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Zimbabwe's Perennial Grain Deficit Areas Facing Food Crisis

FILE: Most crops have wilted in Zimbabwe due to moisture stress. (Photo: Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi)
FILE: Most crops have wilted in Zimbabwe due to moisture stress. (Photo: Butholezwe Kgosi Nyathi)

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) says crops that survived the extended dry spells in December and January show evidence of reduced yield potential in most areas despite widespread rains in February and March in most parts of Zimbabwe.

In its latest report on Zimbabwe, FEWSNET says persistent rains are also causing leaching and waterlogging in some parts of the country and limited access to top-dressing fertilizers is resulting in nutrient deficiency among other crops.

At the same time, it says consumption of the green harvest has started in some areas and this is improving food diversity, consumption patterns, and incomes, especially among poor households.

“The heavy rains have worsened road conditions in most parts of the country, affecting marketing activities. Maize grain supplies on most markets are decreasing as the marketing season comes to an end. In comparison to January, maize grain prices for February ($0.35/kg) remained stable and were about 15 percent below the five-year average and the February 2017 prices. The 2018-19 tobacco selling season started on 21 March and expectations are that tobacco sales could help ease the acute foreign currency shortages.”

FEWS NET further noted that most typical surplus-producing areas in the north are expected to maintain minimal and stressed food security outcomes due to carry-over stocks from last season, as well as stocks from the 2018 harvests.

“In the typical grain surplus areas, some poor households will face challenges meeting their livelihood protection needs due to poor livelihood options.”

Most southern and other typical deficit areas, says the report, were expected to experience stressed and crisis outcomes in March, and this will extend into April in most areas.

“Most typical grain deficit areas will be stressed between May and June as households consume own-produced stocks from the 2018 harvests, which will marginally improve their food security situation. Between July and September, crisis outcomes are expected across most typical grain deficit districts in the south. In these areas poor households are expected to exhaust their own production food stocks during this period and humanitarian assistance will be required to help households to meet their minimum food needs and protect livelihoods.”

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 34 countries.