Erratic start of the 2019/20 rainfall season will likely affect crop production and agriculture labor
Despite ongoing large-scale humanitarian assistance in areas of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and southern Madagascar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are present in many areas of the region. This is due to the poor 2019 harvest, significantly above average market prices, conflict, specifically in the DRC, and a volatile macro economy in Zimbabwe. In areas of Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and southern Madagascar where humanitarian food assistance is ongoing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are present. These outcomes are expected to persist through at least the 2020 harvest.
Generally, the 2019/20 season started with near average rainfall totals, although rainfall was erratic. However, in Lesotho, early-season rainfall deficits have been observed. Due to the erratic start of the season and in some areas, specifically Zimbabwe and Mozambique, households are facing difficulty accessing agriculture inputs. As a result, land preparation and planting activities are below average. Additionally, in conflict affected areas of DRC, households are facing difficulty engaging in normal agriculture activities. The erratic rainfall in areas of the region is also leading to a slow regeneration of pasture conditions in these areas.
Market supply in Zimbabwe, parts of Mozambique and DRC, and southern Malawi remain below average and in some cases limited. This coupled with increased market demand due to below average household food stocks has resulted in significantly above average food prices across most of the region. Mozambique maize grain prices are 50 percent above the five-year average. In Malawi and Zimbabwe significantly above average staple prices have also been reported. The highest staple prices are expected from January through March 2020, which is the peak lean season for most areas of Southern Africa and will likely affect household access to staple foods.
Agriculture related income sources for poor households are likely to be affected by the slow start of the season and below average forecast in most countries. This will impact household purchasing power as most households are relying on market foods for consumption. Additionally, as the production prospects are for a second below average season in some areas of the region, harvesting labor opportunities are also likely to be below average.