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Early depletion of pasture and water likely in southern pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Ethiopia
  • May 2014
Early depletion of pasture and water likely in southern pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through September 2014
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • About average February to May cumulative rainfall is likely to support a near average Belg harvest from June to August, improving food availability in Belg-growing areas. These areas in Amhara Region are expected to improve from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July to September.
    • March to May rain has thus far been below average in southern Somali and Borena Zone in southern Oromia. This is likely to lead to early depletion of pasture and water, reducing livestock production and productivity. Poor households will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only with continued humanitarian assistance from July to September.
    • Desert locusts have caused limited damage to crops and rangelands in northern Somali and eastern and central Oromia. With control measures underway and anticipated to continue, the infestation is not likely to significantly damage Belg crops or forage availability.

    Current Situation
    • Cumulative February to May Belg rainfall was near average in most eastern, marginal, agricultural areas in Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia. Belg crop growth and development has been mostly normal. Crops are at the vegetative stage in Amhara and eastern Oromia. Though planting started in late March instead of early March in East and West Hararghe Zones in Oromia Region, the moisture in April and early May allowed an extended planting window, and planted area is now near normal. However, the dry spell in April severely retarded teff growth in the lowlands of Southern Tigray Zone, likely leading to lower than usual yields. Planting of high-yielding, long-cycle maize and sorghum varieties is underway in most Meher-growing areas. Nutrition is stable in many parts of Tigray, and Amhara Regions. The number of admissions of malnourished children to Outreach Therapeutic Feeding Programs (OTP) declined from March to April in East and West Hararghe Zones of Oromia Region.
    • However, cumulative February to May Belg rainfall was below average in a few areas in eastern Amhara and southern Tigray Regions, North and East Shewa Zones, and Arsi Zone in Oromia. Below normal rains since April have led to below average availability of browse and pasture in some lowland areas of East Shewa and West Arsi Zones in Oromia Region. In the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones, livestock that migrated to the river valleys have not returned to their wet season grazing areas as the ponds that serve as water points are not yet recharged due to less rainfall in these areas.
    • In Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR), February to May cumulative Belg rainfall has been near average, but it has had a fairly normal distribution. Most Belg crops are at the vegetative stage. However, maize, haricot bean, and root crops in some areas are at flowering or even seed-setting stages. In early May, the heavy rain with strong winds and hail storms occurred in a few localities in Gamo Gofa and Wolayita Zones, damaging crops. While this season’s crops are developing well, most of SNNPR is currently in the lean season. As it typical for the lean season, admissions to Outreach Therapeutic Feeding Programs (OTP) increased from March to April by about nine percent.
    • Southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas: March to May cumulative Gu/Genna rainfall was below normal in the lowlands of Bale, Guji, and Borena Zones in Oromia, and some areas of Afder, Shebelle, Korahe, and Dollo Zones in Somali Regions. In these areas, the distribution of rains over space and time was very uneven and mostly dry during the first week of March and the last two weeks of April. However, pasture and browse remain adequate in most areas. Livestock body conditions, production, and productivity have improved. In April, no unusual livestock migration was reported from southern Oromia. The livestock that had been migrated in South Omo Zone in SNNPR have been returned to their normal, wet-season grazing areas. Admissions to OTPs were mostly stable from March to April in Somali Region.
    • In early May, flash floods occurred in Shilabo Woreda and a wind storm in Kabridahar Woredas in Somali Region. These two events displaced more than 3,300 households. About 1,500 households have received food aid, and some people are being sheltered in a school. Non-food relief supplies are starting to be distributed..
    • Desert locusts spread to Jarso, Meta, Goro Gutu, Kersa, Gursum, and Chinakson Woredas in East Hararghe Zone and into Dire Dawa Administration. Locusts also have been sighted in Jedu and Merti Woredas in West Arsi Zone and a few kebeles in East Shewa Zone in Oromia Region. Swarms have spread further than last month into areas in southern Afaradjacent to Ayesha Woreda in Sitti Zone in Somali Region. Four hectares of irrigated vegetables and three hectares of potato in Awbare Woreda in Fafan Zone of Somali Region and Kersa Woreda in East Hararghe Zone in Oromia Region were completely consumed by locust swarms in April.
    • The cumulative March to May Sugum/Diraac rainfall in the northern pastoral areas in Afar and northern Somali have been near normal in some areas. Forage and water are adequate. Livestock body conditions and productivity have improved from April to May due to improved conditions. Livestock that had been migrated to dry season grazing areas from Afar have been returned to their normal wet-season grazing areas. Nutritional status is stable in many parts of Afar.
    • However, the March to May Sugum rains have been below normal in Awsi and Kilbati Zones in Afar. Pasture, browse, and water shortages are causing abnormally low livestock production and productivity. Water shortageshave led to increasingly long distances to water points for human and livestock consumption in Erebti, Bidu, Kori, Elidar, Berhale and Dubti Woredas in Afar Region.. For human consumption, water trucking is ongoing. With very low water availability, households are spending more time on water collection than on other productive activities.
    • The seasonal decline in supply of grain to the market and the seasonal increase in the number of households buying from markets since March resulted in increased staple food prices in most cropping areas. For instance, the April prices of maize in Hosanna, Bure, and Mekele in April was 12, 14, and 12 percent higher than March and eight, six, and three percent higher than April 2013, respectively. With no significant increase in household level incomes during the lean season, increases in staple food prices reduced the purchasing power of poor households, resulting in lower household food access. However, food aid distribution mainly of sorghum led to declines in grain prices in pastoral areas of Afar and Somali. For example, the price of sorghum declined by 20, 30, 40, and 49 percent in Shinile, Jijiga, Warder, and Gode in Somali Region, respectively.
    • Livestock prices remained stable or had a slight decline from March to April in Afar and Somali Regions and in South Omo Zone of SNNPR. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for April to September 2014.

