Inclement weather, high maize prices mean more than 1.5 million people require food aid in Zambia

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Young corn crop sprouting through the earth in a village in Livingstone, Zambia. (Photo by: Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image)
Young corn crop sprouting through the earth in a village in Livingstone, Zambia. (Photo by: Edwin Remsberg/VW PICS/UIG via Getty Image)
  • More than 1.58 million people are in need of food aid relief.
  • China donated maize to cater for just under 50 000 households.
  • Climate change is the biggest factor affecting food security.

About 1.58 million people in Zambia will require food aid during the lean season, the period between planting and harvesting, despite a good harvest in 2021.

Aid agencies operating in Zambia attribute the urgent humanitarian crisis to relatively high maize prices, flooding and pests from the last rainy season.

"Flooding, high maize prices, and pests drive the country's acute food insecurity despite a good harvest. The highly food insecure population requires urgent humanitarian assistance to reduce food gaps, protect and restore livelihoods and prevent acute malnutrition. The situation has particularly deteriorated in the Western province," said a report by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC).

The lean season started at the end of October and stretches to March next year.

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As such, more people are now food insecure compared to September when it was estimated that 1.18 million needed relief aid.

The figure was likely to increase if there's no intervention by aid organisations.

"The most affected provinces are Luapula, Lusaka, North-Western, Northern, Southern and Western provinces," said Reliefweb, a humanitarian information portal.

Last week, China donated 3 099 tons of maize to be distributed to assist 49 406 households from 18 districts.

In October, Zambia's Food Reserve Agency (RFA), government's food security arm, reduced exports to Zimbabwe by 42 percent.

Zimbabwe accounted for 74% of Zambia's maize exports as of July this year.

The reduction is an attempt to boost national reserves.

But while the annual inflation rate slowed down in October, food inflation continued rising.

READ | Southern African countries facing serious heatwave

As such, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) noted with concern that, "vulnerability in Zambia is characterised by a high incidence of poverty".

Coming into power over 100 days ago, President Hakainde Hichilema vowed that tackling poverty was a top priority for his administration.

But civil society in Zambia, while seeing positives, argued that food prices were relatively high, contributing to food insecurity for many.

Last week, agriculture minister Rueben Phiri assured Zambians that the price of maize, the staple crop, would be stable going forward.


According to the World Food Programme's (WFP) food security brief, maize prices were above the five-year average and 2020 levels.

Like all countries in southern Africa, Zambia's biggest challenge was climate change.

Effects from the 2019 drought, the worst since 1981, are still felt.

The WFP said a good rainy season was expected but, "flooding is a threat in the Barotse Floodplain and Kafue Flats".

The Barotse Floodplain is one of the world's recognised wetlands. It usually experienced floods after the rainy season, usually peaking in April.

It is home to about 250 000 people whose livelihoods are threatened.

- The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.  

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