Significant rainfall deficits and high temperatures during the 2020/21 cropping season have negatively impacted cereal crop and pasture conditions in key producing southwestern and central provinces.
Food insecurity in 2021 is expected to deteriorate in the affected areas, particularly in southwestern provinces that experienced poor agricultural seasons in previous years.
After a mostly favourable start of the 2020/21 rainy season, with near-average rainfall amounts in October and November 2020, precipitation levels dropped significantly below average until the end of February 2021 in the key cereal-producing southwestern and central provinces. Despite increased rains in March, the cumulative amount during the 2020/21 rainy season has been more than 30 percent below the long-term average, engendering the worst drought conditions since 1981 (Figure 1).
Maximum temperatures have also been at elevated levels during the season, compounding the effects of rainfall shortages.
The provinces with the largest seasonal rainfall deficits are Namibe, Huila, Huambo and Benguela, which combined produce about half of the national maize output, while millet and sorghum are also important crops in Huila.
In Cunene, where rainfall deficits were also significant, and in Cuando Cubango, there are additional concerns due to an outbreak of African Migratory Locust (AML), which could cause further damage to the already stressed cereal crops and pastures. Remote sensing indices at the end of March indicated highly stressed vegetation conditions in most cropped areas in central and southwestern provinces, with index values below the ten-year minimum, portending to low yields (Figure 2). The situation is slightly better in the central provinces of Bie and Cuanza Sul, which account for about one-third of the national maize output (Bie is also an important rice producer), where rainfall deficits were less significant.
Overall, the drought conditions are forecast to cause a sharp decline in national cereal production in 2021 with a consequent increase in import needs, mostly maize, during the 2021/22 marketing year (April/March). Cereal production, predominantly maize, averaged 2.45 million tonnes between 2016 and 2020 and covered an estimated 60 percent of the national consumption needs. During the same five-year period (2016-2020), imports of cereals averaged 1.4 million tonnes per year, of which wheat accounted for about half, and rice and maize comprised the remaining amount.
The drought has also had a severe adverse effect on the availability and quality of pasture as well as water resources for livestock (Figure 3). Animal body conditions are already worsening and meat and milk production is foreseen to decline. The provinces affected by drought are also important livestock producing areas, with Benguela and Huambo provinces accounting for about one-fifth of the national livestock production.
The expected decline in crop and livestock production is likely to have a substantial negative impact on households’ food security in 2021. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) acute food insecurity assessment indicated that about 560 000 people (two-thirds of the analyzed population) in southern Cuando Cubango, Cunene and Huila provinces required urgent humanitarian assistance in the first quarter of 2020. This figure is slightly higher than the number recorded in 2019, reflecting the impact of weather-driven shortfalls in production and high prices of food staples. The impact of two consecutive poor agricultural seasons due to drought conditions is anticipated to drive up the prevalence and severity of food insecurity in 2021. In particular, cereal supplies are expected to be significantly tight in the province of Namibe, where crop production does not cover households’ consumption needs even in a year with good production levels. The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and mitigation responses are additional factors that are aggravating food insecurity. The national economy contracted by 4 percent in 2020 and is expected to grow by less than 1 percent in 2021, inferring limited recovery in households’ ability to generate incomes and thus weighing on their capacity to purchase sufficient foods.