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Below-average rainfall in November is hindering seasonal agricultural activity

  • Key Message Update
  • Zimbabwe
  • November 2023
Below-average rainfall in November is hindering seasonal agricultural activity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In November, the number of households engaging in coping strategies indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes is slowly increasing, particularly in the typical deficit-producing areas. Poor households have largely depleted their own-produced food stocks, and constrained access to income limits their market access to food. However, in the productive surplus-producing resettlement areas in the north, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to persist through the 2024 harvest due to the availability of own-produced stocks and income from some crop sales and casual labor. The communal parts of these areas will likely continue to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to limited household stocks and access to income for market purchases. 
    • Dry and very hot conditions in November are limiting planting activities across much of the country, following cumulatively average to above-average rainfall in October. Land preparation continues to be the main activity, although at below-normal levels. An effective start of the season is typically around mid-November across most parts of the country, but the dry and hot conditions are delaying an effective start to the rainy season. Close monitoring of rainfall totals and distribution will be required throughout the rainy season to assess the impact of the El Niño on crop production. Deficit-producing areas in southern, eastern, and western Zimbabwe are of particular concern.
    • Access to water is declining across most typical semi-arid areas where rainfall has been well below average in November. In these areas, livestock and some people travel longer than normal distances to access water, reducing the time available for households to engage in other domestic and livelihood activities. Pasture conditions are also deteriorating in these areas, mainly negatively impacting cattle body conditions. A lack of access to clean water and good sanitation is also continuing to drive the national cholera outbreak, with more than 9,000 suspected cases and nearly 160 suspected cholera deaths recorded since February. Cases have been reported in 46 districts in all 10 provinces. In November, the government declared a state of emergency over Harare as cholera cases spiked and activated the Civil Protection Act. The government also set up Water Technical Committees in Harare and Bulawayo to improve water supply and sanitation as these cities are experiencing critical water supply challenges.  
    • Market maize grain availability is declining as more households increase their dependence on market purchases, particularly in deficit-producing areas. However, some surplus-producing areas remain well-supplied with grain. The USD prices of basic food commodities, including maize meal, have remained stable in November; however, the ZWL prices are increasing in line with official and parallel market exchange rate increases. Households continue to expand their engagement in income-earning activities such as casual labor, various forms of self-employment, livestock sales, and petty trade, including the sale of forest products to earn income, along with barter and reliance on remittances. However, increased competition for labor and income opportunities is keeping earnings low across most parts of the country. The distribution of lean season humanitarian assistance by the government and partners is yet to start, but it is expected to begin in January 2024. In December, the festive season will likely improve food availability for some poor households through gifts and remittances, labor opportunities, and barter for food.  

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Zimbabwe Key Message Update November 2023: Below-average rainfall in November is hindering seasonal agricultural activity, 2023.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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