The risks posed by normal to below normal rainfall this farming season demand for urgent contingency plans to mitigate against high levels of food insecurity, says the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute (IAPRI).

According to data compiled by IAPRI in its September Food Security Report released, Monday, IAPRI cautioned that farmers need to be aware of the risks posed by the normal to below normal rainfall pattern that is expected to envelope vast swathes of the country.

This follows a medium-term weather forecast released by the Zambia Meteorological Department, which reveals that rainfall for November and December this year will be normal to below normal in at least nine provinces of the country, with a likelihood of late onset of rains, likely to happen in late November over most parts of the country.

Normal to above normal rainfall pattern is not expected until the first two months of the New Year, data shows.

“The likelihood of having normal rainfall offers a break for normal agricultural production, whereas risks are eminent with below-average rainfall. Among these risks include: false rain starts and dry spells, limited availability of water – consequently poor pastures for livestock and high temperatures – causing crop, and livestock stress,” IAPRI stated in its Food Security Report.

“Risks posed by possible below-average rainfall demand alertness and contingency strategies. To begin with, timely access to agricultural inputs is vital, good agricultural practices, such as crop diversification and other fitting climate-smart agricultural practices should be encouraged as well as the adoption of different crop varieties – early to late maturity, and drought tolerant varieties.”

IAPRI, the agro-focused think-tank and agricultural policy research and outreach institute, emphasized the need to re-distribute food from surplus to deficit areas to alleviate food insecurity risks.

According to IAPRI data, the food security situation is projected to deteriorate in 19 districts with an estimated 954,199 people affected during the “hunger period”, which typically occurs between this month and next March.

“With the current mixed food security situation in selected districts, there is a need for an effective food distribution system from the surplus to the deficit areas. To facilitate this, improvement in infrastructure, such as roads within and between the surplus and deficit areas remains vital,” stated IAPRI.

“In areas where food insecurity is highly likely to occur going into the lean period as identified by the (Southern African Development Community [SADC] Regional) vulnerability assessment, food security monitoring activities will be essential.”