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Poor households are beginning accelerated depletion of livelihood assets

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • August 2016
Poor households are beginning accelerated depletion of livelihood assets

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2017
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity outcomes continue across most southern parts of the country. These same outcomes are expected to continue in most of these areas during the October through January 2017 period, in the absence of assistance. In some districts in the south and extreme north where a significant portion of the food insecure populations are receiving assistance, poor households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through January 2017. Areas in the north will begin to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes from October through January as poor households finish their food stocks and face limited livelihood options. Households in these areas will use irreversible livelihood and coping strategies to meet their minimum food needs in the absence of assistance.

    • Formal maize grain imports in July continued to be above average. These imports are the main source of cereal on markets in the north as well as some markets in southern areas.

    • As the consumption year progresses, atypically high cereal prices are expected to continue to constrain food access for poor households. The increased coverage of humanitarian assistance programming in some districts in the south and extreme north is expected to improve food insecurity outcomes from July onwards. 

    Current Situation
    • The majority of poor households in the southern marginal areas of Matebeleland North and South, Masvingo, most of Manicaland, and Midlands Provinces and marginal areas in the extreme north have had an early start to the 2016-17 lean season in June/July. By July, most poor households in these areas were already facing significant survival food deficits that are not usually typical until September/October. This is mainly due to low production from the 2015-16 cropping season and prevailing economic challenges affecting livelihoods.
    • Food purchases from local markets constitute the main source of cereal in southern areas for households that have finished their own-produced cereal stocks or did not harvest anything this season. Households with own-produced cereals in the north are quickly depleting their stocks and a considerable proportion of poor households are already relying on food purchases from local markets. Local market supplies of maize grain are low in the traditionally surplus areas in the north and elsewhere. Mostly local brands of maize meal and some imported maize grain are available in some local markets.
    • Food consumption patterns for the majority of poor households across the country are below the minimum expected thresholds due to low household incomes and high prices on the markets. Common livelihood coping mechanisms include the sale of assets in order to purchase food. Some households are bartering livestock for cereal, yet unfortunately terms of trade are unfavorable due to their (mainly cattle) poor condition in some areas, as well as low supplies of grain on markets.
    • Agricultural casual labor activities are below average due to poor 2015-16 seasonal production and cash shortages that the country has been facing since earlier this year. Both of these factors are negatively impacting casual labor wage rates, as well as the availability of non-agricultural casual labor activities. Petty trading has become a common coping option for many households, but due to an increasing number of traders, cash shortages, and below-average levels of middle and better-off households’ disposable incomes, and the recent import ban on a variety of commodities that traders usually sell, income through petty trade activities are on the decline.
    • For the 2016-17 consumption year the estimated national cereal deficit will be over 1 million MT. In June, about 57,560 MT of maize was imported from South Africa, Zambia, Mauritius, and the USA. These import levels are about 25 percent more than in June 2015. Between April and June about 174,000 MT of maize has been imported this year, which is about 62 percent above same time last year. Although the private sector has the capacity to import maize, some are reportedly experiencing some delays in making payments to their international suppliers due to the ongoing national cash shortages.
    • Average July maize grain prices ($0.42/kg) for FEWS NET sentinel markets remained relatively  stable  from the previous month with only a marginal decrease of -2 percent from $0.43/kg in June 2016. Average prices for July remained above July last year ($0.40/kg) by 5 percent whilst 16 percent above five year average ($0.36/kg). Average maize meal prices also remained stable compared to July last year and the five year average. The July average maize meal price was $0.58/kg.
    • The 2016 flue-cured tobacco auction sales marketing season ended on August the 5th. The average selling price of $2.94/kg and the production estimates of 197 million kg are comparable to last season. Mop up sales (for farmers who did not deliver during the marketing period) are planned for August 23rd, with contract sales proceeding until further notice. Because tobacco is a significant source of casual labor in growing areas, lower than average production has affected household incomes in tobacco growing areas.
    • The water situation is critical in the south following one of the driest rainfall seasons in 35 years. Water tables are fast receding. Most rivers, dams, wells, and even some boreholes have dried up. A similar situation is being experienced in most areas in the north. A few water points remain in most communities to serve large numbers of households and for livestock watering. Livelihood activities that depend on water such as gardening, brick molding, construction and others are being negatively affected.
    • Pasture conditions in much of the south and other marginal areas in the north are already poor or very poor. Cattle body condition is fast deteriorating with farmers being urged to destock to avoid losses or use supplementary feeds, which unfortunately the majority cannot afford. Goats are in better condition in most areas. Cattle prices continue to be below-average chiefly due to poor body condition, distress sales, and liquidity challenges.
    • The World Food Program (WFP) reported that in July about 768,000 beneficiaries received assistance from involved partners under the Humanitarian Response Plan. The size of populations in need that are receiving assistance is significant in some of the targeted districts.

    Updated Assumptions

    The assumptions used to develop the most likely scenario for the June 2016 to January 2017 Outlook period are still valid. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the Zimbabwe June 2016 to January 2017 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through January 2017

    Poor households are beginning accelerated depletion of livelihood assets and this is expected to continue through March 2017. The forecasted La Niña phenomenon is expected to bring normal to above normal rains when the farming season starts around November this year. This will likely improve agricultural labor opportunities and household incomes through March 2017, though liquidity challenges will limit potential earnings. The Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) is expected to issue a regional forecast towards the end of August which will avail details on the forthcoming season in the region with national forecasts following soon after.

    In the south, the majority of poor households will continue to experience survival food deficits due to limited livelihood options, liquidity challenges, and high food prices. From September 2016 through March 2017, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes are expected and emergency assistance will be required to cover survival deficits and to protect livelihoods. However, planned humanitarian assistance starting July will be significant enough in some districts to improve food security outcomes to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in the presence of food assistance. In extreme cases where there will be no assistance, some poor households are likely to face Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security due to high survival deficit levels.

    In the north, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes are expected through September as the majority of households deplete their own-produced cereal. From October 2016 through March 2017, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected, unless humanitarian assistance sets in whereby Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in the presence of food assistance will be experienced.  

    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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