Food Security Outlook

Increased cereal availability contributes to stable household food security

July 2014 to December 2014
2014-Q3-1-1-ZW-en

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

  • Households are currently accessing adequate quantities of staple from own production and experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. Minimal outcomes are expected to continue through December, however by November some very poor households will start complimenting own production with market purchases in some parts in the south (Matobo, Mangwe, and Zaka districts) and north (Mudzi, Mbire, Mutoko districts) of the country.

  • The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZIMVAC) rural livelihoods assessment completed in June this year, estimates that 5.8 percent of the rural population will be food insecure during the peak lean season (January-March 2015). This estimate has decreased by about 70 percent from the peak figure of 2.2 million in the 2013/14 consumption year.

  • Based on field observations in July, markets including those in the traditionally cereal deficit southwestern part of the country are fully supplied with staple. Increased staple supplies has resulted in a 17 percent decrease in the national average maize grain price when compared to the same time last year.

National Overview

Current Situation
  • Most households across the country are currently consuming food from the recent harvest and experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes in all areas including the southwestern and extreme northern parts of the country. These outcomes are expected to continue through December.

  • Results from the 2014/15 ZIMVAC rural livelihoods assessment were released in June and show a significant improvement in the general household food security situation across the country. During the peak lean season of the current consumption year, the total number of food insecure population is estimated to be 564,559 (approximately 5.8 percent of the total rural population).  In comparison to last year and the five-year average, the peak of the lean season this consumption year is expected to be 70 percent lower. This significant decrease is a result of improved maize and small grain harvests this season. The Ministry of Agriculture’s Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment reported that maize and small grain harvests increased by 85 and 27 percent when compared to last year and the five-year averages, respectively.

  • Households in the tobacco growing regions (especially in the northern parts of the country) produced 13 percent more tobacco this season in comparison to last season and are benefiting from increased sales which currently stand at 209.8 million kg. Although the average price per kilogram has dropped by 14 percent since last season, higher volumes of the crop since the start of sales in February has resulted in total tobacco incomes increasing by 13 percent from last year’s USD $587.9 million. These above-average sales will likely improve farmer incomes and generate opportunities for casual labor opportunities, like land preparation and construction. 

  • Cotton is also currently being marketed and is expected to primarily benefit households in Manicaland and Masvingo Provinces where production levels rose by more than 100 percent since last year. However, at the national level production decreased by approximately 14 percent mainly due to poor returns in previous consecutive marketing years.

  • In response to increased supplies of staple foods on the market, staple prices, particularly maize grain, have been declining. The national average price for maize grain in July is 8 percent higher than the five-year average, however in comparison to same time last year current maize grain prices in a few FEWS NET sentinel markets (i.e. Gweru, Bulawayo, Masvingo, and Mutare) decreased by between 28 and 37 percent. Maize meal prices have remained stable and are similar to last year’s levels. However retailers in the high maize grain producing areas in the north, such as Nyanga, Gokwe, and Mazoe districts, have reported a significant decrease in maize meal demand since most households are relying on own production.

  • Some very poor households across the country are currently involved in casual labor activities including maize shelling, threshing of sorghum and millet, brick molding, construction, and land preparation for areas practicing conservation.

  • Livestock conditions across the country are reportedly fair and pasture and water are readily available.  Based on the Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report there is a 2 percent increase in the national cattle herd size compared to last year. Goats also increased by 5 percent compared to the same time last year. These livestock increases are attributed to improved grazing and water conditions.

  • The government is currently supporting 10-20 percent of vulnerable and labor constrained households through cash transfer programs in each of the 22 targeted districts. Targeted households receive USD $15-25 per month for food and other household needs. The World Food Program (WFP) safety-net programs are still ongoing and mainly cover health and nutrition support initiatives, including people living with HIV/AIDS who are on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and those with chronic illnesses, such as Tuberculosis. In past years these programs normally cover an average of 300,000 beneficiaries through both safety-net and food for assets programs but this amount may decrease slightly this year due to current funding constraints.

