Blog Post

Drought in Southern Africa Threatening Food Security

FEWS Net has released a special report with a series of maps illustrating the extent and severity of the ongoing drought in southern Africa. The drought, driven by the 2015-16 El Niño cycle, has limited crop production throughout the region, worsening food insecurity during the lean season and making it likely that food insecurity will continue throughout the remainder of the year.

Between October 2015 and February 2016, rainfall in Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho, and South Africa was less than 75 percent of average (based on the 1982-2011 average). The current season has been one of the five driest in the last 35 years, with abnormally low precipitation impacting major cropping areas throughout the region. This has been the driest or second driest year on record for large parts of central and southern Mozambique, southern Malawi, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Lesotho, southern Angola, northern Democratic Republic of Congo, and western Madagascar. For many of these areas, this is also the second year of abnormally low rainfall, which has exacerbated the impact on water availability and crop conditions.

The GEOGLAM Early Warning Crop Monitor (EWCM) has classified maize crop conditions in Lesotho, Swaziland, southern Mozambique, southern Zimbabwe, and eastern Botswana as “Failure,” while crop conditions in western Madagascar, southern Zambia, southern Malawi, northern Namibia, and many surplus producing areas of South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique have been rated as “Poor.” These deteriorating conditions have impacted grain prices in the region; maize prices have increased by more than 75 percent from last year on more than half of the regional markets that FEWS Net monitors. Mozambique and Malawi are experiencing particularly high prices due to below average 2015 maize production and anticipated crop failures in 2016.

As a result of failing crops and rising prices, food insecurity throughout the region is expected to be severe throughout 2016-17. FEWS Net estimates that nearly four million people are currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or higher levels of food insecurity; this includes nearly one million in Malawi and nearly half a million each in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and Madagascar. Looking forward to September, a combination of reduced farm incomes, diminished food stocks, limited water sources, and high staple food prices are expected to drive a major food security crisis; FEWS Net estimates that the number of people facing food insecurity will double from current levels by March 2017.

By: Sara Gustafson, IFPRI