Food Security Outlook

Drought conditions to significantly reduce 2015/16 harvests and affect livelihoods

February 2016 to September 2016

February - May 2016

Zimbabwe February 2016 Food Security Projections for February to May

June - September 2016

Zimbabwe February 2016 Food Security Projections for June to September

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • In February, the President of Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster in view of the El Niño-induced poor rains and the escalating food insecurity situation. An appeal has been made for USD $1.5 billion for food and other emergency needs.

  • In the typically marginal production areas in the south, (including Matabeleland, Masvingo, Midlands, and Manicaland Provinces) households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to low levels of assistance and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in the presence of assistance. Households in these areas will face food gaps from April onwards due to little or no access to the green harvest in March/April, the end of assistance programming in March, and very poor harvest prospects in May. These outcomes will continue through September. Immediate assistance is needed to protect livelihoods and reduce food consumption gaps.

  • In the traditionally cereal surplus areas in the north most areas are experiencing a combination of Stressed (IPC Phase 2 and 2!), in the presence of assistance. Household production from previous seasons stocks are very low or depleted and market demand is increasing. Access to green consumption in March/April will be limited due to the ongoing drought conditions and poor harvests prospects. The food security situation is expected to improve slightly in these areas during the harvest period from May to July. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue from August through September as local maize supplies dry up and prices increase. 

NATIONAL OVERVIEW

Current Situation

  • On February 2, 2016, the President of Zimbabwe declared a state of national disaster in view of the El Niño-induced poor rains and the escalating food insecurity situation. The declaration seeks to ensure that government and partners mobilize resources and coordinate responses. An appeal has been made for USD $1.5 billion for food and other emergency needs.
  • About 95 percent of the country has only received 75 percent of the average rainfall that is typically received by February 10th. Matabeleland North, South, and Masvingo Provinces in the southern region of the country have received less than 50 percent of average rainfall amounts by this time of the season. These dry conditions are in line with the national forecast of continued below average rainfall during the second half of the 2015/16 rainfall season. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) monitors the severity of drought events. The SPI for rainfall from October 2015 to February 2016 ranges from moderately to extremely dry, with the majority of the country being severely dry (Figure 1). According to the SPI values, this season is ranked as the driest in 35 years across several parts of the country (Figure 2).
  • Most districts in the southern region are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Assistance programming is ongoing in some of these areas, but targeting in these districts ranges between 10 and 40 percent of the district population, with beneficiaries making up less than 20 percent of the population in most districts. A few districts will have Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, in the presence of food assistance. In the northern region, acute food insecurity is mainly Stressed (IPC Phase 2) because poor households are unable to meet their non-food needs due to depleted stocks and reduced agricultural and non-agricultural labor opportunities.  
  • The 2015/16 area planted to most crops (mainly maize and small grains) is significantly lower than the area planted last season and the five-year averages. AGRITEX is currently conducting official verifications and the First Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report is expected soon. Already, up to 75 percent of crops have failed in some of the most drought-affected districts in the south due to prolonged dry spells and record high temperatures. In most northern districts crops are also being subjected to moisture stress at the critical reproductive stage. Tobacco cropped area is reportedly 20 percent less than last year, with the number of registered growers also down by the same proportion.
  • Because of the very dry conditions and high temperatures, water supply is critically low across the country (especially the southern region). In early February, national dams were only at half of their normal capacity at this point in the season. In the south, most rivers and streams are dry. Nationally, 31 percent of boreholes are no longer functional due to low water levels. In some areas, most of the few dams with water are now reserved exclusively for livestock, which is adversely affecting other livelihood activities including brick-molding and irrigation.
