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Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET)

Southern Africa food security update

Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWSNET)

February 2007

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The food security situation remains generally stable in most parts of the region reflecting the good 2005/06 harvest. However pockets of food insecurity exist in many countries, and food supplies are increasingly tight as the hunger season progresses. Incessant, heavy rains caused floods in parts of Angola, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia, destroying homes, crops, and infrastructure such as roads and bridges, necessitating emergency responses from governments and humanitarian agencies. Many households in flooded areas require immediate assistance including food aid as well as seeds and other inputs to enable them to take advantage of the second season planting as the waters begin to recede.

The current food security situation in Malawi remains favorable, even at the peak of the hunger season. Food is readily available in the markets and many households still have stocks from last season’s bumper harvest. Maize prices are lower than normal for this time of year, and poor households have sufficient access to food through the markets or food aid interventions in those food insecure areas that had below normal harvests last year. Production prospects for the 2006/07 season are very good following favorable rainfall performance, coupled with improved access to seeds and fertilizers through the government’s input distribution scheme. The food security outlook therefore is positive, and current food security indicators (such as food and livestock prices and availability of food on local markets) point to a continuation of the generally stable conditions.

In Zimbabwe, run away inflation (now estimated at close to 1,600 percent) continues to severely limit the purchasing power of most households, hampering their access to adequate amounts of food. Maize availability remains tight and is often acute in the grain deficit areas of the country. This has caused price levels to rise to very high levels, well beyond the reach of many households in both rural and urban areas. The most affected provinces include Manicaland, Masvingo, Midlands and North and South Matebeleland. The situation is not expected to improve much until the end of the hunger period around March, when fresh crops become available as the new harvest approaches. Good rains in the northern half of the country have facilitated increased agricultural activities and opened up casual employment opportunities thus improving food access for those able to engage in this type of work. The production outlook is mixed with the northern half facing moderately improved prospects while the drier southern half faces a grimmer outlook in view of the below normal rains that have been received since the start of the season.

The food security situation over much of Tanzania remains satisfactory, and food availability is increasing as a result of the good production prospects for both the vuli and msimu seasons. The recent release of last season’s food stocks onto the markets has improved food access to market depended households as prices have declined and are likely to remain low as the vuli (and later msimu) crops become available. Heavy rains have however caused localized problems in central parts of the country, damaging homes, crops and infrastructure. Pasture conditions have benefited fro the above normal rains, and livestock conditions and pastoralists’ food security have improved. However the outbreak and spread of Rift Valley Fever has spread from Kenya and has already been reported in northern Tanzania, threatening pastoralists’ food security, and close monitoring is recommended.

Although Zambia produced a surplus maize crop this past season and is currently exporting to neighboring countries, there are isolated, chronically food insecure areas that are reported to have run out of food stocks. A field verification exercise has estimated that some 9,133 MT of food will be required to assist 380,537 beneficiaries between now and the next harvest (i.e. February to March). Apart from these cases, many households along the Zambezi river basin in western and north western Zambia are in need of immediate food assistance as a result of the flooding that occurred following heavy rains in December and January.

In Mozambique, overall food security remains stable, although pockets of moderate food insecurity exist in the southern and central regions. While food prices have been stable, reflecting the good 2005/06 harvest, the decline in food supplies has led to price increases, especially in the south, an area that is also experiencing below normal rains this season. Production prospects are mixed: prospects are favorable in the north where rainfall has been above normal; in parts of central and southern Mozambique, production is expected to be below normal. Floods along the Zambezi Basin in northern and central Mozambique have displaced communities that are now without food and basic amenities and in critical need of emergency assistance.

Food availability and access remain generally satisfactory across most of Angola, due to improved production of food crops last season, adequate formal imports and intra-regional trade. However pockets of food insecurity exist in a number of districts in Huambo, Bengo, Zaire and Uige, due to below normal harvests last season, including reduced yields of the nacas crop as a result of flood damage, and lower cassava production due to cassava mosaic virus. However, the food security outlook for 2007/08 is positive on account of the favorable rainfall performance and expectation of improved food production across most of the country.

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