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Conditions in food deficit areas likely to deteriorate in the coming months

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Zimbabwe
  • October 2013 - March 2014
Conditions in food deficit areas likely to deteriorate in the coming months

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  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook

  • National Overview
    Current Situation
    • Currently food insecurity outcomes for most parts of central and northern central areas of the country are Minimal (IPC Phase 1) due to relatively average production and incomes covering household food needs. However, households in the southern and western regions are experiencing livelihood deficits and in order to meet their minimal food needs and some are experiencing food consumption gaps currently. Households are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in these areas (Figure 1).
    • With current limited labor opportunities across the country and rising food prices, very poor household purchasing power is limited (particularly in the south and western districts) and people are facing challenges in accessing adequate food in markets. Labor opportunities in the form of land preparation, planting and weeding are expected to improve income opportunities in the coming months. However, as the lean season progresses and as food prices increase, purchasing power will continue to weaken.
    • The economy remains stable and inflation has been declining in the last seven months with a marginal 0.03 percent increase in August. Despite this decline in inflation, the cost of the food basket (based on the September report from the Consumer Council of Zimbabwe) increased by 2.73 percent between August and September. The increase cost of the food basket indicates a slight reduction in purchasing power, particularly for urban poor households.
    • According to the Zimbabwe VAC (Vulnerability Assessment Committee) 1.8 million people are projected to be food insecure between October and December, and this figure is expected to rise to 2.2 million between January and March, representing 25 percent of the rural poor population. This proportion of the population is mostly comprised of very poor and poor households in marginal areas and with limited assets that were affected by poor rainfall and harvests during the 2012/13 season.
    • National cereal supplies remain stable as the Government and private traders continue to import maize grain from Zambia (12,000 MT) and maize meal from South Africa (83,000 MT) and Botswana. Most of these cereal supplies are going to cereal deficit areas in the southern and western region, as well as other parts of the country including Harare.
    • Despite stability in the national cereal supply, prices for both maize meal and maize grain have been increasing. In monitored markets in Harare, Bulawayo, Masvingo, Gwanda, Gweru, and Mutare price increases for maize meal have ranged from 7-30 percent when compared to the same period last year. The highest increases were recorded in markets in Gweru. Similar increases have also been noted for maize gain which has risen by 16-61 percent in the same locations. Major year on year maize grain increases were noted in Gweru and Masvingo where prices rose by 40 and 61 percent respectively. This significant increase in prices is as a result of increased demand by many households as cereal stocks from own production finished earlier than in normal years. Very poor and poor households’ access to maize meal and maize grain through market purchases is constrained by this significant rise in prices; especially because of the limited income earned by households due to poor production during the 2012/13 season.
    • Approximately 32,000 very poor and poor food insecure households in 13 districts are receiving Government cash transfers. Additionally, selected districts are receiving support through the Food for Assets program and the Grain loan scheme. Direct food and cash transfers through WFP and FAO’s crop and livestock program have started and will scale up in November. The delay of these programs in most districts has resulted in households using negative coping strategies in some districts (i.e. reduced food consumption and unsustainable sale of livestock).
    • Most rural households are engaging in land preparation for the coming season and there are a few reports of planting in a few districts. The Government has also started the distribution of agriculture inputs which should target all rural households across the country. The distribution of these inputs should allow households to plant and to reduce their expenses towards inputs.
    Assumptions

    For the food security outlook for October 2013 to March 2014, FEWS NET completed Household Economy Approach (HEA) outcome analysis in portions of 19 livelihood zones and identified several southern districts within these livelihood zones as areas of concern. The analysis is informed by the following national level assumptions:

