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The delayed Belg harvest prolongs lean season in southern and eastern Belg-producing areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Ethiopia
  • June 2013
The delayed Belg harvest prolongs lean season in southern and eastern Belg-producing areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Following a three- to four-week delayed onset of the rains which delayed planting and crop development, Belg crops will likely not be harvested until mid-July in southern and eastern Belg-producing areas instead of mid-June. The delayed harvest prevents the timely planting of short-cycle Meher crops on the same land.

    • The poor performance of February to May Belg rains in the northeastern receiving areas is likely to result in a well below average and delayed Belg harvest, increasing food insecurity from July to September. In parts of the southern areas, food security will improve from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in some areas to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with increased supply from the Belg harvest, even if that harvest is both late and somewhat below average.

    • The good performance of March to May Gu/Genna rains increased milk production, so the food security situation in southern and southeastern pastoral areas has improved. The declines in milk prices have increased milk access for market-dependent households as well. 

    • Above average rainfall totals since mid-May have enabled the planting of long-cycle maize and sorghum and land preparation for short-cycle crops in most parts of the country except in the northeastern areas where the total Belg rainfall was below average. With normal to above normal June to September Kiremt rains forecast, the Meher crop performance is likely to be normal in these areas. 

    Current Situation
    • Insufficient rains at the end of May and early June in northeastern Amhara, Tigray, and eastern Oromia’s Belg-receiving areas have slowed crop development. In East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia Region, moisture stress slowed the growth of Belg crops such as barley and haricot beans, which are currently at the emergence and flowering stages. In North Shewa Zone in Oromia Region, the Belg production is expected to be far below average due to a dry Belg season with especially severe dry spells in April and May.
    • Rains since the second week of May in the western parts of the country have allowed the planting of long-cycle maize and sorghum to progress normally. Land preparation is also underway and widespread for short-cycle crops like barley, wheat, teff, and pulses. Compared to previous years, higher availability of both seeds and fertilizers has been reported.
    • However, in northeastern Amhara and Tigray, dry weather in May and June has discouraged the planting of long-cycle crops. For instance in Tigray Region, only about 10 to 15 percent of the five-year average planted area for long-cycle crops was planted by the last week of May. In areas that were planted, most were dry planted, which could lead to poor germination rates. Sorghum planting continued through the third week of June, which is in the usual planting window. In parts of eastern Oromia, sorghum planting is still progressing, but the level of soil moisture has been low since late May.
    • Total rains from February to June 2013 was normal to above normal in most parts of Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) but with uneven spatial and temporal distribution, a late start, dry spells, and in some places, an early cessation. While Belg rains typically decline in amount and intensity in the second half of May, this year even these seasonally declining rains were of below average amount. Current crop growth conditions are generally normal though due to rain in March and April. In the midlands and highlands in Segen, South Omo, Gamo Gofa, Wolaita, Kembata Tembaro, and Sidama Zones, teff, haricot beans, and Irish potatoes are at the flowering stage, and maize and sorghum are at vegetative and tasselling stages. The green harvest of maize has started in some areas of Wolaita where small-scale irrigation is practiced and in areas with high moisture-retention capacity. Perennial crops including coffee are generally in good condition in most of SNNPR. The long-cycle crops in Guraghe and Silte Zones and Halaba Special Woredas are at the germination or seedling stages, following their normal growth pattern and timing. Areas affected by a dry spell of two to three weeks in May/June include the lowland areas of Gamo Gofa, Sidama, Wolaita, Guraghe, Silte Zones, and Halaba Special Woreda. Early cessation in May was reported from the lowlands of South Omo and Segen Zones. Flooding, hailstorms, and pest infestations have also harmed crops in some pocket areas. Regional and zonal Bureaus of Agriculture have been spraying pesticides to control an armyworm infestation in parts of Wolaita, Hadiya, Sidama, Gedeo, Dawro, Gamo Gofa, Segen, South Omo, and Guraghe Zones and Halaba Special Woreda. However, armyworms continued to migrate into previously unaffected areas during May and early June. As the lean season is not yet over in SNNPR due to the delay in the Belg, total admissions to Outreach Therapeutic Program (OTP) in May were about 6,600, which is lower than the 8,075 April admissions. The reduction is unusual for an extended lean season, and likely caused by proactive, screening in March during the Community Health Day (CHD), and some limited nutrition surveys conducted to identify cases in April. Malnutrition remains high according to reports from some woredas in Wolaita, Kembata Tembaro, Sidama, Gedeo, Hadiya, Segen, and Guraghe Zones and in Halaba Special Woreda.
    • Generally above average March to May Gu/Genna rains replenished water and regenerated pasture and browse in most of the southern and southeastern pastoral areas. Accordingly, the availability of forage, livestock body conditions, and livestock production as well as productivity have increased. In most pastoral and agropastoral markets, the availability of livestock products like milk and ghee are increasing, representing both better access for market-dependent households and income for net producing households. In Dolo Odo, Dolobay, Bare, and Elweyn Woredas in Somali Region where the seasonal rain did not perform well with dry spells in both April and May, livestock body conditions have not yet recovered from the impact of the previous dry season. However, even during a time of good milk availability, malnutrition remains high in Somali Region. In Kebridarhar Woreda in Korahe Zone in Somali Region, an April Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) survey conducted by Merlin in conjunction with woreda health authorities found a Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) prevalence of 12.1 percent (95 percent Confidence Interval (CI) of 8.8 to 16.4 percent) and a Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) prevalence of 1.5 percent (CI 0.8 to 2.7 percent).
    • In Afar including in Elidar, Kori, Bidu, Berhale, Teru, Erebti, and Afdera Woredas and in some areas of Siti Zone in northern Somali Region, the March to May Sugum/Gu rains were overall below average in terms of amount. There were notably drier periods in the middle of April and in the first two thirds of May.  As a result of slow and inadequate regeneration of forage and refilling of water points, livestock body conditions have not yet recovered from the impact of the November to February dry season. Water shortages have continued in berkad-dependent areas of Elidar, Kori, Bidu, Berhale, Teru, Erebti, and Afdera Woredas in Afar Region, and water trucking has been requested. Malnutrition remains high in Afar. In Koneba Woreda in Kilbati Zone (formerly Zone 2) in Afar, an April SMART survey by GOAL indicated a GAM prevalence of 11.7 percent (95 percent CI 9.3 to 14.7 percent) and a SAM prevalence of 1.1 percent (CI 0.5 to 2.3 percent).
    • Staple food prices remained high compared to recent months and their five-year averages in most parts of the country, in part, driven by the imminent start of the lean season in the populous, Meher-producing areas. For instance, the price of maize in South Omo increased by 17 percent from April to May. Similarly, five to ten percent increases in staple food prices were reported in other markets in SNNPR. Prices of livestock have increased both in the highlands and in pastoral areas due to the improved body conditions and increased demand in both domestic and export markets, particularly due to stocking for export to the Arabian Peninsula in anticipation of high meat demand during Ramadan in July/August and the Hajj in October. Compared to May 2012 prices, goat and sheep prices increased by 25 and 80 percent in Warder and Gode, respectively. With recent improvements in livestock production and productivity, the milk supply has increased and milk prices have declined in southern and southeastern pastoral areas where both camel and cattle milk prices declined ten to twenty percent from April to May in Afder, Fik, Gode, Liben, and Korahe.
    • Over 3,400 refugees arrived in Gambella Region from May 7 to June 24, fleeing fighting between the South Sudanese armed forces and a rebel group. They are primarily from Pibor County in Jonglei State in South Sudan. They have been assisted with basic non-food essentials and high-energy biscuits.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the remaining assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period April to September 2013.  However, one assumption has been modified:

