Delayed planting and poor crop conditions due to lack of access to inputs and severe dryness

Here is the latest price bulletin for Malawi by FEWS NET. Allow me to drive your attention to these important messages;

  • Across most of the country, the El Niño has resulted in a delayed start, poorly distributed rains, and prolonged dry conditions which have led to delayed planting and poor crop development. These poor cropping conditions have resulted in permanent wilting in districts in central and southern Malawi. As a result, this will substantially reduce household access to green crops for consumption and harvest prospects. The lean period will also extend into April instead of March.
  • Nearly 40 percent of farmers have not received access to subsidized seeds and fertilizer through this year’s Farm Input Subsidy Program (FISP) because of delays. Since it is mid-way into the cropping season, farmers without access to this program have planted recycled seeds with little to no access to fertilizer. Without these inputs, production prospects for the 2015/16 season are likely to be reduced.
  • Assistance programming in the form of cash and in-kind food transfers will end for 2.8 million food insecure people in February due to funding gaps and a pipeline break. Since a later than normal harvest is expected in May and a smaller than expected green harvest is expected in April, households will face livelihood protection deficits and food gaps for approximately two months, resulting in Stressed and Crisis acute food insecurity outcomes from March.
  • In December, food prices increased to as much as MWK 190/kg in monitored markets. FEWS NET assessments in mid-January found that maize prices have increased to levels above MWK 200/kg in some markets. These prices are well above the five-year average and 2-3 times higher than last year’s prices during the same December-January period.

“Dryness due to El Niño may prolong lean season and deteriorate food security outcomes”-FEWSNET


Continuing with our series on El Nino and Agriculture, FEWSNET has just released the following report which discusses the issue and its impact in Mozambique.

Here are key messages from the report;

  • Mid-season dryness during the 2015 growing season in areas of the south led to reduced crop yields and crop failure, as well as significant water shortages for human and livestock use. The combination of these shocks and the current slow start of the season has worsened food security outcomes for poor households in parts of Gaza, Inhambane, Sofala, and Niassa Provinces, who are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes at least until 2016 staple harvests.
  • The ongoing El Niño has led to a delayed onset of rains in much of central and southern Mozambique, by up to 40 days. Erratic rainfall has also affected planting, and has damaged crops planted with typical timing. The El Niño will likely suppress rainfall in southern and central Mozambique throughout the rain season ending in March/April 2016.
  • Although maize grain prices were 60 to 70 percent above the five-year average in most monitored markets in November, the prices of some marketed food substitutes such as cassava, maize meal, and rice remain closer to the five-year average and last year.

In a related development, the President of Malawi has requested Malawians to brace themselves for impacts of El Nino as livelihoods may be heavily affected.

A similar report for Malawi says that

Seasonal progress across most of the country [Malawi] 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.

Happy new year!

Worst El Nino Ever?

As per my promise in my last blog post to bring you updates on El Nino, I have yet another heartening piece of information to share with you. The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has said that this year’s El Nino is reaching the levels it did in December of 1997, the worst El Nino in recent history, and that it will get even worse in 2016.

According to NBC News;

A new satellite image of the weather system “bears a striking resemblance to one from December 1997” — the worst El Niño on record — which was blamed for extreme weather, including record rainfall in California and Peru, heat waves across Australia, and fires in Indonesia. The severe conditions resulted in an estimated 23,000 deaths in 1997 and 1998.

NASA says that the El Niño currently wreaking havoc around the world is forecast to only worsen in 2016!

This should tell us how serious a challenge our global food system is facing. Already, Oxfam International has warned that

The El Niño weather system could leave tens of millions of people facing hunger, water shortages and disease next year if early action isn’t taken to prepare vulnerable people from its effects,”

In Ethiopia, for example, the government estimates 10.2 million people will need humanitarian assistance next year due to a drought exacerbated by El Niño, Oxfam said. In Malawi, 2.8 million people are estimated to experience food shortages before March

As I said in my last post, there is an imminent need for world governments to take seriously the risks that El Nino pose and prepare for the impacts that it’s going to have on households. This is even more imminent for governments in Sub-Saharan Africa where the people are already pressed with decreasing real household incomes and low agricultural productivity.

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Agricultural impacts of El Nino in Sub Saharan Africa


I would have loved to write a good analysis of how El Nino will affect the global agricultural system. Luckily (for me), such analyses has already been conducted. What is remaining is for countries, especially those that are going to be directly affected, to work out plans on how they will respond to this calamity.

In my country Malawi, for example, I do no see any serious deliberate actions from the government, households as well the firms in preparations for effects of El Nino despite early warnings of severe famine from the same. I pray that other countries have plans on how they will deal with these climatic event. Continue reading Agricultural impacts of El Nino in Sub Saharan Africa