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The food security situation is stable across the country, including traditionally cereal deficit areas in the south and western parts of the country. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are projected from January through June since most households are still consuming cereals from the previous season, while some are supplementing this food with market purchases or in-kind payment for casual labor activities.
Average national maize grain prices are 23 percent below last year’s levels and projected to be stable when compared to the two-year average. This is a result of lower market demand for staple food since most households are still consuming staple food from the previous harvest.
The season started nearly three weeks late, and this was followed by abnormal dryness in the northern parts of the country. By December, heavy rainfall in the north resulted in localized flooding, damaging crops, and food stocks for some households. According to UN estimates, about 500 of the 1,200 households impacted by the flooding are in urgent need of assistance.
- Households across all wealth groups are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes. The majority of households including the poor are consuming staple food from last year’s harvest and a few are supplementing this with market purchases, especially in the southern and western parts of the country. Some households facing staple shortages and have no cash for market purchases are also supplementing through in-kind payment of on-farm casual labor activities that include land preparation, planting and weeding.
- A slight rise in demand for cereals has resulted in a 12 percent increase in maize grain price between November and December. However, compared to both the same time last year and the two year average, current prices have decreased by 24 and 15 percent, respectively. Locally produced maize meal is readily available from private millers in the market and the price is stable when compared to both same time last year and the two-year average. The Grain Marketing Board (GMB) is also selling maize meal at prices that are comparable to the private market prices.
- On-farm activities, including land preparation, planting, and weeding are ongoing in all provinces. This has increased incomes for some households through on-farm casual labor opportunities. Insufficient rainfall and abnormal dryness in October and November contributed to the 2-3 week delayed start of the season, particularly in the northern areas, and a slow start of agriculture related income earning activities.
- Above-normal rainfall starting in December, resulted in localized flooding in Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, and Manicaland Provinces leading to leaching and destruction of early planted crops. The government is monitoring any Armyworm problems in Mashonaland Provinces following an outbreak during the first week of January in Mbire, Mt Darwin, and Muzarabani districts in Mashonaland Central Province.
- Southern parts of the country including parts of Matebeleland South, Matebeleland North, and Masvingo are currently experiencing mid-season dry spells and crops are already showing signs of moisture stress. A continuation of these conditions into February could lead to wilting.
- Agriculture inputs are available on the market and through the government agriculture input scheme. The majority of the farmers are accessing agriculture inputs through purchases in retails shops at district markets. Prices for maize seed are approximately 20 percent above last year’s level at most of the monitored markets.
- Livestock is in good condition and there has been an improvement of pastures in most of the areas due to heavy rains that were received in December. A localized outbreak of foot and mouth disease was reported in some districts in Masvingo and Matabeleland South Provinces. Farmers interviewed, including in the southern parts of the country, are expecting an increase in incomes from livestock sales including goats and sheep.
- Government safety-net programs are ongoing in 21 targeted districts, assisting the most vulnerable and labor constrained households through the harmonized social cash transfer program that provides a monthly cash distribution of between USD 15-25 dollars. The World Food Program (WFP) is also implementing the Disaster response and risk reduction (Conditional Lean Season Assistance) targeting seasonally food-insecure vulnerable households.
The January to June food security outlook report is informed by the following national and sub-national assumptions:
- Staple food availability: From January through March, staple food supplies from the previous harvest are expected to be available at the household level. In addition to these supplies households will have access to cereals through market purchases and in-kind payment for casual labor activities. The majority of market purchases are mainly expected in the cereal deficit areas including the south and western parts of the country. Although the start of the green harvest is expected to be later due to delayed start of the season, access to green harvests are expected in March and will reduce household reliance on market purchases. Early crop harvests (particularly maize) is expected to start towards the end of March. This season’s harvest is expected to provide adequate cereals for most households across the country for the remainder of the outlook period (April-June).