Assumptions

For the Food Security Outlook for July to December 2014, FEWS NET completed Household Economy Approach (HEA) outcome analysis in one livelihood zone. The analysis for the July -December 2014 period is informed by the following national and sub-national level assumptions:

  • Cereal availability: The ZIMVAC findings and the 2013/14 Second Round Crop and Livestock Assessment Report confirmed that cereal harvests improved significantly this season. For maize grain, millets, and sorghum this year’s production is estimated to be 85 percent higher than the previous year and 27 percent above the five-year average. This above average maize and small grains harvest is expected to sufficiently cover all the staple needs for most households across the country from July through December.

  • Staple food prices and market performance:  Markets across the country are expected to function normally with adequate staple supplies.  Currently, national maize grain prices in FEWS NET monitored sites including Mutare, Masvingo, and Gweru, are stable compared to the two-year average, but have decreased by more than 27 percent when compared to the same time last year.  This decrease is likely driven by increased market supply against low demand. These prices are likely to remain stable through September as most households will be consuming staple from own production and will be less reliant on market purchases. According to the FEWS NET price projection based on fundamentals and technical analysis, prices are likely to start peaking from October through December when  some very poor households in selected districts deplete stocks from own production and start supplementing with market purchases, as is typical during the lean period. During the scenario period, maize grain and maize meal prices are projected increase by 15 and 20 percent, respectively above the five-year average.

  • Agroclimatology: According to forecasts provided by the Climate Prediction Center (CPC)-International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI), there is an elevated chance for an El Niño event to develop between August and October 2014 and continue through early 2015.   Based on historical trends, during El Niño years, the southern parts of Zimbabwe have a 50 percent likelihood of having below-average rainfall between October and December which could delay the start of the agricultural season. Both the Southern Africa Regional Climate Outlook Forum (SARCOF) and national climate forecast in August will likely provide additional update on the implication of the El Niño on the 2014/15 agriculture season. 

  • Agriculture and other labor availability and rates:  Due to the improved harvests, better-off households will have disposable cash to engage very poor households in off-farm casual labor activities including brick molding and construction from July through September. In the northern tobacco growing areas, tobacco planting will provide additional causal labor opportunities from September through November. These activities will likely increase incomes for very poor households by approximately 10-20 percent. Typical on-farm causal labor opportunities are expected to start in October and continue through December and will include; land preparation, planting, weeding, and cattle herding. However with the 80 percent chance of an El Niño, a late start of the rains and poor rainfall performance may reduce on-farm related casual labor opportunities between October and December in the southern part of the country where previous El Niño years like the 1982/3 season, resulted in severe drought.

  • Livestock: As a result of the good rainfall distribution during the 2013/14 season, the second round crop and livestock assessment report noted improved pasture and water conditions sufficient up to October, when new rains are expected. Livestock prices are therefore expected to remain 40 percent above average with reduced distress sales as most household generally have sufficient cereals to cover their staple needs from July through December. Based on HEA outcome analysis, household incomes from livestock is also projected to increase by 25 percent above normal during the outlook period. 

  • Social-Safety Nets: Ongoing government cash-transfer programs supporting vulnerable and labor constrained households will continue covering 10-20 percent of the population in each of the 22 targeted districts. In addition, the USAID funded Development Food Assistance Program being implemented through the Amalima and ENSURE projects covering selected households in Masvingo, Manicaland, and Matebeleland North and South Provinces will also support about 66,000 households during the entire outlook period. WFP will also likely support 100,000 beneficiaries through productive asset creation activities for non-labor constrained households from July to December.

  • Vegetable production: Gardening activities will increase from July through September due to adequate water availability Very poor households are expected to get additional food and incomes through these gardening activities.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Due to the current above average harvest in most areas including the southwestern districts, most households across the country will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes between July and September. These outcomes are expected to continue from October through December as most households will still be consuming food from own production. 

