- While most of Southern Africa is entering yet another difficult year with drought and poor food security, Zambia reports good rains and successful planting all over the country. Although the rainy season is not over, rainfall has already been "adequate".
According to the last Zambia food security report, released today by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), there has been an "impressive start" on the national agricultural season.
Planting is underway throughout the country. Some parts of Southern Province and Western Provinces received relatively good rains in November, and in Kalomo (Southern Province), maize was reportedly knee high already by end of November. In the northern half of the country, rains started earlier this season than they did last year. In much of the southern half, however, rains began late.
By 20 December, the cumulative rainfall was still below normal for much of Zambia, especially the eastern half. However, "a favourable rainfall situation is expected to continue into January 2004 for many areas including those that are experiencing high rainfall deficits," FEWS noted.
Domestic food availability is still "significantly more ample than at this time last year," meaning that Zambians are not in such a desperate situations as their neighbours, in particular Zimbabweans.
Reports from the Zambian Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives (MACO) indicate that 62 percent of the fertilizer (mostly basal), subsidised at 50 percent - has been delivered to distribution points. There had been "an overwhelming response from farmers," which this year can afford the investment and trust in positive weather conditions.
Zambian authorities are also more confident in the country's agricultural outlook. The export ban on maize and maize meal was lifted already in June 2003 and purchases by the national Food Reserve Agency (FRA) have so far been modest. Maize prices in both deficit and surplus areas have been falling, thus further improving food access and food security.
- Food availability in the country is more ample than it was at this time last year, FEWS concludes. This refers to both government stocks and maize stacks held by individual households.
Although the food security situation in Zambia has improved significantly over the last year, many households remain victimised by the recent drought. The World Food Programme (WFP) today informed it still was feeding 60,000 "vulnerable orphans and children" and 23,000 caretaker households in urban centres, in addition to almost 20,000 Zambian school children.
According to the WFP, Zambia is however well off compared to other countries in Southern Africa. There has been very poor rainfall across much of eastern South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, eastern Zimbabwe and a large portion of central and southern Mozambique, WFP says.
These areas are now experiencing yet another drought, already resulting in "severely degraded pastures, very low stream flows and reservoir levels, and greatly reduced soil moisture content." The region's April-May harvests are set to be very poor.
WFP today says it faces "serious pipeline disruptions that are affecting over 6.5 million people" in the Southern Africa region. "Donations are urgently required in order to prevent continuous disruptions in food distributions at a crucial time" before the harvest, WFP said.
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