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Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee

Emergency Food Security Assessments, August 2002
- Covering Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe

Presentation of Major Findings, Conclusions and Recommendations
Johannesburg - 17 September 2002
Contact details Mr R Mugwara:

SARPN acknowledges permission from the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee to post this series of documents
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What is the Regional SADC FANR Vulnerability Assessment Committee (RVAC)??

The SADC-FANR VAC is ...

... a multi-agency group of technical experts from ...

... the FANR Food Security Programme and from associated technical agencies ...

... working at the regional level to promote and support vulnerability assessment in the region.

Members of the VAC include ...

Associated donor agencies include ...

What is a National Vulnerability Assessment Committee (NVAC)??
  • Like the Regional VAC, National VACs are consortiums of government, NGO, and UN agencies concerned with vulnerability assessments with RVAC
  • National VACs receive technical, institutional, and financial support from the Regional VAC, based in Harare
Why Undertake Emergency Food Security Assessments??

They broaden our understanding of who is affected, where they are, how they are affected and what can be done about it, by answering questions such as …
  • What is the net food deficit effect at household level, for different livelihood zones and wealth groups?
  • What are the livelihoods and vulnerabilities of various population groups, such as small-scale farmers, farm workers and the urban poor in terms of access to food and cash?
  • What coping strategies and capacities are available to people (food, income, expenditure strategies, etc.)?
  • How can agencies respond this year in a way that saves lives and supports livelihoods?
What was the Process for the Emergency Food Security Assessments?
  • The overall assessment process and methodology was coordinated and backstopped by the SADC Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Vulnerability Assessment Committee.
  • National Vulnerability Assessment Committees led the assessments in each country with broad participation from key stakeholders.
  • The assessment methodology draws from a livelihood-based vulnerability assessment framework.
  • Secondary data analysis provided an overview of macro-processes and trends.
  • Primary data collection and analysis was focused at the district (160 visited), community (378 visited) and household (4,457 visited) levels.
  • The assessment methodology linked nutritional surveys with household interviews in four of the six countries (Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe).
  • This is the first in a series of three rolling emergency food security assessments following the April/ May FAO/WFP CFSAM. A second assessment, with similar objectives, will be complete by mid-December. The final assessment will take place towards the end of the cropping season.
  • In between assessments, the SADC FANR VAC will assist affected countries in monitoring food security conditions, and will undertake special studies on topics or areas of particular concern.
What are the Key Assessment findings??

  • Government estimates 2001/02 cereal production at 121,500MT, which is 29 percent below the five year average. This compares with preliminary FAO/WFP cereal production estimates of 54,000MT in April.
  • Approximately 160,000 people, or eight percent of the rural population, will require emergency food assistance from September through November 2002.
  • As stocks become depleted, this figure will jump 650,000 people, or 34% of the population prior to next year’s harvest.
  • Total emergency cereal needs for Lesotho for the period September 1st – March 31st is 35,760MT.
  • 2001-2002 maize production (1.6 million MT) was 28% lower than the five-year average and 6% less than the previous year.
  • Malawi faces a deficit of 572,000 MT maize equivalent. The government is planning to import 250,000 MT of maize to be sold at a subsidized prices.
  • 21% of the population (2,200,000 people) are in need of food assistance between September and November, rising to 29% (3,250,000) December-March
  • Many households overstretched their coping mechanisms last year, reducing their resilience and increasing their vulnerability in the face of the continued food shortages.
  • 590,000 people are in need of assistance (3% of the population), requiring 48,000MT of cereal
  • Overall cereal production in 2002 was approximately 5% higher than in 2001.
  • Poor road infrastructure makes it un-economical to move surplus food from the north to the south.
  • Food prices could increase to levels that would be beyond the reach of the poorer households.
  • Cereal imports are currently ahead of plans and the winter cropping is progressing well in areas that have not been affected by poor production in the main season.
  • Crop production was 33% lower than the five-year average resulting in a domestic food gap of 138,000MT which is 71% of the total domestic requirement.
  • A significant number of households (29%) have either no adults or only one adult in the 19 – 60 year old age bracket. This could be attributed to the HIV/AIDS epidemic as well as to absent males seeking work elsewhere.
  • Forty one percent of households are headed by females. This results in less income from employment and less labour for productive activities.
  • Cereal production was 738,000 MT, leaving a domestic cereal gap of 711,000 MT.
  • Some 2.4 million people will require food aid through November, increas-ing to almost 2.9 million people by March 2003.
  • The cumulative cereal food aid requirements for the period September to March 2003 are 224,200 MT.
  • More than 70 percent of households have no seeds.
  • Restrictions on GM foods has disrupted the food aid pipeline.
  • Cereal availability is a critical factor with deficit of 1.65 million MT
  • To date, GMB has imported 335,000 MT, and humanitarian food relief 70,600 MT.
  • 486,000 MT of cereal food aid is required from September through March.
  • Through November, 4.5 million people (33% of the population) will require assistance, rising to 6.7 million people (49% of the population) through March.
  • Of those requiring assistance, 5.9 million are rural, including 489,000 (ex)-commercial farm workers. 850,000 urban residents also require assistance.
  • Zimbabwe is threatened with a major humanitarian crisis and possible famine due to serious food shortages caused by erratic rainfall, a declining economy, and recent policy changes
  • Malawi is suffering from structural food insecurity, exacerbated by two consecutive poor harvest. High levels of poverty leave many households with limited access to staple foods.
  • In Zambia, poor households in areas affected by drought face both physical food shortages and constrained access to food due to chronic poverty. There is growing concern over the threat of urban food insecurity.
  • While Lesotho is structurally dependent on food imports, declining productivity due to environmental degradation, couple with low purchasing power due to reduced labour opportunities are exacerbating food security conditions.
  • Although Swaziland is a lower-middle income country, consecutive poor harvest the past two years exceed the government and private sector capacities to fill the cereal gap.
  • Despite good production in key cereal producing regions of northern Mozambique, drought condition in some southern and central areas have lead to pockets of food shortages, with access constrained by poor infrastructure and high market prices.
What is the Current Food Security Situation at the National Level??
2001/02 CEREAL PRODUCTION (MT) compared with the past 5-year average

SOURCE: REWU, September 2002




What is the Current Food Security Situation at the Household Level??