  • As the peak of the 2015/16 lean season continues, the national cereal supplies are at their lowest. The national cereal deficit for the 2015/16 consumption year was updated to approximately 645,000 MT in the most recent Southern Africa Regional Maize Supply and Market Outlook. To offset this deficit, a total of 530,000 MT of maize was imported (mostly from Zambia) in 2015. As of January 2016, an additional 63,000 MT of maize was imported from Zambia. After incorporating these maize imports, the national cereal deficit now stands at approximately 52,000 MT between now and the arrival of the next harvest.
  •  As of December 31, 2015, the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) only held about 29 percent of the minimum national Strategic Grain Reserves that is set at 500,000 MT. The amount of maize stocks currently held by the private sector is unknown at this time. The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe has requested more import permits from the government, with plans to import additional maize grain between February and June 2016.
  • Some farmers with surplus grain are withholding stocks from markets because of the expected poor 2016 harvests and anticipated higher prices next consumption year. Normally supplies from the surplus-producing Mashonaland Provinces are low at this time of the year. Own produced food stocks in most northern communities are depleted. This is the case this year. With the exception of a few areas in the north, the majority of households across the country are consuming purchased cereals. Most of the grain in the markets is from Zambia. In areas where maize grain prices are high or where grain is not available, purchases of maize meal have increased. After stable maize grain prices for most of 2015, maize price increases were reported in some markets in the northern region between December and January.
  • FEWS NET monitors maize grain prices in the urban centers of Harare, Bulawayo, Mutare, Gweru, and Masvingo. Average maize grain prices in these markets increased by about 5 percent since December 2015 and were USD $0.41/kg in January 2016. The average prices in January 2016 were about 28 percent above the January 2015 average and 13 percent above the five year average. This recent price increase is likely due to increasing demand on markets and dwindling maize supplies. GMB depots are currently selling maize at USD $0.45/kg. Maize meal is also available for purchase at the depots for USD $0.46/kg.
  • In the south, most communities depleted their own produced cereal stocks before July 2015 due to poor 2014/15 seasonal rainfall. Most markets in this region of the country do not have any maize grain supplies. Instead, maize meal constitutes the main source of cereal being consumed by the majority of households. Local (Zimbabwean) maize meal brands make up the bulk of the supplies on most markets in the south. Currently, the only province in the south with maize grain supplies on markets is Masvingo. The majority of the supplies available in this province are mostly from Zambia, while very few traders reported transporting grain from the Mashonaland Provinces.
  • Pasture conditions are ranging from poor to very poor, especially in the south where it has never regenerated in most areas. This has affected cattle body conditions and resulted in a significant decrease in cattle prices. Over 16,600 drought-related cattle deaths were recorded between October 2015 and January 2016. Half of these deaths were in Chiredzi and Chipinge Districts in the southeastern region of the country. These deaths are atypical for this time of the year. Government and partner agencies are promoting supplementary feeding of livestock because of the poor cattle body conditions. Due to water shortages, dipping activities are also being affected in some areas because some cattle are unfit for plunge dipping.
  • Most livelihood and coping activities including casual labor, self-employment, vegetable production and sales, as well as remittances are currently lower than normal. Between January and December 2015, the South African Rand lost up to 30 percent of its value against the US Dollar. This has significantly affected remittance flows especially to the southern parts of the country where a significant proportion of households rely on this source of income. Compounding this are the economic hardships in the country characterized by low industrial capacity utilization, job losses, and low and irregular wages and salaries.  Lower levels of livelihood activities and coping mechanisms are affecting poor household access to incomes, resulting in constrained access to food on the markets. Reduced cropped area this season, poor crop conditions due to drought, and general economic challenges (poor liquidity), are all factors that are adversely affecting demand for agricultural and non-agricultural labor.
  • Deflationary pressures continue in the economy with the year-on-year inflation rate for January at -2.19 percent, and month-on-month inflation is at -0.05 percent (Figure 3). The Consumer Price Index (CPI) for January stood at 97.02 compared to 99.19 in January 2015. Fuel prices (both diesel and petrol) decreased significantly between December 2015 and January 2016, in tandem with international trends.