- Staple food prices: Staple food will be readily available in the markets and available from both private millers and the GMB depots. For districts in the south, markets will likely have an increase in maize meal supplies from neighboring countries during the peak of the lean season (January-March) due to increased demand. FEWS-NET’s price projections using both the fundamental and technical analysis indicates that maize grain prices during the peak of the lean season will be 13 percent below last year’s prices and will remain stable when compared to the two-year average. Between April and June maize grain prices are projected to continue to be stable. This price trend is expected due to higher carry-over cereal supplies when compared to previous years. Based on discussions with traders in markets in the south the price of sorghum will be 15 percent below last year’s prices level. Maize meal prices are projected to remain stable throughout the scenario period.
- Seasonal forecast: The forecast from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Climate Services Center indicates that the southern half of the country will likely receive normal to below-normal rains from January through March. This increased chance of normal to below-normal rains in the southern half of the country will likely result in an early end to the season or increased chances of dry spells. Since mid- January, these areas have not received significant rains and based on the soil water index, crops are already showing signs of moisture stress (Figure 2). The northern half of the country has increased chances of receiving normal to above-normal rains from January through March. Some of the areas in the northern parts of the country will likely be affected by localized flooding including in the Zambezi valley.
- Casual labor availability and rates: Labor opportunities including land preparation and planting are likely to be the main income sources for very poor households from January through March. Agriculture inputs can be accessed through the Government Input Scheme and local supply stores. However the 20 percent increase in seed prices will likely result in a slight reduction of cropped land for those households that need to purchase seed, and this in the long-run could result in a slight decrease in casual labor opportunities. Weeding will be the main activity for causal labor from January through March while harvesting will provide most causal labor incomes for the second half of the scenario period from April through June. Discussions with famers in the south and western areas indicates that casual labor rates are likely to increase by between 15 to 20 percent during this period. Availability of labor activities will likely be reduced in some areas in the northern parts of the country due to the excessive rains that will result in flooding and leaching of the soils. The southern half of the country could have a decrease in casual labor activities and incomes from April through June due to the forecast for normal to below-normal rains in these areas.
- Livestock: Normal to above-normal rains received in most parts of the country in December and January are expected to improve pasture conditions across the country, including those areas expected to receive below-average rainfall for the remainder of the season. Livestock conditions are therefore expected to be good across the country. Because of the heavy rainfall received in December and January, there are increased chances of an outbreak of livestock diseases including Heartwater in most areas, particularly in areas that received above normal rains. Income from cattle and goat sales are likely to be 50 and 6 percent, respectively, above the reference1 period.
- Social-Safety Nets: WFP will be implementing conditional lean season assistance during the peak period of the lean season. This assistance targets the most vulnerable households. Funding constraints will likely reduce WFP coverage in terms of both targeted population and the number of districts to be supported. The Government is also expected to continue implementing the harmonized cash transfer support to labor constrained, food insecure, and vulnerable households in 21 districts (assisting 10-20 percent of the population). The USAID funded Development Food Assistance program implemented through the Amalima and ENSURE projects is expected to continue operating in Masvingo, Manicaland, and Matebeland South Provinces.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Most households including the very poor are likely to experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes from January through June. Very poor households are expected to supplement own production cereal stocks from the previous harvest with market purchases January through March. Households without enough income will also access staple food through in-kind payment of on-farm causal labor activities. The delayed green harvest will likely provide an alternative source of food to households with food deficits from March onwards. The main harvest is expected from April through June and will likely provide sufficient levels of cereal stocks for household consumption across all districts in the country, including the south-western areas. Household food consumption should improve along with greater food diversity from April to June. Typical on-farm casual labor activities including land preparation, planting, and weeding will be the main income sources for the very poor households and payment will likely be through in-kind means.
1Reference year: a recent year when conditions were neither exceptionally bad nor exceptionally good. In this reports, 2009 is considered as the reference year.
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ABOUT SCENARIO DEVELOPMENT
To project food security outcomes over a six-month period, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes those assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to develop scenarios estimating food security outcomes. Typically, FEWS NET reports the most likely scenario. Click here for more information.
Current food security outcomes, January 2015.
Source: Fews Net
Source: Fews Net
Figure 1. National average maize grain prices
Source: Fews Net
Figure 2. Soil Water Index for maize in the 2014/15 season on January 20, 2015.
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.