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The Belg rains started late this year and were well below average in central Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) (Figure 1). This will lead to a one month delay in the Belg harvest and well below average maize production. This below-average season of rainfall follows below-average Sapie rainfall in January. The very poor and half of the poor wealth group in root crop and maize-dependent areas of Wolayita, Gamo Gofa, Hadiya, Kambato Tamboro, and western Sidama Zone will need emergency food assistance between now and August/September. Contingency planning for 2016 should be initiated.
Belg maize is one of the primary staple foods in central SNNPR (Figure 2). In root crop and maize-dependent areas the poor wealth group gets an estimated 25 to 40 percent of annual caloric intake from own-produced Belg maize in a typical year, consuming it both green and dried, according to the 2004-2005 household economy approach (HEA) baselines. This year, the Belg rains started up to a month later than usual. Once rains began, cumulative rainfall was low and dry spells were common, even during April, typically the period of peak rainfall. Overall, most areas received 20 to 50 percent less rain than average between March and May. As a result, planted area was less than 60 percent of average across SNNPR. Some crops failed to germinate, and some were consumed by armyworms. Remaining crops, primarily maize, are only now in the vegetative stage, more than a month behind in their growth. When these crops are harvested in August/September, one to two months late, the harvest will likely be well below average.
Normally, households in central SNNPR would be consuming root crops and vegetables planted last November or December now, during the March to May lean season. This year, many of these crops did not reach maturity due to very light Sapie rains in January (Figure 1). Poor households would also be be purchasing food, primarily using income from agricultural labor, but with less planting, they have less income. Poor households are using coping strategies to acquire food, including selling livestock, trees, firewood, or charcoal, consuming immature enset (a tree with an edible, starchy root), or migrating in search of labor opportunities. Currently, most areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
Usually, the lean season in these areas ends in June as households begin consuming green maize, which in some areas may provide up to one fifth of annual caloric intake of poor households. This year, the delayed green harvest will extend the lean season into August or September. Poor households will likely enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during this extended lean season between July and September, having little cash with which to buy food, other than some labor income. While they will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) after the Meher harvest in October/November, Belg crops remaining in the field longer may reduce planted area of Meher crops. If low enough, the lean season next year could start early.
1.2 million eligible households are receiving cash transfers from the Productive Safety Nets Program (PSNP). By June, out of 65,061 beneficiaries identified in the January 2015 Humanitarian Requirement Document (HRD), only 11,502 people had received emergency food assistance in SNNPR. Additional emergency food assistance, along with nutritional support, is necessary. Contingency planning and close monitoring through 2016 is also necessary.
Figure 1. Cumulative January 1 to May 30 rainfall estimate (RFE2) in millmeters (mm), Wolayita Zone, SNNPR
Figure 2. Root crop and maize-dependent livelihood zones in SNNPR that had low Belg 2015 rainfall
Source: Livelihoods Intergration Unit (LIU)/Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Developme…