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Delayed harvests result in extension of government and partner humanitarian assistance

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • April 2017
Delayed harvests result in extension of government and partner humanitarian assistance

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2017
  • Key Messages
    • As the rainy season comes to an end, the national Meteorological Services Department (MSD) has indicated delayed drying off and harvesting of crops in most areas due to late planting, high water tables, and high humidity. Most of the harvest is now expected in May. This and poor livelihood options have resulted in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes continuing into April in most of the south and marginal northern areas. For traditional surplus-producing northern areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and 2!) outcomes in the presence and absence of humanitarian assistance are being experienced ahead of the main harvests. 

    • From June through September, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes are expected in the southern and marginal northern areas where, despite a few months’ supply of own production, a high proportion of poor households will fail to meet their other livelihoods needs. In most northern and other high-producing areas, increased availability of own produced food and better livelihood options will improve outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1).

    • The cash shortages that were expected to ease with the introduction of bond notes in November 2016 have only worsened. Most banks frequently have no US dollars or bond notes. Businesses are using a multiple pricing system for cash purchases, bank transfers, and for the use of bank cards. This has resulted in general price increases for commodities and services, affecting poor household livelihoods in rural and urban areas. 

    Current Situation
    Macroeconomic Conditions
    • The cash crisis has worsened further and banks are frequently running out of US dollars as well as bond notes. US dollars are being traded on the black market at rates reportedly up to 25 percent above their original value. The Government has indicated that it will only release additional bond notes into the economy relative to exports. Even after the mid-March opening of the 2017 tobacco auction and contract sales, which were expected to ease cash shortages, the situation has not improved. 
    • Most businesses are now using a multiple pricing system and charging different prices for cash purchases (USD and bond notes), bank transfers, and for the use of bank cards.
    Seasonal Progress
    • The 2016-17 rainfall season officially ended at the end of March. However, as forecasted by the MSD most parts of the country received rains during April, especially during the second half of the month.  
    • Average national dam level as of April 4th was at 80.3 percent, up from 71.5 percent in February (Zimbabwe National Water Authority). This is a major improvement from the record low levels at the beginning of the season in October 2016, following consecutive years of drought. Livestock conditions are good and the water situation for livestock and other livelihood activities is also good across most parts of the country.
    • Following government’s declaration of a state of disaster in the southern provinces due to heavy rain and flood damage to infrastructure and livelihoods, a US$188 million appeal has been launched for rehabilitation and reconstruction work.
    Trade and Market Functioning
    • In anticipation of a good national harvest this season, the government has terminated all maize imports, which will take effect immediately.
    • A directive has also been issued whereby private millers will not be allowed to buy grain directly from farmers for the 2017-18 marketing season. Instead, millers are required to buy only from the Grain Marketing Board. 

    Updated Assumptions

    FEWS NET’s earlier assumption of a normal harvesting period has been revised. As indicated by the MSD, the drying off, and harvesting of crops has been delayed in most areas as a result of late planting, high water tables, and high humidity. Most of the harvesting is now expected in May and June. Additionally, FEWS NET’s earlier assumption on humanitarian assistance has also been updated. Following the delayed harvests, the Department of Social Welfare has indicated that government assistance in all 60 rural districts will continue into May. Some partners have also extended assistance into April and May in prioritized districts and for a reduced number of beneficiaries. All other assumptions discussed in the February Food Security Outlook are still valid. 

    Projected Outlook through September 2017

    In the south, the effects of heavy rains, leaching, and fertilizer shortages will adversely impact potential yields. On-farm labor opportunities will be constrained given anticipated average to below average production. The liquidity crisis is projected to persist for the remainder of the outlook period, impacting negatively on livelihoods. Humanitarian assistance is expected in April and May in prioritized areas due to delayed harvests. Own production is expected to last approximately 3-4 months for poor households, after which time markets will be an important source of cereal. Though maize and maize meal prices are expected to take a seasonal dip starting in May and possibly stabilize between July and August, access will remain a challenge for poor households due to poor livelihood options. Between April and May, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected. From June through September, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected as poor households will still face livelihood protection deficits.

    Green harvests which started in February/March will extend into April, improving food availability and diversity. Despite the good rains this season, crop yields in the cereal-surplus northern areas will be slightly reduced due to heavy rains, leaching, and fertilizer shortages. Nonetheless, average harvests are still expected in May. Demand for casual labor opportunities will be below normal due to liquidity constraints and average yields for payments (cash and in-kind). For poor households, own production will last up to September and beyond. Crop sales are expected in most areas. Between April and May, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected and will significantly improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from June through September. Some of the basic livelihood needs of poor households may be met through crop sales, casual labor, among other options.   

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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