FEWS Southern Africa Food Security Update Mar-Apr 2006 - Good harvests anticipated
Summary and Implications
The months of March and April signal the end of the marketing year in most of Southern Africa. They also mark the end of the hunger season, and are characterized by the appearance of green maize and other seasonal food crops that become available at the household level, as well as on rural markets. Although overall food security is improving as many households have begun to access the new season crops following an above average growing season, concern remains in some areas where the season has been characterized by heavy rains resulting in flooding and disruption of livelihoods. Close monitoring is required in Tanzania where rains have been below normal in both bimodal and unimodal areas, resulting in a failed vuli harvest and a shortened msimu season. Other adversely affected areas warranting particular attention include parts of central and southern Angola, where a severe mid season drought has compromised harvest prospects.
Although official crop forecasts have yet to be released in most countries, preliminary assessments from many of the southern African countries (including Malawi, Zambia, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe) indicate significant improvements compared to the past two years. Crop forecasting surveys and national vulnerability assessments are already on-going and should be completed by mid June in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. These, will not only provide crop production estimates, but also information on demand and access issues over the 2006/07 marketing year. Where necessary, this information will form the basis for any required targeted interventions and other developmental strategies aimed at responding to the needs of the vulnerable and the food insecure. In contrast to the previous few years, this has been a year of average rainfall performance, and most countries have not requested the joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment missions (CFSAM) to verify and validate supply and access data. A CFSAM mission has only been confirmed for Angola, where a severe dry spell has decimated cereal crops in the main production areas of the central and southern provinces.
Seasonal Progress and Production Outlook
The 2005/06 season has been generally very wet, with most areas in the region receiving above average rainfall. Figure 1 shows the rainfall received between September 1, 2005 and April 30, 2006, expressed as a percentage of the average that is usually received during the same time period. The green on the map show those areas that received above average rainfall, with the deepest green colors indicating areas that received more than twice the average rainfall. A few areas, including many parts of Tanzania, received below normal rains (yellow and brown colors), but most areas had either near normal seasonal rainfall totals (white colors), or above-normal seasonal rainfall totals. While total seasonal rainfall has so far been adequate for many domestic, industrial and agricultural applications, there are some parts of the region that were negatively affected by periods of inadequate rainfall and excess rainfall. Inadequate rainfall in these cases resulted mainly in wilting crops and poor pasture; while excess rains led to flooding, water logging and leaching.
The water requirement satisfaction index (WRSI) is used to keep a running tally of rainfall throughout the growing season to determine whether crops received adequate moisture to obtain a good yield. Figure 2 shows the status of the WRSI for the current season (specifically for maize and other cereal crops). In this graphic, dark green colors indicate those areas where the crop received all the water that it required throughout the season, and therefore has higher chances for good yields. Lighter green colors indicate those areas where the crop received enough water to allow for an average to good crop, while those in cream colors received enough moisture throughout the season to allow only a mediocre crop. Areas in brown and red are more likely to have a poor or failed crop, respectively, a conclusion based only on the water availability. Figure 2 suggests that most areas in the region received enough rainfall to obtain good yields, but it also indicates that parts of Lesotho, southern Angola, Malawi, and Mozambique, Swaziland, southern Zimbabwe and much of Tanzania received insufficient rainfall.
While the WRSI usually captures well those areas that are affected by moisture deficits, it can not pick up those areas that were negatively affected by excess rains which result in flooding, water-logging and leaching of nutrients. An alternative analysis of the water balance models can give an indication of areas that received more rainfall than was required by the crop. Figure 3 shows the areas that received surplus rainfall compared to the water requirements of cereal crops. This represents total seasonal accumulation. The deeper blue the colors on the map are areas receiving surplus water over the growing season. Areas which received significant amounts of surplus water are more likely to have been affected by flooding, soil water-logging and leaching. However, because the model used here does not account for certain hydrological processes, this product should only be interpreted as a very general guide. Overall, Figure 3 suggests that most SADC countries were probably affected by surplus water in at least some of their areas. As a consequence of the good rains experienced during much of the season, pasture is also generally in good condition.
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