Presence Country
Food Security Outlook Update

Poor start of season threatens agricultural labor availability and 2015/16 crop production

December 2015
2015-Q4-3-2-MW-en

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • Currently food insecure populations in 12 districts spanning parts of the southern and northern regions are receiving assistance. Response programming to these areas and an additional 13 districts have enough funding for implementation through February 2016. Assistance originally planned for the month of March 2016 is uncertain due to a remaining 25 percent funding shortfall.

  • Maize and other food prices continue to increase due to the increase in household market demand. Maize staple prices in Karonga and Mzuzu increased by about 15-30 percent between October and December, remaining well above last year and the five-year average. Households in central and northern Malawi that are not receiving humanitarian assistance are experiencing limited food access due to the high prices and lower than normal earnings from agricultural labor.  

  • Seasonal progress across most of the country is poor. Many parts of the country, especially the central region, are experiencing a delayed onset of rains and dryness. In some areas soil moisture is not conducive for planting, and this in turn will continue to limit agriculture labor opportunities and may delay the availability of green foods before the harvest in 2016. According to international forecasts, rainfall between January and March is likely to be below average in southern and central Malawi. 

Current Situation

  • As the lean season continues, food insecure populations in 10 districts in southern Malawi and 2 districts in northern Malawi are currently receiving humanitarian assistance, either in-kind or cash. These areas are mostly experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes in the presence of humanitarian assistance. Households that are not receiving humanitarian assistance are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes due to livelihood protection deficits because of high prices and lower than normal earnings from agricultural labor. In central Malawi a small part of Dedza district has experienced two consecutive dry seasons, so poor households in this areas are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes due to consumption deficits.   
  • By January, humanitarian assistance is expected to be rolled out in the remaining 13 districts in northern and central Malawi. This is expected to fill consumption gaps and most households will be facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes in the presence of assistance from January through March 2016. During this period a few areas in the central region will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
  • So far, ADMARC had already disbursed/sold about 35 percent of its maize supplies. The sustainability of ADMARC supplies during the peak of the lean season (January to March) is uncertain if subsidized sales continue at this rate.
  • Between October and November, informal maize imports from Mozambique and Zambia increased atypically by about 21 percent. Normally, informal imports show a downward trend during this period. These atypically high informal imports are most likely due to Malawi’s maize deficit this marketing year. Nonetheless, these informal imports are not substantial enough to fill the national maize deficit of approximately 360,000 MT.
  • Retail maize prices in Nsanje market in the south increased by about 5 percent between October and December. In contrast, prices in Mzuzu market in the north and Karonga in the central region increased by 13 and 30 percent, respectively (Figure 1). Across the country, maize prices remain significantly higher than last year and the five-year average. The prices of alternative food commodities are also on the rise. With these price trends, it is likely that households in central and northern Malawi that are not receiving humanitarian assistance are experiencing limited food access due to the high prices and lower than normal earnings from agricultural labor.  
  • The rainy season in Malawi has been slow to start, and some areas are delayed by up to 1 month. By late November areas in the south received planting rains. As of the first week of December, most areas in the central region had not yet received significant planting rains. Some areas that had received initial rains are now experiencing hot and dry conditions that are causing moisture stress to planted crops.
  • This delay of the season will likely extend the lean period by about one month, which will lead to delayed access to green crop consumption in March and main harvests in April. These delays will likely extend the period in which food insecure households will require humanitarian assistance. It is also possible that a later than normal harvest will contribute to continue high food prices in March/April, which is usually the period when food prices begin to decline.

Updated Assumptions

Since the October 2015 Food Security Outlook, the majority of the response programming has been funded for the implementation of humanitarian assistance to 2.8 million people in 25 districts through February 2016. Due to the existing 25 percent funding shortfall, assistance originally planned during the month of March is currently uncertain. This change to the October 2015 assumption has changed food security outcomes for 12 districts currently receiving humanitarian assistance and expected to receive it until February 2016. This updated assumption also changes the projected outcomes for the 13 districts expected to receive assistance from January through February.

Projected Outlook through March 2016

Current humanitarian assistance programming is reaching food insecure populations in 12 districts and coverage will expand to an additional 13 districts in January. This assistance will continue to improve food consumption deficits among poor and very poor households through February.

Food insecure populations in 10 districts in the south and 2 districts in the north are currently experiencing Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes, in the presence of assistance. These outcomes are expected to continue through the remainder of the outlook period. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecure populations in 13 districts will begin to experience improved consumption and outcomes once assistance starts in January. Between January and March, the outcomes for populations in these 13 districts will improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) in the presence of assistance.  

Humanitarian assistance is planned for March 2016 for 2.8 million people in 25 districts, but because of the remaining funding gap, implementation during March is uncertain at this time. With the delay of the 2015/16 season and the likelihood of an extended lean season, continued high food prices, low labor availability, and a late harvest, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely after March 2016. 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

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. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.