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Much of Borena Zone increasingly food insecure

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Ethiopia
  • March 2015
Much of Borena Zone increasingly food insecure

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through June 2014
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • In Borena Zone in southern Oromia Region, cumulative rainfall was below average for both the March to May Genna and June to September Hageya rains in 2014. As the Hageya rains ended early and this year’s Genna rains have yet to start, the dry season has been longer than usual. Grazing land is drier than normal and much of it is overgrazed. Water availability is very low. This has significantly reduced livestock production and productivity, reducing household food access. With this year’s Genna rainfall being forecast to be near average to below average, food access, particularly in the lowlands bordering Kenya, is expected to further decline. 

    • In pastoral areas that had below average rainfall last year, no significant improvement in livestock body conditions or productivity is expected following the anticipated near normal to below-normal March to May Gu/Genna/Diraac/ Sugum rainfall. Households’ food and income access from livestock will continue to be lower than usual. Therefore, poor households in northeastern and southern Afar and the lowlands of Borena Zone in Oromia will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. 

    • In most Belg-growing areas, land preparation and plating were delayed by a very dry February. Belg rains started up to a month late. These delays will likely reduce planted area, growing time, and ploughing. These changes coupled with the expected near average to below-average rainfall is likely to result in below-average Belg production, a delayed harvest, reduced labor opportunities and income, and abnormally high staple food prices in these areas.

    Current Situation
    • According to the Humanitarian Requirements Document (HRD) released in early March by the Government of Ethiopia, 2.9 million people are food insecure, and they will need humanitarian assistance between January and December 2015. Households requiring assistance are concentrated in Oromia, Somali, Amhara, Tigray, and Afar Regions.
    • February was particularly dry in northeastern Amhara and Tigray Regions, and the rains started in late March. The dry conditions prevented land preparation and, along with continued dry conditions with the late start of the rains, significantly delayed planting. So far, only about five percent of average Belg planted area is under crops. Despite the delay, most households have continued land preparation. Drier weather also persisted in early March in most of eastern and central Oromia Region where the Belg rains are vital for pasture growth and water availability.
    • Similarly, Belg rains are already late by more than four weeks in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s Region (SNNPR). Apart from some showers in mid-February in the western and some eastern highlands of the region, the weather has been dry and windy until the March 20. These dry conditions follow the below-average of Sapie rains in January that resulted in the wilting of sweet potatoes that were planted in November and December. Despite the drier than normal weather, land preparation is underway in all parts of SNNPR, particularly in the areas where sandy soils are predominant.
    • An unusually dry February and March led to further deterioration in pasture conditions and decreases in water availability in some lowlands in central and eastern Oromia Region and in the lowlands of Wag Himra Zone in Amhara Region. Early livestock migration has already started from the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zone to the nearby river valleys in eastern Oromia. Since January, more livestock have continued to be being migrated from Wag Himra Zone to nearby areas in Tigray Region. Livestock body conditions are poor.
    • The March to May Sugum/Diraac rains have yet to start, prolonging the dry Jilaal season. As a result, pasture and browse have been exhausted in most areas. Livestock body conditions are poor, and livestock products are not available. Livestock are concentrated in a few pockets where grazing and water points are still available. Livestock that were migrated from southern Afar to nearby areas in Oromia Region are remaining there instead of returning to Afar, as would normally occur after the start of the rains. Additional livestock are being migrated. Similarly, livestock are being migrated from northern and northwestern Afar to nearby areas in Amhara and Tigray Regions at a time when migration would normally be in the other direction.
    • Due to the below-average March to May Genna and October to December Hageya rains in 2014, pasture and water have been depleted or exhausted in most parts of Borena Zone in Oromia Region, in particular in the lowlands bordering Kenya. This has caused livestock body conditions, especially of lactating cows and their calves, to become emaciated. Borena Zone’s disaster risk management task force’s mid-February assessment found some livestock deaths in the lowlands with early estimates being up to 600 head of cattle dead.  Milk, butter, and other livestock products are not available.
    • Currently, water and pasture availability as well as livestock body conditions are normal in most southeastern pastoral areas in Somali Region. Seasonal livestock migration occurred from Adadle, Harweyn, and Gode Woredas to Bayahow, the main livestock grazing area in Kelafo Woreda along the Shebelle River, which has better pasture than many areas due to flooding of Shebelle River during the first week of October, which allowed vigorous regrowth of pasture once the flood waters receded. Similar, seasonal livestock migration occurred from East Imey of Shebelle (formerly Gode) Zone to Nogob (formerly Fik) Zone and from Hargele Woredas of Afder Zone to Barey Woreda. Due to livestock overgrazing, pasture in Bayahow, Nogob, and some parts of Afder bordering Somalia are already depleted. To deal with the lack of pasture, there has been additional planting of maize and sorghum along the Shebelle River’s banks with plans to use this as fodder before it fully matures.
    • Staple food prices remained stable from January to February in most parts of Amhara, Tigray, Oromia, and SNNPR due to normal supply of grain to the market from the Meher harvest. Similarly, prices remain stable in Afar Region due to the increased supply from nearby agricultural areas as well as ongoing food aid distributions. On the other hand, imported food prices increased in most parts of Somali Region as traders are building up stocks for April to September when imports into ports in Somalia decline due to the monsoon winds.
    • Livestock prices remained stable in most parts of Oromia, Amhara, and Tigray Regions. However, in the lowlands of Wag Himra Zone in Amhara Region, livestock prices declined due to increased supply from households needing to purchase cereals. For instance, in Sehala in Wag Himra Zone, the February ox price was 70 percent less than last year. Similarly, livestock prices declined in northern pastoral areas as result of poor livestock body conditions and seasonably low demand while many Orthodox Christians are fasting for Lent (Abiy Tsom). In the lowlands of Borena and Guji Zones in Oromia Region, livestock prices have also declined due to poor livestock body conditions and high supply as households sell additional livestock to purchase food.
    • The average Meher harvest increased household-level food access, and nutritional status remains stable in most parts of SNNPR, Amhara, Tigray, and Oromia Regions. However, in central Oromia in areas that had a well below-average Meher harvest, nutritional status has declined. For instance, the Standardized Monitoring and Assessment of Relief and Transitions (SMART) nutrition survey conducted in December 2014 in Siraro Woreda in West Arsi Zone found global acute malnutrition (GAM) of 7.1 percent (a 95 percent confidence interval (CI) of 5.0 to 10.0 percent). In this woreda, GAM was 3.3 (CI 2.3 to 4.7 percent) and 5.1 (CI of 3.5 to 7.3) percent in December 2013 and June 2013, respectively. Similarly, in northeastern and southern Afar Region, nutritional status is deteriorating. The nutrition survey conducted in January in Afdera Woreda in Kilbati Zone (formerly Zone 2) of Afar Region estimated  11.9 percent GAM (CI of 8.3 to 16.7 percent), higher than would be expected in this area.