Casual labor activities will likely provide significant income for very poor households and will likely increase by about 20 percent from July to September. Casual labor activities will include; brick molding, construction and land preparation from July through October as well as planting, weeding, and cattle herding for the remaining part of the outlook period. Increased vegetable production will also likely provide both food and cash for very poor households especially from July through September. Since most households have adequate cereal supplies, payment for causal labor will be mainly through cash, although from October through December some households facing early food gaps may opt for in- kind payments through maize grain.

Areas of Concern

Beitbridge South Western Lowveld Communal Livelihood zone (BSWLC) covering Matebeleland South Province, and Mangwe, Matobo, Gwanda and Beitbridge districts
Current Situation
  • The food security situation has improved in the BSWLC livelihood zone as majority of the poor households have access to staple food from own production. National cereal production has significantly increased with maize grain supplies increasing by between 100 and 390 percent of the reference year . Similar trends were observed for sorghum and millet production. For the first time in year, maize grain is available on the market in the livelihood zone. Maize meal prices have been fairly stable against the two-year average. Millet and sorghum are not yet available on the market as they are still being dried.

  • Livestock conditions remain good owing to sufficient pasture and water sources due to last year’s good rains. Cattle prices have reached USD $400 while goats have remained between $30 and $40. Current sales are not for food purchases but for other household needs like school fees, milling, and healthcare.

Assumptions

In addition to the national assumptions described above, the following assumptions have been made about BSWLC livelihood zone:

  • Staple prices are expected to follow the seasonal trend with prices for maize grain remaining stable from July through September and slightly increasing from October through December during the lean season. Maize meal prices will also remain stable throughout the scenario period. FEWS NET projects that both maize grain and maize meal prices will be within 15 and 20 percent above the five-year average from October to December. In comparison to same time last year prices of maize grain and maize meal are expected to be between 3 and 12 percent lower, respectively, during the outlook period (July-December).

  • Households will pursue off-farm labor opportunities from July to October and labor rates are likely to be favorable due to increased opportunities linked to improved harvest. Some of the laborers may also be paid through grain for such activities as construction and brick molding.

  • There is an 80 percent chance that an El Niño will develop by the start of the 2014/2015 season. The El Niño phenomenon is generally associated with below average rainfall (40 percent chance) in southern parts of the country covering the BSWLC. With the El Nino likely delaying the Start of Season, and/or increasing chances of erratic rains, availability of labor opportunities like land preparation, planting and weeding may decrease between October and December and this is likely to reduce very poor households’ incomes through agriculture related labor.

  • Small livestock sales  will likely start increasing from November through December, which is typical since this period is during the lean season when households start raising cash income to supplement own production with market purchases.

Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

The majority of very poor households in the BSWLC will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes between July and September due to improved availability of cereals from own production.  From October through December, similar food insecurity outcomes will be experienced though some few very poor households will start supplementing their own production with market purchases. Cereals, particularly maize grain will remain available in the markets within the livelihood zone and from private traders who will start moving cereals from nearby surplus zones. Maize grain prices are projected to be 12 percent lower than the same time last year, so household purchasing power should be okay.  Vegetable production will also continue providing both income and food to very poor households and is expected to continue from July through October. Vegetable production will be a month longer than the reference year due to the improved water availability. On farm/agriculture related casual labor activities are projected to increase by 20 percent from average during the scenario period, however agriculture labor (i.e. planting and weeding) may likely be reduced by the projected El Niño conditions, particularly from October through December.

Safety-net programs such as the government cash-transfer program, WFP’s social and health safety-nets, and the USAID Development Food Assistance Program (Mangwe and Gwanda) will also help targeted households by providing food and income in order to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes.

Events That Might Change the Outlook

Area Event Impact on Food security outcomes
BSWLC Restrictions on the import of maize meal and maize grain from neighboring countries. Continued restrictions on maize grain and maize meal imports may result in private traders increasing cereal prices above the projected 15 and 20 percent increases for maize grain and maize meal, respectively. As a result, household purchasing power will be diminished and some very poor households with cereal deficits between October and December may be unable to access the product through market purchases.

 

 

 

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 six months. Learn more here.

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.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics