season in eastern, south-eastern and parts of Lusaka, Central and Northern Provinces (Figure 4), the rains picked up in December. Planting rains in these areas were mostly received towards the end of December which resulted in replanting, late planting and some fields not being planted at all.  Consequently, crops are at various stages of development, ranging from early vegetative to early flowering. Most maize and sorghum in Gwembe valley is knee high. Crops in these areas are generally fair to good and they should perform well if rainfall continues (Figure 5). In parts of the Southern Province including the valley, crops have reached the top dressing stage but government subsidized top dressing fertilizer has not been received. Among farmers, planting cotton is less preferable due to low prices in 2011/12. In Eastern Province, most of the crop was reported to have recovered from moisture stress and is doing well, but some fields have not been planted due to late rains.  
     National Level Assumptions

    The January to June 2014 Food Security Outlook is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Staple food availability: The average maize production in the 2012/13 season and restricted maize exports in the current marketing season support good in-country stocks. The country has adequate stocks to meet the demand during the outlook period of January to June. It is therefore assumed that the supply of staple food on the market should remain stable up to June.
    • Maize market and prices: Despite adequate local stocks, the price of maize and meal has remained atypically high partly due to increased marketing costs and high maize demand. The high prices of staple food are expected to continue during the outlook period even though FRA began selling maize to both millers and rural communities in December. The release of FRA maize at market prices should help to stabilize prices that are currently at least 30 percent above the previous season and the five year average.
    • Maize flows and trade: Given that most of the maize is in the hands of the FRA and that restricted maize exports will continue, informal maize flows will remain relatively low. Outflow to the DRC will be atypically low as border patrols remain. Maize outflow to Tanzania and Malawi will also reduce as farmer surplus stocks run out.
    • Agroclimatology: While the updated seasonal forecast by SARCOF shows an increased chance of normal to above normal rains in the bulk of the region, during the December to February period, the SARCOF and ECMWF forecast shows enhanced chances of normal to below normal rainfall in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the region. For Zambia the situation on the ground is consistent with the local forecast of normal to above normal rainfall during the January to March period. Although the rains started late in eastern Zambia and have been below normal, rains are expected to continue during the January to March period. Already the rainfall activity has increased with the establishment of the ITCZ over the country.  
    • The combination of delayed and erratic rainfall resulted in reduced and delayed planting, along with some replanting. As a result it is likely that there will be reduced crop production in the 2013/14 season, in comparison to the last four consecutive seasons. Additionally, there will be slight delay in the availability of some early harvested foods in rural areas. 
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The food security situation outcome is likely to remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with a small population facing livelihood protection deficit mostly in the South and Western Provinces. The local supply of staple food will remain adequate throughout the outlook period. Staple food prices will remain atypically high, peaking in March. Prices will decrease once green foods start to become available. Agricultural labor opportunities (weeding and harvesting) for poorer wealth groups will remain good up to April/May.

    Livestock conditions in southern Zambia will continue improving as pasture and water points increase with improved rainfall even though rainfall may be below seasonal average. While this will not directly improve food access for poorer households, it will improve earnings for the better-off households and this will indirectly increase labor opportunities for the poor.


    Area of Concern
    Gwembe Valley livelihood zone (Sinazongwe, Gwembe, Siavonga, southern Kalomo and southern Kazungula districts)
    Current Situation
    • Poor households are either working in exchange for food or depending on the market for staple food. Household income sources include the sale of agricultural labor which is in high demand (weeding), non-agricultural labor, and the sale of small livestock and petty trading.
    • Households that are making market purchases are paying more for staple food in comparison to previous seasons. Maize grain prices at Choma market are 87 and 60 percent, respectively, above last year and the five year average, while roller maize meal prices are 48 percent above last year and 35 percent above the five year average. The high prices are due to reduced availability of maize in the communities. Additionally, increased marketing costs after the removal of the fuel subsidy have contributed to higher maize prices.
    • About 10 percent of the population is receiving relief food through March 2014 based on recommendations by the VAC’s in depth assessment in April/May. Additional communities in Gwembe district have appealed for food assistance from the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (DMMU).
    • Poor households are depending more on maize meal due to the shortage of maize grain in local markets. As a result they are facing high meal prices. Households in more remote areas have been travelling long distances to district and sub-district centers to buy maize meal.
    • The area experienced a delayed start of the season with planting rains starting approximately 20 days late (Dec. 10-20). This has lead to a shorter planting window this season. In addition, some farmers who depend on the government subsidized inputs are yet to receive seed and fertilizer. Instead farmers are using carry over seed while others are not planting because they do not have enough income to afford inputs, especially since the subsidy on fertilizer has reduced from 75 percent to 50 percent.
    • Cattle conditions are generally fair to poor due to inadequate pasture, but improved rainfall during December has increased pasture and water points for the livestock.

    In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about Gwembe Valley livelihood zone:

    • Agricultural labor opportunities will be increasingly available throughout the outlook period and labor wages are expected to be at normal levels as better-off households require labor for weeding (Jan-Feb) and harvesting (May).  
    • By the end of March, households will be accessing their green harvest. However due to late start of season and erratic rainfall, amounts will likely be less than usual, but still help fill the food gap while awaiting the main harvest in April/May.
    • Reduced access to fertilizer by poor small scale farmers during the 2013/14 growing season due to the increase in the cost of the FISP pack (as indicated by district agricultural officers in Gwembe and Sinazongwe) may subsequently lead to reduced yields and harvests.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Increased food prices will limit poor household food access and some households will face difficulties in affording essential non-food items. Deficits will be most severe during the January-February period but the affected households are likely to receive relief food from the DMMU. In March there is likely to be improvements as households begin to access the green harvest. As the harvest period begins between April and June, households will have adequate access to food from their own production. Additionally, poor households will be able to work for food as better-off households require labor for harvesting.  

    AreaEventImpact on Food Security Outcomes
    Gwembe Valley Livelihood ZoneSerious mid-season dry spells

    Mid-season dry spells between January and February could cause some crop wilting, resulting in poor fertilization and consequently lower yields in comparison to the previous season. Dry spells would also have a negative impact on water availability and pasture.



    To project food security outcomes over a six-month period, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes those assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to develop scenarios estimating food security outcomes. Learn more


    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4.  Start of season anomaly as of December 20, 2013.

    Figure 2

    Figure 4. Start of season anomaly as of December 20, 2013.

    Source: Meteorology Department/FEWS NET

    Figure 5. Soil Water Index as of January 10, 2014.

    Figure 3

    Figure 5. Soil Water Index as of January 10, 2014.

    Source: Meteorology Department/FEWS NET

    Figure 1


    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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