- Cereal production in Zambia in 2003 shows substantial recovery from the drought affected previous year. Production of maize, the country's main staple crop, is estimated at about 1.16 million tonnes, almost double the output of 2002 season (602 000 tonnes) and about 28 percent above the average of the last five years.
- Main factors responsible for maize and other staple crop production recovery are: more favourable rainfall over much of the country, highly effective fertilizer distribution programme by the Government (with 50 percent subsidy) and the combined effort of various national and international NGOs and the Government in providing seeds of various crops.
- Maize production in Southern province has revived from last year's very low level to a more normal level of about 210 000 tonnes achieved in 2001.
- There are, however, localised pockets of poor harvest due to erratic rainfall or flooding. Households in these areas, particularly in eight districts in Southern Province, will require both food and seed assistance. Nutrition-focussed interventions for those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS will also benecessary.
An FAO/WFP Crop and Food Supply Assessment Mission visited the country from 21 April to 10 May to assess and forecast the 2003 crop harvest and estimate cereal import requirements for the 2003/04 marketing year (May/April), including food aid needs.
The Mission was assisted by the staff of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) at the national, provincial and district levels and in the field in information gathering. The Mission benefited from the active participation of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Zambia's Programme Against Malnutrition (PAM) and consultations with other stakeholders such as the Famine Early Warning System (FEWSNet), USAID, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and national and international NGOs such as CARE, CRS, CLUSA, the Food Security Research Project, Zambia National Farmers' Union, National AIDS Council, Omnia Fertilizer Zambia Ltd., Millers' Association and CHC Commodities among others.
Organized into five teams, the Mission visited 46 of the 73 districts in the country and interviewed government officials at various levels, community leaders, farmers, traders and other key informants, and observed standing crops in fields and harvested crops in stores to assess crop yields. The Mission also used high-resolution SPOT-4 satellite images to verify rainfall and vegetation conditions in 2002/03 compared to previous years. Secondary data from various sources were cross-checked with information collected from the field.
This year's staple crop production (cereals, cassava and sweet potatoes) of 1.57 million tonnes in cereal equivalent is markedly better than the 1.03 million tonnes during 2001/02, due mainly to a generally favourable rainfall regime and enhanced and timely availability of inputs. The season was also relatively free from crop pests and diseases. The maize harvest is forecast at 28 percent above the average of the last five years. Other crops also benefited from input programmes, notably cassava and sweet potato, for which the Government and a number of NGOs provided planting material.
Although crop production was generally satisfactory in the country as a whole, there are areas where, either because of rainfall anomalies or difficulty of access to inputs, production will be very low. Some farmers suffered partial or complete crop failure resulting from localised dry spells, while others lost crops to flooding following heavy rains towards the end of the season. For instance, last year, Southern Province performed very poorly, mainly because of drought. This year the situation is considerably better, but there are still areas that have performed even worse than last year, with occasional reports of total crop failure.
While the food situation this year is satisfactory, chronic poverty in both rural and urban areas of Zambia makes access to adequate food extremely difficult. The focus of assistance should, therefore, depart from emergency relief to development. WFP's Food-for-Work (FFW) programmes for 2003/04 will include the creation and preservation of assets such as water control and harvesting infrastructure, natural resource conservation, skills upgrading in conservation farming, basic environmental and sanitary works, aquaculture, horticulture and fish farming promotion, and HIV/AIDS and gender awareness. Thus, food aid will be used primarily as an incentive for targeted households to invest time and resources in asset creation and rehabilitation. During the October-March lean season, WFP assistance will contribute to meeting minimum daily energy requirements.
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