Southern Africa Food Security Update

Variable rainfall could negatively impact agricultural production in southern Africa, according to reports from FEWS Net and the SADC’s Food Security Early Warning System (Agromet).

In the southern half of the region, below-average rainfall and high temperatures intensified through December and January. Weather forecasts predict that these dry conditions will continue into February in many areas. This low rainfall delayed planting in many places and has led to crop damage in areas where planting did occur, suggesting that agricultural production for this cropping season will likely be reduced. In addition, the below-average rainfall has had a negative impact on grazing conditions, placing stress on livestock producers. The areas affected by continuing hot, dry conditions include southern Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, south-western Madagascar, southern Malawi, southern and central Mozambique, Namibia, most of South Africa (excluding some north-eastern areas), southern and central Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

The northern half of the region, on the other hand, has experienced average or above-average rainfall over the past two months. While this rainfall has supported crop production in some areas, heavy rainfall in other areas (including northern Malawi, northern Mozambique, Tanzania, and northern Madagascar) has caused flooding, infrastructure damage, population displacement, and crop damage. In some parts of northern Madagascar, for instance, Agromet reports that up to 80 percent of rice fields have reportedly been affected by flooding.

In terms of food security, most of Southern Africa continues to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity. However, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity exists in parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo, southern and northern areas of Zimbabwe, southern Madagascar, and central Mozambique. Poor rainfall in these areas of Zimbabwe and Mozambique have lowered rural households’ income levels, placing further stress on these households’ food security, as they typically use their income to purchase staple food products during this time of year.

Food prices in Zimbabwe, Malawi, and Mozambique are lower than their December 2016 levels, as well as lower than the five-year average, due to large harvests in the 2016-2017 season. While these lower prices have helped to improve poor households’ purchasing power, the current poor seasonal rainfall will likely lead households with surplus food stocks to sell less in order to ensure their own household food supply. This could trigger an increase in staple food prices.

Photo credit:Marcos Villalta / Save the Children