Food Security Outlook

Food Security Outlook Oct 2011 to Mar 2012

October 2011 to March 2012

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

  • Relatively high levels of poverty continue to define the food insecurity problem in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) estimated about 9.6 percent of the population to have insufficient food entitlements in the period October through to December 2011. This number is likely to increase to 11.5 percent during the current consumption year’s peak hunger period. 

  • Provided they are adequately resourced, on-going and planned food assistance programmes for the 2011/12 consumption year complemented by household normal coping strategies, remittances and the anticipated normal green harvest from mid February to March 2011, are likely to fill most of the projected food entitlement gaps in the rural areas during the outlook period. 

  • Despite numerous challenges, the 2011/12 summer agricultural season started under improved conditions. Chief amongst these is the generally stable macro-economic conditions and improved seeds, chemicals, and fertilizers availability on the market. The rainfall seasonal forecast is not entirely positive as the first half of the season is projected to have increased chances of normal to below-normal rainfall. Delayed payments of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) for 2011 grain deliveries and limited credit facilities on the market are likely to limit farmers’ access to inputs. The traditional draft power problem is expected to continue to constrain production.

Most likely food security scenario, October 2011 through March 2012

National overview of current and projected food security

The continued stable macroeconomic environment and some economic growth continue to spur improvements in the living standards of both rural and urban areas of Zimbabwe. However, poverty levels remain high in the country. The Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) estimated about 9.6 percent of the population to have insufficient food entitlements in the period October through to December 2011. This number is likely to increase to 11.5 percent during the upcoming lean season (January – mid February 2012).

Urban food Security Situation

The prevalence of food insecure households amongst the low income urban communities (high density and peri-urban areas) was estimated to be 13 percent by the ZimVAC 2011 urban livelihoods assessment. A similar assessment in 2009 found the proportion of food insecure households to be 33 percent in the same communities. This suggests an improvement in household food entitlements that could be explained by improved economic performance for the past few years. According to the Ministry of Finance(MoF) and the Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries (CZI) industrial capacity utilization improved from as low as 10 percent in 2008 to an average of 50 percent in 2011. The economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2009 and 8.1 percent in 2010. It is expected to grow by between 7.8 and 9.3 percent in 2011(ADB, MoF and WB). This is likely to lead to some growth in employment as well as income levels.

During the time of the urban livelihoods assessment in March 2011 about 1 percent of the surveyed households were found to be consuming a poor diet and about 10 percent were consuming a borderline poor diet (figure 2). Given that no significant socio-economic changes occurred in the urban areas between March and October 2011, no significant changes in the urban food security situation is likely to have occurred. Between October and December 2011 household incomes for those formally employed are likely to be boasted by annual bonuses or thirteenth cheques that are normally paid out in November and December 2011. However, the increasing cost of living, as measured by the ZimSTAT consumer price Index and the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe’s (CCZ) low income  urban household consumer basket, could moderate the projected increase in household purchasing power. Annual inflation increased from 2.7 percent to 4.3 percent from April to September 2011. While Ministry of Finance still maintains that the annual inflation will not go past 4.5 percent by end of 2011, other agencies such as Interfin are forecasting annual inflation rates higher than 4.5 by December 2011.

Rural Food Security Situation

Improvements in the performance of the agricultural and mining sectors created a synergy with growth in urban to rural remittances to create rural employment as well as a sustained increase in rural household incomes from 2009 to 2011. Over the past three years, the average rural household incomes, as measured by the ZimVAC rural livelihoods assessments, increased by about 32 percent. These developments combined to improve rural households’ food entitlements and reduce the proportion of food insecure households. ZimVAC rural livelihoods assessments estimated that about 8 percent of the rural households would be food insecure between October and December 2011. The proportion of food insecure households is expected to increase to about 12 percent during the peak hunger period (January – mid February).

The larger proportion of the projected food insecurity is predominantly chronic and therefore mostly concentrated in the traditional food insecure parts of the country. Some significant acute food insecurity levels are likely to occur in parts of Masvingo and Manicaland provinces as well as parts of Gokwe North, Kariba, Binga districts where the assessed food insecurity prevalence is projected to be highest (figure 3).

Though it was paying relatively low rates, casual labour was the main source of income for over 40 percent of the surveyed rural households in May2011. Casual labour opportunities are expected to seasonally increase from October 2011 through to January 2012 with the intensification of the 2011/12 summer season’s cropping activities. Remittances were found to be the main sources of income for nearly 30 percent of the rural households and each reported receiving about USD 28 per month on average in April 2011. The advent of the electronic money transfer facilities through mobile phone services and banks such as CABS is likely to boast urban to rural   remittance flows and have a positive impact on food access, assuming the stable food availability would persist throughout the outlook period. The green harvest which is expected to occur from mid-February through to April 2012 will break the peak hunger season.

