Lesotho + 6 more

Southern Africa Food Security Update, August 2008

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Situation Report
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- Recently concluded vulnerability assessments indicate that while a majority of households in southern Africa will have adequate food over this consumption season, widespread acute and chronic food insecurity remains a real concern in parts of most countries where these assessments have been conducted. Currently, over 8 million people in seven countries (Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) are at risk of food insecurity between now and March 2009 and require some kind of assistance. Numbers are expected to peak over the November to February hunger season.

- While Mozambique, Zambia, and Malawi produced adequate amounts of cereals to cover domestic needs, pockets of food insecurity exist in localized areas of the countries where the 2007/08 crop growing season was characterized by heavy rains that resulted in flooding, loss of crops, and disruption of livelihoods, followed by an end of season dry spell in February and March. In addition, households in parts of Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia, countries that did not produce enough to cover domestic needs, are already experiencing some degree of food insecurity due to below average harvests as a result of excessive rains and flooding, prolonged dry spells, and an early cessation of rains. In Tanzania, localized food shortages have prompted the VAC to plan for a rapid assessment in August to ascertain numbers of those who may require emergency assistance until the next harvests in April 2009.

- Zimbabwe faces the highest and most severe levels of food insecurity largely in the region as a result of adverse crop growing conditions in the 2007/08 cropping season and the country's continuing economic decline. A joint FAO/WFP crop and food supply assessment mission (CFSAM) in May estimated that 2 million people will be food insecure from July through September 2008 in both urban a rural areas. This number is expected to peak at about 5.1 from January to March 2009. The results of the ongoing VAC food security assessments will inform updated estimates.

- Apart from the impacts of shocks such as floods, droughts, and early cessation of rains, the VAC assessments have underscored that many of the region's households have become increasingly vulnerable to food insecurity and their livelihoods more fragile following multi-year shocks, erosion of their asset base, and deepening poverty levels due to general decline in national economic growth. This has increased the numbers of chronically food insecure and those "at risk" of food insecurity from one consumption year to the next.

- The regional cereal balance indicates an exportable maize surplus that is sufficient to cover the projected shortfalls in the region's deficit countries, which include Zimbabwe, South Africa's SACU partners (Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, and Swaziland), and Tanzania. Most of these countries will be looking to South Africa for the majority of their import requirements. At the current level (about 2.6 million MT); South Africa's exportable surplus could fully cover the region's import requirements.