The poor harvest caused by severe dry spells in early 2018 continue to affect many areas across the region as poor households have little to no food stocks, below-average incomes, and depend on market purchases for food. Significant areas of Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mozambique, and Zimbabwe are anticipated to experience Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes through January 2019. Similar outcomes are also likely in poor households in areas of Ituri, Kassai and Tanganyika Provinces in DRC, where livelihoods are being disrupted by conflict. The rest of the region is anticipated to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through January 2019.
Regional staple food supplies remain stable; however, prices show mixed trends. In Chokwe, Mozambique and Lesotho market prices increased from September to October due to increased demand as most household maize stocks are depleted and they are relying on markets for food. In Zimbabwe, maize grain prices increased by 31 percent compared to the same time last year mainly due to macroeconomic challenges. Poor households will likely have restricted food access, if staple food prices continue to increase. In Malawi, maize grain prices stabilized following government maize grain distribution in October.
The start of the season has been noted in a few areas of South Africa, central Madagascar, Angola, DRC, and northern Zambia. As a result, households started planting in the central highlands and western areas of Madagascar and parts of DRC, although conflict constrains planting across areas of DRC. South Africa’s productive maize grain areas and parts of Lesotho, Angola, Zambia, and Eswatini (Swaziland) are currently experiencing abnormal dryness and above-average temperatures, potentially affecting planting activities and crops. Short term rainfall forecasts indicate dryness could continue and potentially expand.
The latest forecast indicates the highest probability is for below-average seasonal rainfall in most areas, driven in part by the forecast of a weak El Niño event during the 2018/19 rainfall season. It is important to note there is a wide range of possibilities due to uncertainty associated with the weak El Niño. The forecast rainfall conditions could negatively affect agriculture related labor incomes and production for the 2018/19 agriculture season. The season is being closely monitored by FEWS NET as it develops across the region.