Food security summary
October marks the beginning of the hunger season in most southern African countries when household food stocks are increasingly drawn down and levels of purchases are constrained by increasing food prices as market supplies become tighter and income earning opportunities are scarce. These conditions are now more pronounced in those parts of the region where food production was severely reduced due to poor rainfall performance. This includes parts of Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and southern Mozambique where vulnerable populations have faced critical shortages since July 2007. FAO/WFP and VAC assessments indicated that from July 2007 until March 2008, there are 401,200 people in Lesotho expected to face food shortages, 407,000 in Swaziland, and up to 4.1 million in Zimbabwe. Most of the households identified in these assessments have already exhausted their meager food reserves and some are now employing negative coping strategies. In May, the Mozambique GAV estimated that 520,000 people, mostly in the south, would require food assistance from July through March 2008. A recent rapid assessment carried out by FEWS NET suggests that food security conditions throughout the country remain stable, and in areas identified as food insecure, levels have remained moderate mainly due to a combination of a good second season crop, availability of income earning opportunities (albeit limited) and on-going humanitarian interventions.
Although the situation for the most vulnerable groups is being mitigated through emergency food aid, access problems persist for many of them, espeCially in Zimbabwe and southern Mozambique due to logistical problems in the distribution and hitherto inadequate resourcing of food aid pipelines for both government and humanitarian programs. As prices continue to escalate, levels of food insecurity continue to increase as more market dependant households find it difficult to access adequate quantities of food from the markets. In Zimbabwe for example, although government reduced the prices of basic commodities in July, by October, prices had once more risen to unprecedented levels, with maize prices in Harare rising 166 percent from US$0.57/kg in July; to US$1.52 /kg (at the official exchange rate of US$1=Zim$30,000). Food prices in Lesotho and Swaziland, both of which are facing some of the worst shortages this year, continue to be impacted by the high grain prices in South Africa. Food inflation in Lesotho rose from 15 percent in August to 15.4 percent in September; against an overall inflation rate of 8.7 percent and 8.6 percent in August and September, respectively. In Swaziland, food inflation rose from 18.9 percent in August to 19.7 percent in September, against an overall inflation rate of 8.6 percent and 9.8 percent in August and September, respectively.
Although the current food security situation remains stable in most parts of those countries where crop production was good due to favorable rainfall during the 2006/07 crop growing season, food stocks are increasingly being drawn down as the hunger season sets in. This includes Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, northern Mozambique and parts of Angola, all of which had above average harvests and sizable cereal carryover stocks from the previous year. Adequate food availability has contributed to relatively stable food prices which, although rising seasonably, remain on average, lower when compared to the past 5-year average. This has facilitated access to adequate amounts of staple food for most market-dependant households. In addition, good rains in the 2006/07 season and the early rains that have been received in some parts have been beneficial to pasture and water availability, thus improving livestock condition and prices.
Nonetheless, localized cases of food insecurity (chronic and transitory) exist in these countries. Food security and vulnerability assessments revealed that in the areas that were adversely impacted by excessive rainfall, there are pockets where vulnerable groups required food assistance, some from as early as July. As the hunger season has set in, food needs have increased with more people requiring assistance as levels of food insecurity rise. In Tanzania, results from a rapid vulnerability assessment in mid-August are expected to establish the size of the country's food insecure population, while in Zambia, the VAC assessed that 441,000 people will require food aid during the hunger season. In Malawi, although the VAC did not find a significant number of cases of transitory food insecurity, they assessed at the time (May) that some 519,000 people were at risk of becoming food insecure, and required close monitoring. В В В