The World Food Programme (WFP) and its implementing partners will commence a food assistance programme in 34 most food insecure rural districts at the end of October 2011. Zimbabwe has sixty rural districts. There are plans to expand the geographic coverage of the programme to include districts with lower food insecurity in November 2011. While the food aid pipeline for pulses and vegetable oil is healthy, currently the cereals pipeline is projected to have a shortfall of 38,000 MT starting in December 2011. Households assessed to have inadequate food entitlements will be forced to engage in distressed coping strategies with negative nutrition outcomes on both children and adults, if the food assistance programme fails to mobilize sufficient resources.

The 2011/12 Summer Cropping Season Preparedness

While it continues to be beleaguered by numerous challenges, the 2011/12 summer agricultural season started under improved conditions. Chief amongst these is the generally stable macro-economic conditions, improved seeds, chemicals and fertilizers availability on the market. The seed industry reported that they have about 84,515MT of maize seed ready for the market. Last season, close to 50,000MT of maize seed were used to produce about 1.4million MT of maize. 

The  91,000 MT of compound fertilizers and 71,000 MT of top dressing fertilizers that were available from the major fertilizer producing companies in Zimbabwe at the beginning of October 2011 is a far cry from the national requirements that are estimated at above 600,000 MT  for both basal and top dressing fertilizers. The fertilizer industry is however reported to be working on measures targeted at producing about 5,000 MT of top dressing fertilizer and 25-30,000 MT of compound fertilizers every month. The industry plans to complement domestic fertilizer production with significant imports to ensure ready market availability of the input in the current cropping season.

The seasonal rainfall forecast is not entirely positive as the first half of the season, October – December 2011 is projected to have increased chances of normal to below normal rainfall and January to March 2012 is likely to have some above normal rainfall. The traditional draft power problem is expected to continue to constrain production. Delayed payments of farmers by the Grain Marketing Board(GMB) for the 2011 grain deliveries and limited availability of agricultural finance are likely to limit farmers’ access to inputs. This problem is however not likely to be significantly different to what it was last season. The Government of Zimbabwe, the humanitarian community, and private sector have put together an agricultural input support programme valued at about USD 145million.  Under this programme, about 500,000 farmers will receive livestock and crop inputs and close to 300,000 farmers will receive training and extension support only. 58,000 vulnerable farming households will receive free inputs and about 440,000 households are set to get subsidized inputs. The subsidized inputs will either be given directly or through closed or open vouchers. This programme will go some way in addressing the inputs access challenges currently being faced by many farming households.

In the outlook period, the following three livelihood zones (LZs) make up the areas of most concern for food insecurity;

  • Masvingo Manicaland Middle veldt Smallholder - (covering southern parts of Zaka, southern Bikita, southern Chivi, southern Gutu, southern Buhera, southern Mutare, northern part of Chipinge, Western part of Chimanimani,  Chirumhanzu, southern parts of Shurugwi and northern part of Zvishavane.
  • Livelihood Zones of  Cereal and Low Cotton Communal- (covering Kariba district, northern part of Gokwe North and Southern parts of Hurungwe district); and
  • Agrofisheries- (covering northern parts of Hwange, Binga and Kariba districts)

The ZimVac 2011 rural livelihoods assessment projected that the highest prevalence of households with significant food entitlements gaps to be found in the three LZs. During the peak hunger season the prevalence of food insecure households is projected to be 21 percent, 23 percent, and 33 percent in the Masvingo Manicaland Middle veldt Smallholder LZ,  Cereal and Low Cotton Communal LZ and Agro-fisheries LZ respectively.  Though the majority of the households with food entitlement gaps are likely to be chronically food insecure, the three LZ zones are likely to have the highest prevalence of acutely food insecure households. But the proportions of acutely food insecure households are not likely to be greater than 20 percent in the whole outlook period.

Most likely food security scenario, October through December 2011

The period October through December makes up the first half of the 2011/12 rainfall season which is likely to have normal to below-normal rainfall for the whole country. Below-normal rainfall could mean significant challenges with cropping in most of the areas of concern, given that they normally would receive low rainfall. This, in turn, is likely to lower availability of casual labour opportunities for most of the poor households who would normally use it to directly obtain food or cash income with which to buy food. Currently the majority of households are dependent on the market for most of their food. Though the food is currently readily available in markets in the areas of concern, the staple cereal prices are not only amongst the highest in the rural areas but they are significantly higher than they were the same time last year. This is problematic because income generating opportunities and income levels remain subdued in these areas.

Food availability is not a major challenge in all the areas of concern. According to the Agriculture and Food Security Monitoring System (AFSMS) in September 2011, about 70 percent of the monitored sites in the LZ of concern indicated that maize grain was readily available. The 30percent wards that reported having no staple cereals in their markets were surrounded by wards reporting ready staple cereals availability. The majority of the households were relying on the market for their cereals needs. A small proportion of better off households were relying on own production for their maize.

However poor households are currently getting their staple cereals from casual labor exchange, gifts, and remittances. On-farm casual labor opportunities are expected to seasonally increase with the intensification of the summer cropping activities from October through to January but may be subdued by likely poor first half of the rainfall season. Rural households reported receiving an average of USD 18 and USD 28 in April 2011 from casual labor and remittances.

