July 28, 2003

Improved harvest brings relief but inputs still needed

Food-insecure communities in Mozambique's central and southern provinces could expect some relief in coming months as preliminary crop assessments from the country's second growing season show positive results, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) said in its latest monthly report.

With the main season's harvest completed in March, FEWS NET noted, the focus had shifted to the performance of the second harvesting season, which normally occurs between July and August. "It is still too soon to determine the potential harvest's impact on the food security situation in the coming months, and it is important that there is ongoing monitoring. But preliminary assessments [for the region] show that the standing crop is good so far," FEWS NET country representative Olanda Bata told IRIN. Recent light rains and residual moisture resulting from Cyclone Japhet had created favourable planting conditions, Bata added.

The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that 788,000 people in Mozambique were in immediate need of food assistance until September 2003, with the number of affected people increasing to 949,000 through March 2004, when the next main harvest period begins. The second cropping season accounts for 15 percent to 30 percent of annual household food needs, and also contributes to overall household income, particularly from second-season vegetable sales. But while adverse weather was the main reason for the poor harvest in the south during the 2002/2003 season, the lack of seeds may equally affect the 2003/04 season nationally. "... households in the drought-affected areas are likely to have less seed available this year, both because their production was low last year, and because they needed to plant fields more than once where crops have failed due to poor weather conditions. As the main planting season approaches, sufficient seeds and inputs are critical for the recovery of affected households," the report said.

Bata noted that 43 input trade fairs in Maputo, Gaza and Inhambane provinces were held to respond to the seed needs in drought-affected areas. However, funds to organise fairs in the semi-arid areas of the central region have not been secured yet. "Aid agencies and NGOs have held discussions on how to address the seeds shortages and we expect a response shortly," she said. Meanwhile, WFP has warned of a break in the food aid pipeline in Mozambique if the cash resources needed to procure food either locally or regionally are not immediately confirmed. (IRIN)


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