  • Cereal entitlement is current plus expected access to cereals (directly and indirectly).
  • Most households have low purchasing power resulting from chronic poverty, and/or are faced with very high cereal prices.
  • Numbers of people in need of assistance do NOT include households that are food insecure due to supply side factors.
  • The assessment revealed that a high proportion of households who could afford to buy cereal are unable to because it is not readily available in the marketplace.

  • Coping strategies include income increasing strategies, expenditure reducing strategies, food consumption reducing strategies, and migration strategies.
  • Vulnerable households in all countries are already engaged in distress coping strategies. The most common include:
    • Changing consumption patterns
    • Removing children from school
    • Reduce expenditures
    • Sale of capital assets
    • Prostitution
    • Rural – Urban migration
  • These coping strategies could send households into a downward spiral that could undermine their livelihoods for years to come.
  • HIV/AIDS was highlighted as a major problem at the community level.
  • There appears to be an “overlap” of HIV/AIDS affected households and those experience acute food shortages.
  • HIV/AIDS adds to household vulnerability

Source: UNAIDS/WHO June 2000

  • In general, female-headed households are more adversely affected than male-headed households, because they have:
    • Less income generating opportunities
    • Less mobility
    • More demands on their time due to care-giver roles
  • Prostitution as a distress coping strategy puts women and young girls at high risk of HIV/AIDS
Is the Food Situation Getting Better or Worse??

The VAC assessment estimates the number of people in need of food aid to be 12.5% greater than the initial CFSAM estimates back in May (14.4 million as compared to 12.8 million). Amongst the reason for the increase ...
  • The assessment was undertaken later in the year, closer to the time of actual needs.
  • Larger sample size and more in-depth techniques were used.
  • So far, grain import levels have been insufficient, prices high, coupled with the deteriorating effects of distress coping strategies
Is Nutritional Status a Cause for Concern??
  • The VAC assessments linked nutritional surveys to the HH food security analysis (in four of the six countries)
  • Findings in line with larger studies indicating stunting rates of 35-45%
  • Wasting rates are below those expected in times of severe food shortages
What is the Food Situation Likely to be in the Future??
  • Future commercial imports difficult to predict—difference between planned and committed
  • Market prices of cereals are already high and expected to increase up until the next harvest in April/May
  • Without adequate agricultural inputs, the coming planting season could generate poor harvests
  • Climate forecasters predict a weak to moderate El Nino event this year. As yet difficult to predict effects on rainfall, but potential exists for a dry season.

What does the Mean for Decision-Making?

The VAC emergency food security assessments confirm the severity of the regional food crisis and provide compelling evidence that urgent action--beyond that of current levels--is required from national governments, regional bodies and the international community to avert a humanitarian disaster in the next seven months before the main harvest in April/May 2003.


Generally, governments need to create policy environments that:
  • Enable large volumes of required food to enter the country through private sector, government, and humanitarian programme.
  • Enable unfettered transportation of cereals across international boundaries and within countries.
  • Avoid government action in the market place that could reduce private sector participation, such as high subsidies, price controls, etc.
  • The international humanitarian community has already donated hundreds of millions of dollars of food and other assistance
  • This benefits of that assistance are clearly evident
  • The recent assessment confirms the need for 1,000,000 MT of cereal food aid from September through March
  • Appeals for assistance need to be revised upwards, and fully resourced
  • The VAC assessments provide updated geographic targeting at the district level, temporal targeting for the two time periods, and characteristics of the most vulnerable groups
  • The targeting criteria allows for prioritisation of resources
  • Conditions on the ground are complex and dynamic, requiring constant targeting revision—need for monitoring systems
  • There is an urgent need to make agricultural inputs accessible at the community level for the upcoming planting season
  • Where availability seed is not a serious problem, programmes should focus on making inputs accessible to farmers, such as voucher schemes and trade fairs
  • Comprehensive emergency food baskets required, including pulses, oil, and other essential commodities
  • Supplementary feeding warranted for most vulnerable groups
  • Vitamin A capsules should be considered
  • Food security conditions at the community, national, and regional levels need close monitoring, including macro and community level data.
  • Macro level indicators include market prices, rainfall,and food imports.
  • Community level indicators include nutrition surveillance, household purchasing power, dietary diversity, coping strategies, and availability of commodities

Urgent action is required to ensure that emergency food reaches those most in need and that emergency food stocks are in place within countries for the particularly severe months of December through March. Based on an understanding of current national and household food stocks, market prices, dietary intake, coping strategies, and other food security indicators, the assessment clearly indicates that if international assistance remains at its current levels, a humanitarian disaster may be unavoidable in the months ahead. Implications of a disaster of this nature would be loss of livelihoods (having long term-negative effects), severe malnutrition, and potentially, death of those most at risk.

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