Mozambique Food Security Update, May 2005


While national maize production this season was more than 10% above the five-year average, poor households in drought affected areas of southern and central Mozambique will face food shortages over the next 2-3 months, as a result of very poor production in these areas. Poor households, mainly the elderly living with orphans, widows and female-headed households, have limited labor opportunities and livelihood strategies. This group in particular requires urgent food and water interventions to prevent further deterioration of their food security.

The Vulnerability Assessment Group (GAV) and the WFP/FAO Crop Food Supply Assessment Mission (CFSAM) have completed their field work in surplus and deficit districts in Mozambique's ten provinces. Reports from both groups, outlining the magnitude of necessary emergency interventions in food, water and health, will be released by mid June.



- Compared to the recent five-year average, maize production in the Limpopo Basin of Gaza and Inhambane provinces declined by 50% in the lower Limpopo livelihood zone, 48% in the upper Limpopo and 57% in the semi-arid interior.

- Dryness and unusually high temperatures in the southern provinces are affecting second season planting.

- Across the drought affected areas in the south and central, water is scarce, and much of what is available is unfit for human consumption.


Although food security at the household level normally improves at this time of year, in most of Gaza and Inhambane provinces and parts of Maputo, Manica and Tete provinces, poor households are at a very high risk of food insecurity over the next 2-3 months, because of: (1) very low production this year, due to drought (2) limited income-generating opportunities, which normally include informal labor (ganho-ganho) and the sale of goats, chickens, charcoal and alcohol; (3) limited ability to continue depending on coping mechanisms, such as markets purchase and reduction in the number of meals; (4) likely maize prices increases in the near future due to limited supply (in normal years the prices tend to increase just before the beginning of the lean season); (5) uncertain prospects for second season cropping due to unusually high temperatures and dryness, and (6) a limited supply and poor quality of water for human consumption. Poorer households are responding to the drought by employing a variety of coping mechanisms and livelihood strategies, but these cannot be relied upon indefinitely, and some income sources, such as the brewing and sale of seasonal alcoholic beverages, ganho-ganho, and sale of chickens can not be depended upon after August. The most vulnerable poor households (mainly elderly living with orphans, widows and female-headed households) are already food insecure in the remote areas. These households are the least productive and have limited options for labor.

Food is currently available in most of the drought affected zones, but because of crop failure, poor households are already relying heavily on the market purchases and gifts for food. In the semi-arid interior zone and remote areas of Gaza and Inhambane, poorer households also rely on labor exchange for food. The middle and upper income households who have carry-over stocks from the 2003/04 season can rely on their own food stocks until the beginning of the lean season in October. Where cassava is grown, it is often the main source of food. However, yields may be below normal because in order to meet immediate food needs, the tubers have been harvested before they became fully mature.

Maize prices in Chókwe market, a reference for the Upper and Lower Limpopo livelihood zones, have risen by more than 70% since January. If prices continue to rise, poor and middle income households will face food access problems. However, prices of other food commodities are stabilizing due to the supply from the central and northern productive areas. Field information suggests that the poor households in the upper and lower Limpopo zones will be able to purchase food with income generated by livestock sales. Livestock sales are again a significant source of income, after a hiatus in previous years when a livestock ban due to Foot and Mouth Disease was in effect, and livestock movement was restricted. Households also generate income from the sale of cashew nuts, charcoal, firewood and alcoholic beverages, as well as through remittances and ganho-ganho.

In drought-affected areas, there is no evidence of acute malnutrition, although the nutritional surveillance posts indicates an increasing number of children less than five years of age with growth faltering and low birth weight.

Normally at this time of the year, in places where the second season is possible, beans, maize and vegetables are planted, as for instance in the Upper Limpopo livelihood zone. However because of very low soil moisture, second season planting has been limited. In the Lower Limpopo, planting has been concentrated in irrigated fields, although recent rains have prompted additional planting in other areas. The success of the new plantings depends on the additional moisture. In the interior zone of Gaza and Inhambane, where lowlands are scarce, the cropping is limited to one season.


Compared to the last cropping season, The final crop estimates this season indicate a 4% reduction of cereal production from the previous season (1,899,386 MT), but a 9% increase compared to the average, (1,747,896 MT). Production of pulses and cassava is slightly above last year's production, at 2% and 3%, respectively.

Maize production

In Niassa and Nampula and to a lesser extent in Cabo Delgado, the maize production this year has increased compared to the previous seasons. In Gaza, the maize production this year is nearly half of what was in 2003/04. The overall maize crop production this season is above average in central and northern provinces and below average in the southern provinces of the Inhambane and Gaza. In Maputo, production both this season and last season is very close to average.

Figure 1. Maize crop production (MT), 2004/05 compared to previous year and average.

Regionally, the estimates indicated that production in the northern region has increased by 10% for cereals, 9% for pulses and 3% for cassava. In the central region, cereal production declined by 10% compared to last year, while cassava production increased 4% and pulses by 6%. The biggest reduction in overall cereal and pulses production, by 31% and 19%, respectively, was in the southern region.

Maize production in the Limpopo Basin

Throughout the Limpopo Basin, maize production has declined considerably from the average (Figure 2). Maize production was the highest (and closest to the average) in the Coastal Livelihood Zone. Maize production usually contributes about 40% to overall crop production, and cassava, sweet potato, and other crops contribute the remaining 60%.

Figure 2. Maize production by livelihood zone compared to the average and reference year (in MT)

In the Lower Limpopo, maize is still an important crop even in drought years. This year, production is only 50 % of the average (in severe drought years, production can fall to as low as 25% of the average).

In the Semi-arid Interior, maize is the most important crop, and this year, production declined by about 60%.

In the Upper Limpopo, maize production is about 50% of the average. In a typical year, households produce a surplus maize crop, and in a severe drought year, production can decline by as much as 90% of the average.

Crop losses do not necessarily imply food deficits, and in most cases, the food security at the household level depends on the household's ability to generate income and purchase food. In the Coastal and Lower Limpopo zones, due to good market access and labor opportunities, only the poorest households are likely to face food deficits (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Livelihood Zones in The Limpopo Basin

However, in Upper Limpopo and Semi-arid Interior zones, where households have limited income options and are heavily dependent on maize production, the poor and middle income households may face food deficits.


At this time of the year, when the supply of newly harvested crops enters markets, prices tend to decline. Following normal trends, maize prices in Beira, Nampula and Xai-Xai have been decreasing. In Maputo, prices are also declining, albeit at a much lower rate (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Maize prices from Jan to April 2005 in various markets

In Chókwe, however, maize prices have been rising since January. This indicates that the demand of maize in this market is high, because of very poor production in this area and surrounding areas this year. Both Chókwe and Maxixe markets serve the most drought affected areas of the lower and upper Limpopo and interior zones. While poor and middles income groups depend on market purchases to meet food needs, rising prices will undermine their ability to meet their food needs.