In recent years, the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI) has been at the forefront of providing updates on the Zambia Food Security Status of the country on a regular basis. The objective of the assessment of the Food Security Situation is to describe the food security situation and identify specific food security issues that may be of concern to stakeholders and propose interventions using the best available facts and analysis. On 26th August, 2020, IAPRI held a Food Security Update Meeting (Virtual) for the months of April to June 2020.
The meeting was well attended and represented with participants from various sectors of society including farmers, millers, processors, the government, cooperating partners and the media. IAPRI made a single presentation through Dr. Brian Mulenga, an IAPRI Research Fellow. Mr Chance Kabaghe, the Executive Director of IAPRI, in his welcoming remarks, pointed out the value of assessing the food security situation in the country as well as the importance of using empirical evidence. He welcomed all the delegates and requested them to feel free in interrogating and discussing the presentation.
In his presentation on the Current Food Security, Dr. Mulenga said that the 2019/2020 season weather was favourable for most parts of the country and would likely lead to increased production of maize and food and non-food crops. He indicated that the northern region of the country was hit by floods during March and April. He was then quick to mention that there was going to be a general improvement in the food security situation in the country compared to last year, regardless.
Dr. Mulenga also reported the improved food security situation in previously drought affected areas such as Shangombo, Sioma, Kazungula, Monze and Gweembe. He then stated that most areas around the country experienced improved harvest of maize and other food and non-food crops. Early harvests were also reported in most areas to bridge the supply gap from the previous season. He noted that water points for livestock had been recharged and pasture had improved owing to good rains. There was also containment of the Food and Mouth Disease and easing of livestock movement restrictions which had resulted in improved income opportunities for the local communities, Dr. Mulenga added.
Notable take away message from Dr Mulenga’s presentation include the following:
- At national level, the food security situation remained favourable, with most parts of the country expecting increased output for a variety of crops.
- Owing to considerable increase in crop production this season, prices for staple food commodities had started to retreat from the upward trends observed much of 2019.
- Despite continued maize export ban, informal cross border trade was taking place and expected to intensify.
- As COVID-19 raged on, food systems were likely to experience more disruptions, compromising current and future food security.
Based on this, he proceeded to make recommendations to address the food security situation, which included:
- To help stabilize staple food prices, and ensure urban consumers continue to have access to cheaper maize meal, there was a need to facilitate constant grain supply into informal markets. To achieve this, movement of grain within the country should not be hindered.
- Government should consider opening up borders to facilitate pass through of favorable regional prices to smallholder farmers.
- A need to enhance information availability on the likely and actual impacts of the COVID 19 pandemic to guide timely and evidence-based policy decision making.
After the presentation, a lively discussion followed. Most stakeholders commended IAPRI for the work it was doing with regards providing food security updates as it was critical to policy formulation in the country.
In his closing remarks the Executive Director of IAPRI, Mr Kabaghe, thanked all the delegates for finding time to attend the meeting and assured them that all the discussions from the meeting would be made into outputs that will be shared with the relevant authorities for implementation.