Skip to main content

Atypically early start to the 2019/20 lean season significantly increasing humanitarian needs

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • August 2019
Atypically early start to the 2019/20 lean season significantly increasing humanitarian needs

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most typical deficit-producing areas continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as poor households have little to no food stocks and are reliant on market purchases for food with limited purchasing power. This is mainly the result of the poor 2019 harvests and deteriorating macroeconomic conditions. Starting in September/October, an atypically high number of people in surplus-producing areas are anticipated to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In early August, the government declared the 2018/19 drought and cropping season “a State of National Disaster” and appealed for international humanitarian assistance.

    • Market supplies are significantly below average, specifically for maize grain, across the country. Maize grain and maize meal prices continue to increase in local currency terms, putting staple foods out of reach of most poor households. Additionally, increased bond note and coin shortages are limiting household market access. Additionally, alternative mobile money transfers are up to 40 percent above cash prices. Fuel price increases on nearly a weekly basis are driving up transport and basic commodity costs.

    • Livelihoods across the country remain very constrained and households have limited opportunities to participate in both formal and informal markets. Terms of trade for both cash and in-kind payments of labor or bartering are unfavorable for poor households. Additionally, water challenges are worsening across most areas. This is negatively affecting many livelihood activities as well as livestock body conditions. Below average incomes and high agriculture input costs are anticipated to affect preparations for the 2019/20 agriculture season.


    As inflation continues to spike, the government suspended official annual inflation reports till February 2020 citing incompatible currency bases; current RTGS Dollars against the previous US Dollar-base. The high and increasing parallel market and official interbank exchange rates for foreign currency remain major drivers of the economic crisis, especially as most household incomes are in local currency (ZWL). In August, the ZWL contracted against the US Dollar by 6 and 11 percent in the parallel and official markets, respectively.

    Following the poor 2019 harvest, own-produced stocks for most poor households are exhausted. Most households are relying on markets and other sources of food atypically early in August, compared to October/November in normal years. Even in many typical high-production areas, households are abnormally purchasing maize and maize just three months after the harvest.

    Market maize supplies are limited across the country specifically in Makonde and Hurungwe Districts in Mashonaland West Province, Gokwe South District in Midlands Province, key traditional source areas. Atypically high and increasing transport costs are also limiting grain movements on the markets as well as putting pressure on prices. In addition, and to some extent, the government mandate for farmers to sell maize grain only to the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) and contractors and limiting non-GMB destined grain movements to 250 kg is limiting market supplies and trade flows. 

    Maize grain prices across FEWS NET sentinel markets increased by over 10 percent in July compared to June. The high and now frequently increasing fuel prices (Figure 1) and transport costs, and the persistent shortages of the local bond notes/coins in the economy are also contributing to the price increases. Additionally, the use of mobile money transfers is attracting up to 40 percent premiums compared to cash transactions.

    In early August, the government declared the 2018/19 drought and cropping season “a State of National Disaster”. Following this, the government and United Nations launched a Revised Humanitarian Appeal through April 2020 to address the atypically high humanitarian needs. WFP has plans to start food distributions in August in a few priority districts, although the full extent of the plan is yet to be confirmed. Currently many areas of the country are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) with surplus producing areas in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    The assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Zimbabwe FEWS NET Food Security Outlook for June 2019 to January 2020 remain unchanged except for the following: 

    • Current international forecasts indicate the start of the 2019/20 rainfall season will most likely to be delayed, with below average rainfall for the 2019/20 rainfall season. This will mainly impact cropped areas and production for the 2019/20 season as well as livelihoods such as casual labor and livestock condition and sales.
    • Poor households are expected to increase buying and selling goods by bartering rather than using cash.


    Food security outcomes are likely to continue to be poor and deteriorate with more households expecting to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through at least January 2020. Some surplus-producing areas which are currently experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in September or October as households deplete their food stocks and resort to markets for food with below average purchasing power. The poor 2019 harvests and increasing macroeconomic challenges will continue to negatively affect livelihoods and coping options, and hence purchasing power and food access. Most typical deficit-producing areas will continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through January 2020. The worst affected households in some parts of the country including Kariba, Binga, Hwange, Gokwe North, Mbire and Mudzi Districts are likely to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security outcomes from October 2019 through at least January 2020.


    Figure 1


    Diesel price increases in Zimbabwe from July to August 2019. Prices Increased from slightly under 6 ZWL/Litre on July 15 to s

    Figure 2

    Diesel price increases in Zimbabwe, July to August 2019

    Source: Zimbabwe Energy Regulatory Authority

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top