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WFP/FEWSNET: Food security update - May 2007
May 2007
Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET)


Food security summary 

Preliminary estimates at the end of May indicate that while a number of countries in Southern Africa are expecting good cereal harvests this season, many others are facing below-average harvests as a result of El Nino-induced dry spells in some areas and excessive rains and flooding in other parts.

Food security is generally satisfactory across most of the region where production from the on-going harvest is above average following a good crop-growing season. This includes countries to the north of the sub-region, such as Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Angola, as well as northern Mozambique. In these areas, the current harvest is the second consecutive season of above-average production, food supplies were generally satisfactory throughout the past consumption period and Malawi, Zambia and Tanzania still have significant carryover stocks from the previous marketing year. Staple food prices have remained stable, and are currently lower than at the same time last year and the past five-year average. Despite the positive harvest outlook, concern remains in localized areas of these countries where the season has been characterized by excessive rains that resulted in flooding, loss of crops and disruption of livelihoods.

In the southern part of the sub-region, erratic and inconsistent rains, lengthy dry spells and unusually hot weather have combined to result in below-average harvest estimates in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, southern Mozambique and South Africa. Cereal production has been severely reduced as a result of below-average yields, and preliminary estimates suggest levels of production much below last season and the past five-year average. Consequently, the food security situation, which is currently generally satisfactory on account of the recent harvests, is likely to deteriorate very early on in the consumption year. Although many of the affected areas (except South Africa) are structurally grain deficit, this year's projected deficits are more severe than normal, and will necessitate outside assistance (targeted at the most vulnerable populations) as national governments may not have the capacity to cover the entire import requirement.

In Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe, countries severely affected by the El Nino-related drought, governments requested crop and food supply assessment missions (CFSAMs) from the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme to help ascertain the impact of poor rainfall on agriculture and livelihoods and to suggest necessary interventions (by governments, donors and other partners) for relief and rehabilitation. Results of these assessments have been released in all three countries, and the findings point to the existence of widespread food insecurity; 401,200 and 407,000 people are estimated to require food assistance in Lesotho and Swaziland respectively, while in Zimbabwe, 2.1 million people are expected to face food shortages from July, peaking at 4 .1 million during the hunger season. In addition to the CFSAMs, more detailed food security and vulnerability analysis is being conducted through on-going national vulnerability assessments not only in the three most-affected countries, but also in Malawi, Mozambique and Zambia. Together, these findings will provide information for consideration by decision makers that will inform response strategies aimed at meeting the needs of the vulnerable and food insecure, and results are expected in June and July.

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