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February to May Belg rains start up to three weeks late in eastern Amhara

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Ethiopia
  • March 2014
February to May Belg rains start up to three weeks late in eastern Amhara

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2014
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • A two to three week late start to the February to May Belg rains delayed land preparation and planting in eastern Amhara. Delays to labor income will reduce food access as these areas enter the April to June lean season and move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Delays to the Sugum/Diraac rains in Afar and northern Somali have delayed the recovery of forage and water availability and related improvements in livestock body conditions. Most of these areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In northeastern Afar, even lower herd sizes have led to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Due to normal supply, staple food prices have remained stable in most highland markets since January 2014. The national consumer food price index slightly declined from an annualized rate of 5.1 percent in January to 4.7 percent in February. Household food access from markets remains stable for many households.

    Current situation

    Agroclimatology and seasonal progress:

    • Belg-receiving areas in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR): There was about average rainfall in the first two weeks of February, which provided a mostly normal start to the season. However, these were followed by dry or only light rains at the end of February and in early March. By mid-March rainfall became heavier, and the spatial distribution improved, so cumulative rainfall from the beginning of the season is now approaching normal or only somewhat below normal in most parts of SNNPR. Land preparation and planting of Belg crops is underway. In the most western parts of SNNPR, land preparation has been completed, and planting is widely underway.
    • Sweet potato-producing areas in SNNPR: Although the amount of Belg rainfall was below average for much of February and early March, the available moisture in Wolayita, Gamo Gofa, Hadiya, Dawro, and Kambata Tambaro Zones was adequate for the developing root crops including sweet potatoes and taro to perform normally. Currently, these crops are at the maturing and harvesting stages.
    • Ginger-producing areas in SNNPR: In Hadero Tunto, Kacha Bira, and Tambaro Woredas of Kambata Tambaro Zone, farmers have continued land preparation for maize planting as a substitute for ginger, despite the reported shortage of seeds for improved maize varieties.
    • Belg-producing areas in northeastern Amhara: Despite some showers received in the second week of February, North and South Wollo Zones in Amhara Region had mostly dry weather through early March. This has delayed land preparation and planting of Belg crops by two to three weeks. In mid-to-late March, Belg rains fell with more usual amounts and more complete spatial distribution that should facilitate Belg crop planting.
    • East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia Region: There was no rain in February and early March in most Belg-receiving areas of East and West Hararghe Zones except for light showers for two days in a few highland areas. However, in this area, the rains often do not start until March. Land preparation for Belg crops and long-cycle crops has continued in some highland and midland areas. Dry soils hampered land preparation. However, since rains in the second week of March, typical, seasonal agricultural activities have resumed.

    Livestock conditions:

    • Sugum/Diraac-receiving areas in Afar and northern Somali: The onset of March to May Sugum/Diraac rains in Afar and Fafan and Sitti Zones of Somali Region was delayed by around ten days. Although more rain has fallen since the second week of March, it has generally below normal in amount with uneven spatial distribution in most parts of Afar and northern parts of Somali Region. Dry conditions are delaying pasture regeneration, placing additional stress on livestock body conditions and production. Livestock migration continued from Chifera, Sumurobi, Ewa, Yallo, Gulina, and Awra Woredas in Afar Region to neighboring areas in Raya Kobo, Gubalafto, and Habru Woredas in Amhara Region.
    • Southern and southeastern pastoral areas in Somali, Oromia, and SNNPR: Livestock body conditions and production are generally stable in most of southern and southeastern pastoral areas. However, some deterioration in livestock body conditions was observed in the pocket areas that had relatively poor October to December Deyr/Genna rains where pasture and water are currently less available than in other areas.
    • In Dassench Woreda in South Omo Zone in SNNPR: Like most areas of South Omo, there was almost no rain in January or February. While by mid-March some rains had fallen, so far pasture availability remains poor, leading to further deterioration of livestock body conditions and productivity. Most of the livestock are being migrated to neighboring areas in Kenya and border areas in Hammer and Gnangatom Woredas.