    • Cereal availability: National availability will remain relatively stable throughout the outlook period with month on month fluctuations expected, particularly in the deficit areas in the southern and western parts of the country. Cereal availability will depend on imports by private traders (mainly from South Africa) and the Grain Marketing Board (GMB) deliveries during the outlook period. Emergency food assistance through the WFP Seasonal Targeted Assistance (STA) program is likely to further improve food access from October to December. Current restrictions on private traders exports from Zambia has reduced inflows in maize deficit areas, however this is being mitigated by an increase in imports from South Africa.
    • Staple food prices:  As households begin to rely more on market purchases for food, demand for maize grain and maize meal is expected to increase and prices are expected to increase throughout the outlook period. National average maize grain and meal are approximately 20 percent higher than last year and 30 percent higher than the four-year average. Prices are ranging from 10 to 20 percent above the national average in deficit areas. Staple price increases in deficit areas will likely continue to follow this trend and may continue to be 15 percent above the national average throughout the outlook period. This trend will mostly affect districts in Matebeleland North and South, Masvingo, southern Midlands and Manicaland Provinces.
    • Seasonal progress: The seasonal forecast by the Zimbabwe Meteorological Services Department suggests high chances of normal to above-normal rainfall throughout the outlook period across the country, with a normal start of rains expected. Based on this expected start of season, normal labor availability levels are projected from October to February. Additionally, a normal start of green consumption between February and March is expected.
    • Labor availability and rates: As the rainy season begins the demand for labor is expected to remain at normal levels. However, because of the poor 2012/13 season a slight increase in supply is expected as households expand their coping strategies in order to improve their access to income and food. Labor rates are not expected to deteriorate from normal. Migratory labor opportunities in South Africa are expected to slightly reduce due to the ongoing labor wage increase demands and the likelihood of companies laying-off workers; however levels of remittances for households in the southern and western regions are likely to remain to be normal.
    • Livestock: The previous two main cropping seasons have been particularly poor in marginal areas in the south and west and this has resulted in households selling their livestock for food purchases on the market. These livestock sales have reduced herd sizes among very poor and poor households; resulting in a declining trend in ownership of livestock among the poor, particularly goats. Although current prices are higher than normal[1] (based on the recent FEWS NET assessment in Matebeleland North and South), most poor households do not have the capacity to continue selling their livestock without destroying their livelihoods. Cattle conditions have started deteriorating and will likely worsen in November in the southern and western region due to poor pasture and water availability. However as the rain season starts in November, improvements in pasture and livestock conditions will likely increase livestock prices.
    • Assistance: Based on the Zimbabwe VAC results, 1.8 million people are projected to be food insecure between October and December, and this figure is expected to rise to 2.2 million between January and March. There is currently a funding shortfall for STA and unless the situation improves, funding will continue to be a problem throughout the outlook period. As a result of this shortfall, coverage of households is going to be severely limited particularly in the January to March period. In addition to STA, livelihood support will be provided through the following programs during this period: 1) FAO will target 47,800 households in 16 districts, 2) the Government plans to provide inputs worth $100 per household to 1.6 million households across the country, and 3) the Government is also providing cash transfers to about 32,000 households in 13 districts and this is planned to increase to cover 25 districts and over 55,000 households by the end of December. The Government grain loan scheme is currently limited due to lack of grain stock to cover most districts. The WFP Food for Assets program which has been running in selected districts will close in November.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food security will remain stable in most of the central and northern central areas of the country but will be constrained in food deficit areas in the southern and western regions. While consistent maize grain and maize meal imports from Zambia, South Africa, and Botswana will improve food availability, food price increases are expected due to increasing demand associated with normal start of lean season in October. These higher prices will limit household purchasing power. Throughout the outlook period food insecurity outcomes for most of the central and northern central regions will remain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) due the availability of maize stocks and relatively lower staple food prices. Between October and December districts in the southern, western, and isolated northern parts of the country will likely experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes as a result of assistance. However, between January and March household food access is likely to be reduced slightly if funding shortfalls for food assistance continue. This will likely result in Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes in southern and western districts.


    [1] This is referring to 2009/2010 reference year prices. 