National Assumptions

The Food Security Outlook for February to September 2016 is based on the following national level assumptions:

  • 2015/16 seasonal rainfall:  After a later than normal start to the rainy season in December, several areas in the central and northern region of the country are ranked as having the driest season in the past 35 years. Seasonal rainfall in the eastern and southern portions of the country have had the second driest season so far in the past 35 years. Because of the excessive heat and dryness this season, many farmers did not plant this season. As a result, cropped area for various crops will be significantly reduced in comparison to 2014/15, a below-average season. Many of the crops that farmers planted have permanently wilted because of the record high temperatures and high evapotranspiration. 2015/16 harvest prospects are poor and production will be substantially below average. Harvests are also expected to be delayed slightly due to delayed planting.
  • An extension of the lean season and pre-harvest food availability: The 2015-16 lean period will be longer than normal due to the delay of the start of the rains by about a month. Normally the peak of the lean season ends around March, but this year it is expected to extend to April, especially in the northern regions. Most crops are currently at the vegetative or reproductive stages, and will need up to two more months to mature. For February, March, and possibly April, some poor households will rely on food or income from emergency and safety-net assistance programming in their areas. Households will rely on maize and maize meal purchases in local markets for their food needs. Green consumption is usually a key source of food for households from February to March in most areas. This food source will be significantly reduced and almost non-existent in parts of the south. FEWS NET is assuming that some high production areas in the north where crop conditions are fair but still under water stress will have less access to some green consumption compared to normal.
  • Post-harvest food availability: The El Niño-induced drought in the Southern Africa region is expected to significantly lower domestic as well as regional cereal production relative to last year and the five year average. As a result, post-harvest cereal supplies during this Outlook period (May-September) will be much lower than average during the 2016/17 consumption year. Below average carryover stocks are also expected for the 2016/17 consumption year. Some farmers with surplus grain are withholding stocks from markets in view of the anticipated poor 2016 harvests and or in speculation for higher prices later in the next consumption year.
  • Regional and international imports: Imports from Zambia are expected to be practically non-existent for the remainder of the lean season. Reduced regional exportable cereal stocks for the 2016/17 consumption year will likely result in Zimbabwe importing the bulk of their cereal needs from outside the region between March and September. Zimbabwe continues to uphold the non-GMO policy regarding maize grain imports. The private sector, mainly the grain millers and traders, are expected to play a large role in importing maize during the entirety of the Outlook period (February to September).
  • Maize grain prices: Prices are expected to increase significantly during the Outlook period (February to September). Prices in the north will range from 10-25 percent above last year’s prices, while in the south prices will be 10-40 percent above last year’s prices. In comparison to the five-year averages, prices in the north will be 15-30 percent above, while in the south prices will be 10-20 percent above average. High prices are expected to continue from February through April. Marginal price reductions are expected in the north from May through July because this post-harvest period is when markets will get supplies from surplus areas. From August through September, price increases will be expected as stocks in source areas reduce atypically earlier compared to normal years. The price increases are expected due to reduced regional and national cereal harvests and increased imports from outside the region. Also, unlike for the 2015/16 consumption year, lower national carry-over stocks are expected into the 2016/17 consumption year. Due to reduced availability on markets, the typical dip in prices during the post-harvest period (May to July) is expected to be marginal and short-lived. As usual, maize grain is expected to be largely unavailable in the southern deficit areas throughout the Outlook period. Maize meal prices: Stable prices and marginal increases (up to 15 percent) are expected for the duration of the Outlook period, despite high maize grain prices. Poor livelihoods and increasing economic challenges characterized by poor liquidity are expected to result in reduced disposable household incomes, affecting access to food on the markets mainly by the poor and very poor households.
  • Agricultural labor opportunities:  Weeding (February to March) and harvesting (April to June) opportunities are expected to be significantly below normal levels. This reduction is due to the poor rainy season, the reduction in cropped area, as well as high rates of crop failure and wilting across much of the south and parts of the north. In the tobacco growing areas, household incomes from February to September will be much lower than average this season due to drought conditions. Labor rates: The anticipated reduction in agriculture-related labor opportunities for poor households is expected to increase competition for labor, resulting in lower wages.
  • Gardening or horticultural activities in the post-harvest period from June through September will be affected by critical water shortages in the south and parts of the north, cutting potential sources of food and income.
  • Livestock: Body conditions of the majority of cattle is poor due to prevailing drought and dry pasture conditions mainly in the south. Livestock body conditions are likely to remain poor throughout the Outlook period. Pasture regeneration will be lower than typically in the rain season (February through March) due to two consecutive poor rainfall seasons and record high temperatures. An earlier than normal deterioration of water availability and pasture conditions is expected from April through September. Poor cattle body conditions will result in distress sales, reduced cattle prices, and reduced household incomes during the entire Outlook period (February to September). Livestock to grain terms of trade are expected to remain unfavorable during the Outlook period since cereal prices are expected to increase or remain high. However, in the north conditions are expected to be better than in the south, resulting in better livestock prices and incomes from sales. 
  • Remittances: During 2015 the South African Rand depreciated by about 30 percent against the U.S. Dollar. The amount and frequency of remittances will be significantly below average due to the depreciation of the South African Rand.
  • 2015/16 lean season assistance: The level of food assistance between February and March is likely to still leave a significant proportion of poor households with poor access to food.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Between February and March, the majority of areas in the south will experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes despite lean season assistance. Targeting in these districts range between 10 and 40 percent of the district population, with beneficiaries making up less than 20 percent of the population in most districts. A few districts will have Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes, in the presence of food assistance. As lean season assistance ends in March in most districts, and considering the very poor production levels projected this season, from April through September most areas likely to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Immediate food assistance will be required during this period to protect livelihoods and improve food consumptions gaps. There is also the risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) food security outcomes in some critical areas due to high livelihoods and survival protection deficits. The majority of the poor will experience challenges in accessing food on markets due to poor livelihoods, liquidity challenges, and high prices.

In the north, between February and March most areas are relying on market purchases as own produced stocks are very low or have been exhausted and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes are being experienced. Once the harvests start in April/May mainly Minimum (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will be experienced as own produced stocks will be consumed through July, despite anticipated below-average harvests. The situation in most areas is likely to quickly deteriorate to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from August through September as own produced stocks reduce and a significant proportion of the poor have to rely on food purchases. 

Events That Might Change the Outlook

Area Event Impact on Food Security Outcomes
National Continued food assistance after March 2016 Will cushion poor households with survival deficits given the expected extension of the lean season into April/May
Southern areas Early start of the 2016/17 lean season assistance Will mitigate expected worsening of outcomes to Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and prevent high rates of malnutrition and mortality 
Southern areas Strengthened SA Rand A strong South African Rand will result in improved household incomes and access to food for remittance-earning households

 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
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