    • Due to the overall normal and above normal 2013 Meher harvest, cereal supply is mostly normal in most agricultural areas. Most cereal prices were stable between January and February. However, cereal prices are higher than last year. For example, compared to last year the February maize and wheat prices in Sodo in Wolayita Zone in SNNPR were 13 and 14 percent higher, respectively.
    • Cash crops: The February ginger price was 130 percent above last year due to the poor availability in markets in producing areas. February coffee prices were 22 percent below last year due to low international coffee prices.
    • Livestock prices were stable or declined slightly from January to February in most of the markets in Somali and Afar Region, following the usual seasonal pattern. However, there were some increases in goat and sheep prices in Jijiga and Gode due to a slight increase in local demand.

    Updated assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for January to June 2014 or the revised assumption for the February to May Belg rains given in the February 2014 Food Security Outlook Update.

    Projected outlook through June 2014
    • Eastern, marginal, Meher-producing areas in eastern Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia: Household level food access is likely to deteriorate as households food stocks deplete and staple prices start increasing from April to June. Despite some income from agricultural labor and livestock sales, the anticipated increase in staple food prices will prevent households from meeting their essential non-food needs as all of their income will be spent on food. They will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April to June 2014.
    • Due to the below average October 2013 to January 2014 Meher harvest, poor and very poor households will exhaust their stocks earlier than normal along the Tekeze River in Amhara and Tigray Regions, in eastern parts of Tigray Region, and in the lowlands in East and West Hararghe Zone in Oromia Region. Moreover, although households generate some income from labor and self-employment, increasing food prices will decrease their purchasing power. Therefore, poor and very poor households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from April to June.
    • Belg-producing areas in North and South Wollo Zones in eastern Amhara Region: Despite the late start of the Belg rains, some income from agricultural labor is expected as rains continue into April and May. However, this income will not be sufficient to afford adequate quantities of food due to the anticipated increases in staple food prices. The anticipated near normal total Belg rainfall through May/June will have few immediate effects to bolster income or food access before June. Poor and very poor households will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June 2014.
    • SNNPR: From April through June, households primarily consume the ongoing sweet potato harvest and purchased cereals. Household stocks from the Meher harvest from November to December are likely to be exhausted by the start of the lean season in April. Staple food prices are likely to increase through June and beyond. The availability of agricultural labor opportunities and wages are both expected to increase in most areas. However, in the ginger-growing areas labor demand is likely to be below normal as the crops being substituted for ginger this year are less labor intensive. In general, the increase in food prices will outpace growth of income. Income from self-employment and firewood and grass sales is likely to be normal. Poor and very poor households will still need to forgo essential non-food expenses and be Stressed (IPC Phase2). In ginger-producing areas, households will face Crisis (IPC Phase3) from April to June 2014 due to lower than usual incomes.
    • Afar and northern Somali Region: Near normal performance of March to May Sugum/Gu/Diraac rains is anticipated in April and May. This is expected to increase the availability of pasture, browse, and water. Livestock body conditions, production, and productivity will start to recover from the effects of the extended dry season. Consumption of livestock products and income from livestock sales will increase. Seasonal declines of market supply are expected to increase food prices through June and beyond. Poor households do not have enough livestock to support sales enabling households to meet both food and non-food needs. Therefore, most households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June.
    • Despite the expected seasonal increases in pasture, browse, and water availability from the anticipated mostly normal amount of the March to May Sugum rains in northeastern Afar, livestock assets had been depleted due to recurrent poor seasonal performance, so recovery will be slow. Poor households in these areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June.
    • Southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas in southern Somali, Oromia, and SNNPR: The anticipated normal April to June Gu/Genna rains will help pasture and browse to recover from the effects of the Jilaal dry season. This will further the recently observed improvements of livestock body conditions and productivity, allowing households to have some income from livestock and milk sales in most areas. However, the rise in cereal prices in most of the markets from April to June will outpace the rise in livestock prices, leading to a decline in livestock to cereal terms of trade (ToT). This means poor and very poor households may still have difficulty accessing food, despite some seasonal improvement in livestock prices and healthier herds. In addition, recurrent droughts in previous years reduced herd sizes, so poor and very poor households may still lack many saleable livestock. Therefore, poor and very poor households in most of southern and southeastern pastoral areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June 2014.
    Figures Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar in a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    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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