- The drought-related shortfall of food production in central parts of Tanzania has not been counteracted by sufficient food aid. Consequently, the region now increasingly is suffering from food insecurity and staple food prices are rapidly rising.
According to a study made by the US agency Famine Early Warning Systems (FEWS), food security in the Dodoma and Singida Regions in central Tanzania is now continuously worsening. An assessment had predicted this development already in July last year. While last year's study foresaw that approximately 200,000 people in this area would run short of food before the next harvest, it is now clear that "many more households have already run out of food stocks," the FEWS study says.
The central regions of Tanzania are not typically surplus areas, so it is common for households in this area, especially the poorer ones, to run out of their own food stocks before the beginning of the next harvest (April/May).
In January of a typical year, however, most households are usually still able to meet food needs from their stocks and are busy cultivating their fields. When the harvest nears and stocks run out, they turn to the market, selling livestock or labour to earn the cash necessary to buy food.
This year, FEWS however warns, "stocks have run out early, and market options are limited." In particular, the terms of trade between livestock and cereals have deteriorated, the US agency noted. Maize prices have increased due to shortages, and livestock prices have fallen due to poor livestock condition and livestock keepers' declining powers to negotiate as their need for cash increases.
- In addition, rural wages have dropped sharply and labour opportunities are constrained, FEWS observed. More people than normal are now seeking labour opportunities, but jobs are hard to come by since fewer people have the means to hire help. Labour demand is reduced further by the poor progress of the rainy season.
Because of this imbalance between labour supply and effective demand, wages in Central Tanzania are reported to have dropped 30-50 percent compared to last year.
Local informants in Dodoma and Singida told FEWS that, although quantities of the distributed food aid were too low to offset the food shortages faced by local households, they would have helped to protect their livelihoods and facilitate cultivation of their fields if implementation was timely.
However, because of delayed implementation and inadequate food aid distribution, people are now increasingly relying on gifts from better-off households that still have some food in stock. The FEWS study said that it had taken local authorities too long time to mobilise transportation for the food aid given by central government.
- Unless the expected food aid is delivered soon and additional food supplies are provided on the market to bring prices down, the food security situation is likely to remain precarious over prolonged periods for two main reasons, FEWS warned.
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