FEWS Tanzania Food Security Report 16 Dec 2002

The November food security situation was satisfactory, and, in most markets, wholesale nominal maize prices were below the five-year average, except in those in the southern highlands (Iringa, Mbeya and Sumbawanga). The November maize prices were in most markets above the November 2001 prices and were stable compared to last month. High prices in the southern highlands are attributed to the ongoing maize exports to southern Africa where there is active demand for maize.

In October, the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) highlighted 22 districts likely to experience food shortages in the 2002-03 market year. In response to this, the Food Security Information Team (FSIT) conducted a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) in November to look in more detail at 15 of the 22 districts. It established that three districts were food secure, nine require subsidized food supplies and eight districts lack sufficient seed for the next planting season.

Vuli rains in most of the northern sector of Tanzania were satisfactory with the exception of some areas along the northern coast and in the hinterlands. The seasonal rains were also good in the western central and southwestern highlands but started at a slow pace in the southern regions where they are now picking up.

1. Current Food Security Overview

The national food security situation in November was satisfactory. In most of the unimodal areas, farmers still have considerable stocks of grain as well as root crops in their fields. In the bimodal areas (like Kagera), the vuli season harvest has either just begun, or is expected to start soon.

Compared to October prices, November maize prices (nominal wholesale), were stable in most urban markets. (See Figure 1). However, prices increased modestly in Iringa (3 percent), Shinyanga (5 percent) and Arusha (4 percent), while a 9 percent drop in wholesale prices was recorded in Morogoro. The reasonable stability of wholesale maize prices suggests that access to maize for most market-dependent households was adequate.

In comparing November 2002 to the five-year (1997-2001) average, it appears wholesale maize prices were lower on most markets, except in the Southern Highlands (Iringa and Sumbawanga), where they were higher by between 17 and 61 percent. In Mbeya, on the other hand, which is also in the Southern Highlands, November prices were lower than in 2001 but higher than the five-year average. This price increase can be explained, in part, by heavy demand from other parts of southern Africa, with which the Southern Highlands is an active trading partner.

Farmers and traders in the Southern Highlands are likely to have benefited from the higher prices, which have been generated by food shortages in other parts of southern Africa.

2. The Rapid Vulnerability Assessment

In November, the Food Security Information Team (FSIT) conducted a Rapid Vulnerability Assessment (RVA) in 15 out of 22 districts, which the Crop Monitoring and Early Warning Unit in the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security (MAFS) had pointed out in October as being likely to experience food shortages during the 2002-03 market year. The assessed districts include the following:

  • Monduli, Kiteto and Simanjiro (Arusha Region);
  • Mwanga, Same and Rombo (Kilimanjaro Region);
  • Korogwe, Muheza, and Lushoto (Tanga Region);
  • Magu (Mwanza Region);
  • Sikonge (Tabora Region);
  • Liwale (Lindi Region);
  • Masasi (Mtwara Region); and
  • Iringa Rural and Kilolo (Iringa Region).

The assessment established that the districts of Kiteto, Iringa Rural and Kilolo have sufficient food supplies and that the few existing pockets of deficits could be covered through local redistribution. Most households were considered able to afford food from local markets. As such, no interventions were recommended for these districts. It was noted that crops were growing well in the districts of Magu and Rombo, which receive vuli season rains and Sikonge, which receives long rains. Since harvesting of food crops in these districts is expected to start in January/February, the assessment team recommended that performance of these crops continue to be monitored closely. If performance is inadequate, subsidized food supplies should be mobilized urgently for distribution to about 193,300 people. Subsidized food supplies have been recommended for nine districts, including Monduli, Simanjiro, Mwanga, Same, Korogwe, Lushoto, Muheza, Masasi, and Liwale. Distribution of subsidized food supplies is proposed for three to four months starting from January 2003. A total of 7,215 MT of grain has been recommended to target around 177,000 persons in the 9 districts (see Table 1). Free food distribution was not recommended, because the problem is not that people lack cash to purchase food, but rather that food is not readily available nor affordable in local markets.

Table 1: Proposed distribution of subsidized food supplies from January to March/April, 2002

Figure 1 summarizes the proposed interventions.

Seed aid was also recommended for about 33,700 households in the eight districts, of Monduli, Simanjiro, Mwanga, Same, Korogwe, Muheza, Lushoto and Magu. The justification for this recommendation is that, in these areas, the rains have been poor for five consecutive years, and it was established that some households have no recycled seed and they are likely to prioritize food purchases over seed purchases with any cash they have. The proposed distribution of seed aid is shown in table 2.

Table 2: Proposed seed aid and distribution

3. Rainfall and Vegetation

The Tanzania Meteorology Agency (TMA) reports that the vuli season rains performed satisfactorily over the northern sector of the country, in areas including Lake Victoria Basin (Kagera, Mwanza and Mara regions) and the northeastern highlands (Arusha and Kilimanjaro). However, prolonged dry spells have been dominant in some areas of the northern coast and hinterlands.

Generally, the seasonal rains over the western (Kigoma and Tabora regions), central (Singida and Dodoma) and the southwestern highlands have also performed well. In the southern regions (Ruvuma, Mtwara and Lindi), rains started at a slow pace and have been gradually picking up. This information released by the TMA is largely in agreement with the satellite images presented in figure 2 for the period September 1 through December 10. The rains were sufficient to support crop growth in the bimodal rainfall areas.

Field reports and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) satellite images for the dekad of December 1-10 indicate that, like last month, vegetation conditions were very light to semi-arid in most parts of central Tanzania and light to medium in both the coastal belt and western parts (see Figure 3). Compared to the long-term average, vegetation conditions in most of the key agro-pastoral areas in the Lake Victoria basin and central Tanzania as well as pastoral areas in northern Tanzania were below normal to much below normal.

Even though the current conditions are sufficient to sustain both water and pasture for livestock, most analysts would expect better vegetation conditions at this time of year.

4. Food Security Outlook for the Coming 6 Months

Although we can expect localized food deficits in certain districts, in particular those indicated by the RVA, the more general national food security situation is expected to remain good over the coming six months when harvesting of the new long rains crops will start. For the food deficit households identified by the RVA, it is expected that the government of Tanzania will respond positively and make available the proposed subsidized food supplies, which can be procured locally, as the general food situation is still good.

Food security conditions for pastoralists are also expected to improve as a result of the ongoing short rains which are increasing pasture, browse and water availability, and thus improving livestock growth, health and reproduction.