Compounding impacts of crippling drought

Lower prices, food insecurity, atypical animal deaths

10 April 2019 | Disasters

Rainfall during southern Africa's 2018/19 wet season started nearly a month late and was characterised by extended dry spells between January and March, and concluded with historically low rainfall totals in many parts of the region.

According to the Southern Africa Food Security Alert for April areas of Botswana, northern Zimbabwe, eastern Namibia, southern Angola, and surplus-producing areas of northern South Africa and southern Zambia registered a D3 (extreme) or D4 (exceptional) drought.

The report says that livestock conditions and agricultural labour opportunities have also been negatively affected by the poor 2018/19 seasonal performance.

Pasture conditions and water availability for livestock are below average in many areas, including parts of Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia, Angola, Zambia and Botswana, where drought-related livestock diseases and deaths have already been reported. According to the report, livestock body conditions are unlikely to improve in drought-affected areas until the start of the 2019/20 rainy season, driving lower livestock prices through much of 2019, and atypically high livestock deaths are possible. It says that overall, poor households are expected to have below-average income through to at least late 2019 when agricultural labour for the 2019/20 season will be available and the next rainy season drives livestock improvements.

As a result, atypically high levels of acute food insecurity are anticipated across the region, with the highest concern in Zimbabwe, central and southern Mozambique, southern Zambia, and parts of Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Angola.

Additionally, it is anticipated that the 2019/20 lean season will start atypically early in August and needs will be highest at the peak of the lean season in early 2020.

The report says that humanitarian actors and national governments should plan for higher than normal food assistance and livelihood support needs through to at least early 2020.

Despite expected below-average 2019 maize production, it is expected that regional maize supply during the 2019/20 marketing year will still be average due largely to carryover stocks from last year's bumper harvest in South Africa.

Currently, maize grain prices are trending near or slightly above the five-year average across the region and this trend is expected to continue in most areas, and prices are not anticipated to reach the high levels observed in 2016.

However, maize prices are expected to be well above average in drought-affected areas with localised supply deficits in flood-affected areas of Mozambique, and in Zimbabwe, where both drought and macroeconomic issues are of concern.

The report says that should Tanzania and Zambia restrict grain exports to structurally-deficit neighbouring countries in an effort to protect their domestic supplies, maize grain availability will be lower than normal in the Democratic Republic of Congo's Haut Katanga province, Lesotho, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique.