Poorly distributed rainfall since October last year has resulted in large moisture deficits, leading to wilted crops, livestock deaths, and reduced water availability over many areas of southern Africa. With the season coming to an end, recovery is unlikely, experts warn.
As the rainy season approaches its end in southern Africa, this past week’s rainfall proved mostly average throughout the sub-region. Over the past 30 days, many areas to the east of the region, including Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Madagascar, experienced wetter than average conditions, while to the west Angola, western Zambia, Namibia, and South Africa received below-average rainfall.
According to the latest Famine Early Warning Systems Network – a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises – most countries in the region expect the main harvest to be delayed by up to a month.
This extension of the lean season has resulted in a typically high demand on local markets among all household wealth groups and high food prices.
A number of countries in the region experienced increased rainfall from mid-February through March. These rains will likely improve pasture conditions and the availability of water for livestock, but this late season moisture is too late for crop recovery in most drought-affected areas, although it may benefit cropped areas planted very late in the season.
Just as in Namibia, the region is anticipating a second consecutive year of below-average maize supplies. Supplies for the 2016/17 consumption year will be significantly below average, because of the El Niño related drought.
National level cereal deficits are expected to be much higher than normal for the majority of countries.
Staple prices continue to be above the five-year average in a number of countries facing an extended lean season period. In Mozambique and Malawi, February maize prices are more than double the five-year average across major monitored markets.
The price of white maize on the South African Futures Exchange (SAFEX) market also increased slightly early in the year.
When there is no drought, households normally enjoy increased food availability from mid-March to April due to access to green foods and the start of the main harvests. However, this year poor households continue to face livelihood insecurity and food deficits.
Poor households in Namibia, Lesotho, southern Mozambique, southern Madagascar, and southwestern Zambia are in crisis and the situation is expected to continue through September due to the anticipated below-average harvests.
Similar outcomes are expected in several other SADC countries, including Botswana, Swaziland, and southern Angola.