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the January to June 2015 Outlook as updated  in February Food Security Outlook Update

    Projected Outlook Through June 2014
    • Northeastern and southern Afar Region: In northeastern Afar, near average to below average March to May Sugum rains are not expected to result in significant increases in pasture, browse, or water availability. Neither subsequent improvements in livestock body conditions nor increases in livestock production and productivity would result. Therefore, food and income access are likely to remain low, and poor households will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. In southern Afar, while some livestock are still milking, consuming pasture, browse, and water that were generated during the unseasonal rains in October and Dadaa rains in December, milk production will decline between now and June. With expected cereal price increases and further declines in livestock prices, households’ purchasing power will decline. Therefore, poor households in southern Afar Region will move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from April to June.
    • Northern Somali and northwestern and central Afar Region: Despite the near normal to below normal March to May Sugum/Diraac rains, some pasture and browse remain from earlier seasons, and these will help sustain livestock body conditions, production, and productivity. Household income and food access from livestock will remain stable. Households in agropastoral and agricultural areas will also have food and income from their own crop production. Therefore, poor households in these areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June.
    • Lowlands of Borena, Guji, and South Omo Zones: Livestock and livestock products are the major sources of income and food. Households are currently earning less from their livestock, and livestock body conditions are likely to continue to deteriorate while water and pasture are in short supply. Grain prices are likely to further increase over the coming months while livestock prices will likely decline further as livestock body conditions continue to deteriorate. With the expected near normal to below normal March to May Genna rains, no significant improvement is expected in households’ incomes or food access from livestock products. Poor households will continue to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through June, but only with the presence of humanitarian assistance. However, poor households in southern lowlands of Borena Zone will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June as few improvements are expected during the near average to below average Genna rains.
    • Southeastern pastoral areas: The anticipated near normal to below normal March to May Gu rains will likely help sustain livestock body conditions and milk availability, but not significantly improve them, so household incomes and food access from livestock should remain stable. However, with the seasonal increase in cereal prices and further seasonal decline in livestock prices through June, pastoralists will need to sell more livestock to buy food. Poor households will continue to face difficulties accessing their basic non-food essentials and will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June.
    • Lowlands in the Tekeze River catchment in Wag Himra and North Gondar Zones in Amhara Region and some lowlands in central and eastern Oromia: Poorer households in the Tekeze River catchment of Wag Himra and North Gondar Zones of Amhara Region have already exhausted their stocks from the very small Meher harvest. They are already unable to purchase adequate quantities of food and will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June. In the lowlands of West Arsi Zone and in Meyu Muluke and Kumbi Woredas of East Hararghe Zone in Oromia Region, poor households have already depleted their stocks, up to three months earlier than normal. Their livestock have poor body conditions. With seasonally increasing food prices, poor households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with humanitarian assistance through March but enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from April to June as food prices increase further.
    • Northeastern Amhara and Tigray: With below-average Meher production in November/December, poor and very poor households are already purchasing the majority of their food from markets. Household incomes are likely to remain low, due to low demand for agricultural labor due to the likely reduced area planted following the delayed start of Belg rains. Household food access will likely continue to decline. In April and May during the lean season, Belg-dominant areas will have little income to purchase staple foods at rising prices, and poor households will become Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with humanitarian assistance from April to June.
    • Central and eastern Oromia Region: Due to low production in the highlands of Arsi Zone and the lowlands of eastern Oromia, poor households have already exhausted their food stocks, up to three months earlier than usual. Household incomes from livestock will likely decline as livestock body conditions will become poorer and productivity falls following the near average to below-average March to May rainfall. With rising cereal prices and falling incomes, poor households will only be able to address their minimal food needs with ongoing emergency assistance and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) from April to June.
    • SNNPR: Although the anticipated staple food price increases will reduce poor households’ purchasing power during the lean season starting in April, the last two near average harvests last year should maintain current levels of adequate food access in midland and highland areas. As a result, these areas are likely to continue to remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through June 2015. However, in areas along the Rift Valley, including the lowlands of Halaba, Gurage, Wolayita, Sidama, and Gamo Gofa Zones, production from the last two seasons was below average. As households exhaust their own produced food, labor opportunities are likely to decline at the same time, due to the late start and anticipated average to below-average Belg rainfall. At the same time, seasonal increases in staple food prices are expected. Therefore, these areas are likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through June 2015 but only with continued emergency food assistance.
    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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