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Favorable rainfall persists across most areas, though area planted remains lower than expected

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • December 2020
Favorable rainfall persists across most areas, though area planted remains lower than expected

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through at least March 2021 across deficit-producing areas in the west, south, and extreme north resulting from the continued poor macroeconomic conditions and consecutive droughts. In areas where humanitarian assistance is significant, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are anticipated to persist. Parts of the surplus-producing northern areas and urban areas will most likely continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as poor households barely meet their food needs through market purchases due to constrained income. For most rural households, access to food is expected to improve in April 2021 with the harvest.

    • Widespread heavy rainfall in early December across much of the country resulted in average to above-average cumulative rainfall from October to mid-December. This drove increased engagement in agricultural activities, primarily planting. Cropped area for main food crops is higher than the same time last season, though still lower than expected for this time of year. Crops in most areas range from emergence to early vegetative stages. In some areas, the heavy rainfall and high winds caused localized damage to buildings and infrastructure such as roads.

    • As of November, the official annual inflation rate continued to decline yet remained very high, driving persistent increases in the cost of living. Moreover, stability has been observed in the official and parallel market exchange rates, which have been the primary drivers of price volatility. However, the prices of some food commodities and services continue to increase and remain significantly above normal and out of reach of many poor households. Maize grain and maize meal continue to be unavailable on some markets, especially in deficit-producing parts of the country and some remote areas.  

    • COVID-19 infections continued to increase in early December as in November, with most infections recorded in learning institutions. The government announced it would not impose stringent lockdown measures in response; however, basic preventative measures will continue to be enforced. Land borders opened to the public on December 1. Yet, movement and livelihood activities across the borders through mid-December were still lower than usual, this partly due to costly COVID-19 test requirements.


    Widespread heavy rainfall in the first half of December decreased early season rainfall deficits across much of the country, especially in the north. Cumulative rainfall from October to mid-December is normal to above normal across most of the country (Figure 1). There are some areas where rainfall deficits have been reported in the southeast and extreme northern parts of the country. In some areas, heavy rainfall accompanied by strong winds and flash flooding caused localized damage to crops, houses, roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. The wet spell also led to increased engagement in agricultural activities, especially planting. Official reports indicate area planted to date is higher than at the same time last year. However, key informants in many areas point to planted areas being still lower than expected despite prevailing wet conditions. One of the reasons relates to concentrated efforts on smaller government-promoted conservation farming plots.

    As a result of increased rainfall, water availability and pasture conditions improved across much of the country. The Zimbabwe National Water Authority reported national average dam water levels have somewhat increased though still quite low, at about 37 percent in the first week of December. Livestock conditions remain poor to fair, especially in typical low rainfall areas.

    In early December, the government announced new producer prices for the 2020/21 season, increasing maize grain prices by over 50 percent and nearly 75 percent for small or traditional grains. Moreover, soya prices increased by over 150 percent. This is partially an incentive for farmers to produce the crops and in recognition of the depreciated local currency. Agricultural input distributions from the Presidential Input Scheme continue in various parts of the country. Given constrained livelihoods and incomes among poor urban households, the government has announced plans to distribute crop inputs to targeted urban and peri-urban farmers for the 2020/21 cropping season.

    According to ZIMSTAT, in November, the official annual inflation decreased to 402 percent, decreasing for the fourth consecutive month. The monthly inflation rate also dropped in November to 3.2 percent from 4.4 percent in October. Despite this, the cost of living in rural and urban areas continues to increase, mainly driven by the continued high inflation rates. The official and parallel market exchange rates have been relatively stable in recent months. The government has reemphasized that the multi-currency regime will continue with the ZWL as the official currency. Diesel prices increased by almost 20 percent in the first week of December, while petrol prices increased only marginally.

    Maize grain and maize meal remain generally unavailable across markets in deficit-producing areas and remote parts of the country. This, coupled with high market demand and poor macroeconomic conditions, is driving price increases in some areas. In surplus-producing areas of the Mashonaland provinces, maize grain prices are relatively stable, averaging 5 USD per 17.5 kg bucket. In most deficit areas, maize prices increased by nearly 20 percent over the last 2 to 3 months to 7 USD per bucket on average. Maize prices are predominantly in USD, marked at or above the parallel market exchange rates in ZWL. As income remains generally stagnant, this is limiting many poor households’ access to market foods.

    As was in November, the number of confirmed cumulative COVID-19 cases reported continues to increase at higher rates in December than in September and October. Most of the local infections were from schools and other learning institutions as schools re-opened at the end of November. The government indicated no intentions to impose stringent lockdown measures but to continue enforcing basic preventative measures. Land borders re-opened to pedestrians and private vehicles on December 1, though public buses reportedly continue to be restricted from crossing borders. Despite the re-opening of the border, the movement of people across the borders did not substantially increase, partly and largely due to the high cost of COVID-19 testing requirements.

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes persist across most deficit-producing areas of Matabeleland, Masvingo, Manicaland, and Midlands Provinces. Humanitarian assistance in some districts has resulted in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Most surplus areas in parts of the Mashonaland Provinces in the north are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) as poor households are unable to meet their non-food needs. Urban areas continue to be mainly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) due to constrained livelihoods and incomes.


    Most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Zimbabwe Food Security Outlook for October 2020 to May 2021 remain unchanged except for the following:

    • Based on model forecasts, rainfall for the January to March 2021 period across most of the country is expected to be average, with average cumulative rainfall expected for the 2020/21 season. Due to the heavy rainfall in December and the likely average rainfall after that, the area planted is most likely to be near normal.  


    As household food stocks are generally unavailable and access to market food is limited for most poor households in deficit producing areas of Matabeleland, Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, and the northern parts of the Mashonaland Provinces, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least March 2021. In these areas, most poor households are expected to engage in consumption-based coping such as limiting portion sizes and skipping meals and livelihoods-based strategies, including extended casual labor, petty trading, and livestock sales. In the worst cases, some households are expected to experience Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as they face large food consumption gaps and extreme loss and/or depletion of livelihood assets. Significant humanitarian assistance is expected to continue through the lean season in some areas, improving food access and resulting in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. 

    In most surplus-producing areas, mainly in the Mashonaland Provinces, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to prevail through March 2021. With exhausted or much reduced own-produced food stocks, poor households are expected to rely mainly on markets for food, though access to markets for non-food items is expected to be limited due to high prices.  

    Across the country, as the harvest begins and access to own food improves beginning in April 2021, food security outcomes are expected to improve with Stressed (IPC Phase 2), expected to be the highest area level phase classification. Urban areas are anticipated to remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department

    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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