    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 zone is a food deficit area due to the lower crop production potential. The 2012/13 agricultural season harvest is the lowest in the last four seasons.
    • Very poor households are largely dependent on market purchases and some remittances. These food sources are barely covering basic food needs at the household level. Safety-net food and cash assistance programming is limited to two districts in the zone.
    • Loss of livestock during the 2011/12 season due to drought-related deaths and distress sales resulted in no increase in herd sizes. However during the 2012/13 season some farmers took early precautions in order to mitigate the affect of drought on livestock. They are migrating animals and storing plant material as feed and this has resulted in average prices of cattle stabilizing with a moderate decline in prices expected between October and December. Current cattle prices are averaging $300 to 350 and this is an improvement from last year’s prices of $250-280 during the same period. Goats are selling for $30 to 40. The cattle and goat prices are 14 and 25 percent higher than normal. Chicken prices have not changed.
    • While local maize grain is not readily available; maize meal from South Africa and Botswana is available. The prices of maize meal are averaging $0.71 per kg and are 13 percent higher than the same time last year. Many households faced limited labor opportunities and incomes this year due to the poor 2012/13 harvest, so these higher prices are significantly reducing their purchasing power.
    • Humanitarian food and cash assistance has been delayed due to pipeline shortfalls and logistical challenges. In this zone, some of the very poor and poor households are receiving food through the Food for Assets program through November. For instance, in Mangwe district the Government is implementing cash transfer program and approximately 10,000 are receiving grants for $10-25 per month. All of these assistance modalities have stabilized the food insecurity situation in some districts in this zone. This has allowed some poor households to meet their basic food needs; however many are still experiencing livelihood protection deficits.
    Assumptions

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

    • The start of the STA program in November in four districts will likely improve poor household food availability. However due to shortfalls and uncertainty in funding for food assistance programs the impact of assistance is likely to be limited throughout the scenario period and will likely cover 60 percent of normal coverage.
    • According to the seasonal ­­­­­forecast, the zone is forecast to have a higher probability of normal to above normal rains during the October-December (OND) period. Although the area has a high probability of receiving normal to below normal rains in the January-March (JFM) period, overall the forecast predicts a better season than last year.
    • Given a normal start of the season, casual labor demand will remain normal for land preparation, planting and weeding in the period October-February. The labor rates paid are expected to be 30 percent higher than the reference year (2009/2010). 
    • Agricultural labor demand from South Africa will likely to slightly reduce due to likely staff cuts linked to the on-going labor wage increase demand. However migration to and from South Africa will not be hindered. Remittances have increased and according to recent field assessments their levels will be 170 percent more than the reference year.
    • Based on price data trends from the Agriculture and Food Security Monitoring system and the Household Economy Analysis price projection, the average price for maize meal is expected to be $ USD 0.71. This price is approximately 51 percent higher than the reference year price.  
    • Cattle prices will average $USD 325/animal. These prices are 14 percent higher than normal, which is a 20-25 percent increase for the same time last year. Goat prices are expected to remain stable at average $35 throughout the scenario period and this is 25 percent higher than reference year.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The food security situation in the zone is expected to be varied due to differences in levels and types of assistance provided by different actors. Based on the results of the HEA outcome analysis, which also factors in external assistance, between October and December the food security outcomes will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) as a result of livelihood support and limited STA food assistance throughout the zone. The exceptions are parts of Mangwe and Matobo district, which as a result of assistance (cash transfers, FFA support, and full food rations) will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) food insecurity outcomes.

    The January to March period includes the peak of the lean season (Jan-Feb) when the number of people vulnerable to food insecurity will be at its highest. The WFP pipeline shortfall and uncertainty in funding will likely result in limited coverage of food insecure areas. It is likely that this will result in very poor households experiencing survival food and livelihood protection deficits. As a result of assistance, food insecurity outcomes will be Stressed (IPC phase 2!) and although households will meet their basic food needs, increasing populations will not be able to meet their livelihood protection needs across the zone. 

