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Harvesting of the early-planted maize crop has started in some areas, while late-planted crops are expected to have a later harvest. Maize production prospects for the 2017-18 cropping season remain below average mainly as a result of abnormal dryness in December and January.
Normal livelihood activities and livelihood coping options will be limited across the country, impacting poor households’ access to food. An earlier than normal start to the 2018-19 lean season is expected around July/August, especially in perennially grain-deficit areas.
A combination of some carryover stocks from the 2017 season and 2018 harvest supplies is expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes in most northern and typical high-producing areas from May through September. In the south and in perennially grain-deficit areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected between May and July. As households begin to exhaust own-produced cereal stocks between August and September, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in some areas.
Agricultural Seasonal Progress
The 2017-18 rainfall season officially ended on March 31st. Unlike last year when rains were received up to May in some areas, this April was generally dry with some light showers in isolated places. Harvesting of the early-planted crop has started in most areas. However, crops planted later in the season with the February rains are still in the vegetative and reproductive stages.
Based on FEWS NET’s pre-harvest assessments and other sources, production prospects for maize and other crops for the 2018 harvest are below average in most areas due to the prolonged dry spell in December and January, among other factors. In some southern areas, anticipated harvests will be very low, and some households are expected to have no harvests.
Water availability and access are still good in most areas, especially in the north, allowing households to increasingly engage in livelihood activities like gardening while on-farm activities begin to decrease. However, in parts of the south and other typically arid areas, water challenges have started to increase.
Food Security Situation
Following late plantings and the resulting delay in harvest in most areas, the government has extended food assistance to vulnerable households in most rural districts by three months (April-June). WFP and partners have also extended the 2017-18 lean season humanitarian assistance in 15 prioritized districts by a month (April). The purpose for the extension is to discourage premature harvesting and consumption of crops, as well as to ensure food access to the most vulnerable populations. However, consumption of green foods from the late-planted crops is still common across various parts of the country. As harvesting begins, food access has started to improve, especially in the north.
Most typical livelihood activities remain constrained especially due to on-going macro-economic challenges, cash shortages and impacts of the mid-season dry spell. On-farm and off-farm casual labor and self-employment opportunities as well as remittances are below typical levels. Various businesses and individuals continue to rely on the black market for both local bond notes and foreign currency, sustaining high prices of goods and services.
Trade and Market Functioning
The government has announced an extension to the 2017 restrictions put in place to prevent private merchants or traders from buying maize directly from farmers. The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) will be the sole buyer of maize from farmers, together with registered licensed contractors who will be restricted to purchase maize only from their contracted farmers. The GMB maize buying price remains at $390 per ton.
The 2017-18 marketing season ended in March with maize grain prices remaining below average even at the peak of the lean season. Average maize grain prices for March ($0.35/kg) in FEWS NET sentinel markets were stable relative to February, but 12 percent below same time last year and 13 percent below the five-year average.
Most assumptions discussed in the February 2018 FEWS NET Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook are still valid. However, one notable exception is the assumption for 2017-18 lean season assistance. Originally, this assistance was expected to last until March, but WFP and partners have extended assistance by an additional month. The government has also extended their food assistance by three additional months.
Below-average crop production is expected across most parts of the country following the extended dry spells from December to January. In the northern and other typical surplus-producing areas, opportunities for casual labor will be affected, as well as incomes from crop sales. However, a combination of some carryover stocks from the 2017 season and supplies from the 2018 harvest will sustain Minimal (IPC Phase1) food security outcomes between April and May, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) expected from June through September.
In the south and other perennial grain-deficit areas, expected 2018 harvests are proportionally much lower than in the north. Most poor households have long exhausted own-produced stocks from the 2017 harvest. Poor incomes due to constrained livelihoods and coping options will result in poor households facing challenges to accessing food. Between May and July, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected as households rely on own-produced stocks, though facing difficulties to meet basic non-food needs. As own-produced stocks get depleted around August, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through September in some areas, and earlier than typical humanitarian assistance may be required to assist vulnerable households to meet their basic food needs as well as protect their livelihoods.
This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.