Livestock conditions are ranging from fair to good, with a greater proportion in the fair category. Drinking water for animals is available and grazing is fair.  Consequently, cattle prices have maintained an upward trend since April 2010 with an average price of US$ 348.00/ beast in September 2011. Terms of trade involving livestock and grain exchanges are currently favorable with a beast being exchanged for more than a tonne of maize in both grain surplus (1492kg) and deficit areas (1063kg). With the likely improvements in grazing and water availability in the outlook period livestock conditions and value is expected to improve provided appropriate livestock disease management practices are observed. The start of the rainfall season is normally associated with high infestation of intestinal livestock parasites.

 According to the Agriculture and Food Security Monitoring System (AFSMS) September 2011, average staple grain prices in zones of concern have generally been above the national average throughout the 2010/11 consumption year. Highest grain prices of US$ 0.40/kg to US$ 0.41/kg were recorded in Buhera, Bikita and Zvishavane districts in September 2011 yet the national average maize price was US$0.30/kg.  The firm staple cereal prices are likely to continue throughout the outlook period, thus exerting increased strain on household purchasing power and access to food.

A small proportion of food insecure households are getting food from the on-going safety net programmes and  the majority of the households with insufficient food entitlements  are having to employ some or a combination of the following  consumption coping strategies; skipping meals in the afternoon, cooking only in the evening when everyone is home, taking light suppers, eating less preferred foods, exchanging labor for food from better off households and from neighboring districts, and borrowing food and cash from neighbors and relatives to cover for the food deficit. Most of these households are likely to be targeted by the WFP’s Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) set to begin at the end of October 2011.

The Zimbabwe National Nutrition Survey (2010) revealed that malnutrition levels as measured by wasting was less than 5% in 2010 a level comparable to the average for the period 2006 to 2009.There are no apparent developments which have taken place between then and now that could have significantly changed the nutrition status of households in the areas of concern and hence it can be inferred that current malnutrition levels are stable in the areas of concern. Consequently, all areas of concern are forecasted to face none or minimal acute food insecurity  (IPC Phase 1),. A smaller proportion of households are likely to be in the stressed food insecurity phase (IPC Phase 2), as these are not likely to meet their food requirements and would require external support  in the October to December 2011 outlook period(figure 4).

Most-likely food security scenario, January through March 2011

The most-likely food security scenario in the January to March 2012 quarter is likely to be similar to projections made in the October through December period. However, the advent of the peak hunger season between January and mid-February 2012 is likely to increase the proportion of food insecure households if the impact of the planned WFP STA is not taken into account.

The normal to above normal rainfall forecasted for the January to March 2012 period is likely to be most welcome in most of the areas of concern as these areas normally receive low amounts of rainfall. The above normal rainfall is likely to have a positive impact on whatever crop that would have been established in the first half of the season. Grazing, surface water sources and underground water levels are likely to benefit from the forecasted normal to above normal rainfall. However, any excessive rains that could occur may cause the early established crop to rot if they mature early in the rainfall season. Some isolated and localized water logging is expected to occur in some low lying areas with poor drainage. But such areas are relatively small in the areas of concern.

The green harvest is expected to start around mid–February and this will mark the break to the peak of the lean season. Food access for most households is likely to seasonally improve from then onwards. Livestock conditions are expected to continue improving with improved grazing and water availability, provided dipping is done regularly. Tick infestations peak during this time of the year. Mostly better-off households are expected to generate income through sale of livestock and livestock products; milk production normally increases around this time. Livestock terms of trade are expected to continue to be favorable.  Most poor households are likely to meet most of their food needs and income from food aid, labour exchange, and remittances. Hence, all areas of concern are classified as facing none or minimal acute food insecurity  phase (IPC Phase 1), but a significant proportion(less than 20%) of households with large food entitlement gaps are most  likely to be in stressed food insecurity phase (IPC Phase 2) and  in need of  external food assistance.

Table 1:  Less likely events over the next six months that could change the above scenarios.

Area

Event

Impact on food security outcomes

National

Failure of food aid to come on time and pipeline breaks

If food aid fails to start by October, poor households’ food security conditions might deteriorate further resulting in households engaging in irreversible coping strategies such as disposing of their livelihood assets.

Government policy restricting  private sector trade in basic food stuffs

If the government restricts private sector trade of staple cereals, availability of staple cereals is likely to go down in rural markets resulting in increased prices, thus reducing households’ purchasing power with seriously negative impacts on poor households’ access to food

Deportations of Zimbabweans living and working in South Africa

 

South Africa has started deporting Zimbabwean illegally staying and working in South Africa. By mid October close to 700 people had been deported and the programme is continuing. This development is likely to reduce the flow of remittance from South Africa and increase dependency in the affected households.

Districts particularly in Matabeleland South and Masvingo provinces

The Cold Storage Commission’s continued cattle imports from Botswana.

While improving meat supply at reduced prices and making beef more accessible to poor households, the programme is pushing down cattle producer prices and revenue from livestock sales in the southern regions of the country, where livestock income is very important for most 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 some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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