    Western Kalahari Sandveld Communal (WKSC) covering Tsholotsho, western parts of Hwange and northern parts of Bulilima districts in Matebeleland North and Matebeleland South Province

    Current Situation
    • Following poor production levels in the districts in this zone most households have depleted their stocks and rely on local markets for their cereal purchases. Maize meal is the most commonly purchased cereal and current prices are averaging $0.70 per kg, which is 8 percent higher than same time last year and 17 percent higher than the national average of $0.60 per kg. Maize grain is not readily available. Most of the maize meal sold in this area is locally produced and maize meal that is being transported from Bulawayo.
    • Livestock conditions are currently fair but pasture and water availability conditions are deteriorating quickly due to the early end of rains last season and the limited recharge of water sources. Livestock conditions are still fair to poor and this has had a limited impact on prices so far.
    • Goats are the major livestock income source for very poor households and are currently being sold for about USD $40 which is 60 percent higher than normal. However, due to consecutive poor seasons and the reduced number of goats kept by households, the ability of very poor households to sell enough goats to cover gaps at sustainable levels has been reduced.
    • Although households indicated that remittances from mainly South Africa will increase their purchasing power, the continued weakening of the South African Rand against the US Dollar will slightly reduce the purchasing power of remittances.
    Assumptions

    In line with the national level assumptions described earlier, the following assumptions have been made about the WKSC Livelihood Zone:

    • According to the seasonal ­­­­­forecast, the zone is forecast to have a higher probability of normal to above normal rains in both the October-December (OND) and January-March (JFM) periods. The average to above average rainfall in both periods could be good for crop growth and maturity.
    • Given a normal start of the season, casual labor demand and rates will remain normal for land preparation, planting and weeding in the period October-February. 
    • Agricultural labor demand from South Africa is likely to be reduced slightly due to staff cuts linked to the ongoing labor wage increase demand. However migration to and from South Africa will not be hindered. Remittances have increased and according to a recent field assessment remittances are 80 percent above levels during the reference year.
    • Staple food imports from South Africa and Botswana are expected to provide stability in market supplies. However despite this stability, cereal prices are expected to remain higher than average and to continue to increase. Based on the Agriculture and Food Security Monitoring system and the Household Economy Analysis price projection, maize meal prices are expected to rise between approximately 10 and 15 percent between October and March averaging about $0.79/kg (which is 97 percent higher than the reference year).
    • Cattle and goat prices will average $340 and 40 per animal respectively. These prices are 21 and 40 percent higher than the reference year, respectively. These average prices are expected to be stable throughout the outlook period. However income from livestock for very poor households is mostly from goats and due to limited increase in herd sizes the number of goats that very poor households can sell sustainably is limited.  
    • The start of the STA program and livelihood support in November will likely improve poor household food availability. However due to shortfalls and uncertainty in funding for food assistance programs the impact of assistance is likely to be limited throughout the scenario period and will likely cover 60 percent of normal coverage.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Based on the current food security situation and the above assumptions, between October and December very poor households will experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) food insecurity outcomes in the presence of limited food assistance and livelihood support programs for livestock and crop production. The assistance forms will not adequately cover all food and non-food gaps. The inadequacy of humanitarian support may lead to households engaging in atypical coping strategies in order to earn income, which includes the overselling of their livestock and the distress migration of younger household members to South Africa.

    During the January to March period, with the funding situation of food assistance remaining uncertain, households may have limited access to food. The start of green consumption is in February and this is expected to stabilize the food security situation from further deteriorating. It is likely that this will result in very poor households experiencing survival food and livelihood protection deficits. In the presence of assistance, food insecurity conditions will be Stressed (IPC phase 2!) with increasing populations unable to meet their livelihood protection needs across the zone.  


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

     

     

    Masvingo, Matebeleland North and South and Manicaland

    Humanitarian response is adequate for November to March period.

    Improvement in the pipeline and ration sizes will improve the food access for households and food security outcomes in areas of concern a phase lower.

    Increased deportations from neighboring South Africa

    Any restrictive travel measures will have an impact on household income from remittances. Limits on remittances might further increase existing household food deficits as well as household sizes due to returning migrants. Deportations are likely to end remittances for household members who do not have proper documents for travel and employment.

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR IN A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR IN A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2013

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2013

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Food Security Outcomes (Oct. ’13) in BSWLC livelihood zone.

    Figure 3

    Current Food Security Outcomes (Oct. ’13) in BSWLC livelihood zone.

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current Food Security Outcomes (Oct. ’13) in WKSC livelihood zone.

    Figure 4

    Current Food Security Outcomes (Oct. ’13) in WKSC livelihood zone.

    Source: FEWS NET

    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.

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