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Poor forecast suggests that increased food insecurity is likely in the eastern Horn

  • Alert
  • East Africa
  • April 30, 2012
Poor forecast suggests that increased food insecurity is likely in the eastern Horn

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    As detailed in the April 3 FEWS NET East Africa Special Report, rainfall for the March-May season in the eastern Horn of Africa is expected to begin late, to be poorly distributed over space and time, and to total only 60 to 85 percent of average. Significant negative impacts on crop production, pasture regeneration, and the replenishment of water resources are likely. The most serious and immediate impacts are expected in root-crop and Belg-producing parts of Ethiopia. Additional areas of concern include the marginal rainfed cropping areas of southern Somalia and southeastern Kenya, and pastoral areas of the greater Mandera Triangle, where the impacts of the poor rains will be felt later in the season as conditions progressively deteriorate. Given extreme food insecurity and famine in these areas during 2011, and the likelihood of a poor March-May season, humanitarian partners should immediately implement programs to protect livelihoods and household food consumption in the eastern Horn of Africa.


    In the SNNP region of Ethiopia, December-March rainfall has been very poor, and in combination with reduced planting and pests, this means that the February-May harvest of sweet potatoes – a critical lean season food source – is likely to be a failure. Poor rainfall has also delayed the start of the Belg season by more than one month, meaning that June/July harvests are likely to be delayed and below-average. Food prices are already high and a poor Belg season, in addition to limiting household food stocks, would also have negative price impacts. Due to high levels of chronic food insecurity and high population density in the region, the severity and scale of food insecurity can rise very quickly. Admissions to outpatient therapeutic programs have been increasing since January/February, one to two months earlier than usual. In the absence of timely and sufficient humanitarian response, Crisis/Emergency-level (IPC Phase 3/4) food insecurity is possible between April and June, mainly in Wolayita, Hadiya, Kembata, Tembaro, and Gamo Gofa zones of SNNPR.

    In Somalia, the areas of greatest concern are the southern inland rainfed cropping areas of Bakool, Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba and Hiran, which do not benefit from irrigation or June/July Hagaa rains. Significantly below-average April-June Gu rains and the impact of crop pests would lead to crop production below the 1995‐2011 average, with resulting negative effects on household food stocks, crops sales income, and rural labor demand and wages. A continuation, and possible expansion, of Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity would therefore be expected, particularly in the second half of 2012. Very poor harvests would also be likely in the southeast marginal cropping areas of Kenya, if rains are significantly below average, exacerbating the impacts of three to four successive poor seasons in these areas, as well as very high maize prices. Without adequate replenishment from own production or assistance, food security would likely deteriorate from Stressed to Crisis levels during 2012.

    In the pastoral areas of the greater Mandera triangle, comprising southern and southeastern Ethiopia, northern and northeastern Kenya, and southern Somalia, very poor rainfall would slow and potentially reverse the recovery process that has been underway since last year’s very good October to December rains. A poor and erratic season would limit the replenishment of pasture, browse, and water, and extended trekking would stress livestock body conditions, particularly among young shoats, as kidding/lambing typically occurs in late March/early April. High staple food prices and a seasonal decline in the value of livestock would result in decreasing pastoral terms of trade, though not to last year’s levels because of substantially better current livestock conditions and pasture availability. The food security impact of a poor season is likely to manifest during the July-September dry season, when widespread Crisis-level food insecurity would emerge. Emergency level food insecurity (IPC Phase 4) is possible in more localized areas. Increasing levels of conflict in some parts of the Mandera Triangle, and the impacts on critical cross-border trade, could worsen the situation. 

    Although this forecast raises major food security concerns, especially given the fragile underlying conditions, food security outcomes in the coming months are not likely to be as severe as last year given extensive and ongoing food and non-food interventions, the excellent performance of the 2011 October to December rains and their impact on crop production and pastoral conditions, and a substantial decline in local cereal prices, particularly in Somalia. 

    In the worst case scenario, rainfall will be less than <60 percent of average. This would represent a major seasonal failure, similar to the March-May season in 2000 and 2011. There is a ~30 percent likelihood of rainfall this poor – a probability five times higher than normal. 

    In Belg- and root crop-dependant areas of Ethiopia’s SNNP Region, a rapid increase in emergency food assistance, including nutritional support, is needed to mitigate the impacts of a harsh April-July lean season. In pastoral regions of the eastern Horn and in marginal cropping areas of southeast Kenya and southern Somalia, the most severe impacts on food consumption and nutrition are likely to occur later in 2012. Therefore, time remains for humanitarian partners to implement programming to which supports livelihoods, preventing asset loss and malnutrition. 

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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