    • The February to April Belg rains and the March to May Gu/Genna/Sugum rains had been assumed to be near normal in terms of total rainfall and of nearly usual duration. However, this year the Belg rains ceased earlier than normal in most northeastern, eastern, and some parts of the southern receiving areas.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    The Belg harvest is likely to be much below normal in the Belg producing areas of northeastern Amhara and Tigray Regions due to moisture stress. Staple cereal prices are high and rising, especially for sorghum. Access to agricultural labor is expected to improve in the coming months due to an increased demand for land preparation and weeding activities during the June to September Kiremt rains. However, income from agricultural labor may still not be sufficient to provide adequate access to the recent and expected further rise in staple food prices. Poor and very poor households in North and South Wollo and North Shewa Zones in Amhara and the Southern, Southeastern, and Eastern Zones in Tigray will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September. However, recent rains along with the anticipated normal Kiremt rains will maintain pasture and drinking water availability improving livestock body conditions and productivity. On the other hand, some harvest of haricot bean and barley is expected in highland areas in East and West Hararghe Zones, but the harvest is anticipated to be reduced by the heavy Kiremt rains during the delayed harvest. The food security situation in the lowland agropastoral areas of East and West Hararghe Zones will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but poor and very poor households in the highland areas of East and West Hararghe will likely be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from July to September.

    Western SNNPR received normal to above normal total Belg rainfall, so a likely near average Belg harvest should provide food for households and help stabilize local market prices near their current, elevated levels. However, in areas of eastern, southern, and central parts of SNNPR, the crops are likely to perform poorly due to both late planting in February and subsequent moisture stress. In addition, localized hazards such as flooding and the armyworm infestation have further reduced the likely volume of the delayed Belg harvest in July. Although it is anticipated to be below normal, the Belg harvest in July is expected to slightly improve food availability, both for households and on markets. High but stable staple food prices and a seasonal increase in agricultural labor income due to demand from Meher cropping activities from July to September are likely to increase households’ purchasing power. Therefore, the food security situation of the poor and very poor households in the major sweet potato-growing zones and dominantly Belg-producing southern woredas of SNNPR is likely to shift from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for July to September 2013.

    The generally above average March to May Gu/Genna rains in most parts of Somali Region, Borena, Guji, and the Bale lowlands improved the food security situation, and the improvements are expected to be sustained in the upcoming months. However, the reduction in livestock holdings caused by recurrent droughts and the high food prices and expected rises during the Meher lean season countrywide may prevent poor and very poor households from attaining anything other than their minimal food needs. They will still be unable to afford essential non-food and livelihoods protection expenditures. Therefore poor and very poor households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September 2013. On the other hand, the parts of Afar with where the March to May Sugum rains were poor and some areas in Somali Region that had poor March to May Gu rains will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September.

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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