    • While in April, it was assumed that cumulative March to May Gu/Genna rainfall would be near average, a very dry April and less than ideal rainfall in May means that cumulative rainfall will be below average in many southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas, primarily along the border with Kenya and South-Central Somalia. This will likely be the case even if some additional rains fall in early June.

    Projected Outlook Through September 2014
    • Eastern, marginal, Belg-producing areas in eastern Tigray, Amhara, and Oromia Around average Belg production is likely in June/July this year, based on adequate rainfall and mostly normal planted area in most areas. With expected, near normal June to September Kiremt rainfall anticipated, long-cycle crops will likely to continue to develop normally between now and October. With further improvements in pasture and water conditions through September and beyond, livestock body conditions, production, and productivity will further increase. While Belg production reaches markets after the harvest in June/July, prices will stabilize, but only in Belg-producing areas. Labor opportunities, wage rates, and other off-farm, income-generating activities are likely to follow their normal trend of low availability in June and increased availability from July through September and beyond. Demand for agricultural labor increases after July in most parts of the country. With these increases in own produced food and access to income, food access in northeastern Tigray and Amhara Regions will likely increase. As that harvest becomes available, households in these areas will move from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July through September 2014.
    • In the Meher-dominant, eastern, marginal areas, households will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April to September. Below average 2013 Meher production led to an early exhaustion of household food stocks. Households will not be able to address their minimal food needs and therefore, poorer households in northeastern Tigray and in the Tekeze River catchment will continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from July to September 2014 until the start of the October to January Meher harvest.
    • SNNPR: Staple food prices are higher than last year, and they are likely to peak in May during the lean season which is also when is the seasonal low in the availability of income-earning opportunities. With few income-earning opportunities and having exhausted stocks from the last harvest, poor households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through June. With the anticipated start of a near-average, Belg harvest in late June/July, followed by increased demand for agricultural labor in July as Meher land preparation, planting, weeding, and other activities get underway, food access will improve. As a result, poor and very poor households in these areas will likely move to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from July to September and beyond.
    • However, unlike other areas of SNNPR, ginger-growing areas in Hadero Tunto, Kacha Bira, and Tambaro Woredas in Kambata Tambaro Zone will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through June due to a poor ginger harvest last year, which led to very low incomes. With the anticipated near-average, Belg harvest, household food access will improve, and these areas will improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July onwards.
    • Southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas in southern Somali, Oromia, and SNNPR: With mostly normal rainfall and continued income from livestock and milk sales, most central and northern areas will maintain their income through September. Wage rates and gifts by better off households to poorer households are expected to continue. Despite some increase in herd sizes over the past several years, most herds remain smaller than they were when livelihoods baselines were collected in 2004 and 2005. Low herd sizes do not allow poor and very poor households to receive enough income from livestock sales and livestock product sales to cover their food needs, their essential non-food needs, and to protect their livelihoods. Therefore, most areas will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    • Southern areas along the Kenyan border in the southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas in southern Somali, Oromia, and SNNPR: With less rainfall in these areas and an especially dry April, early pasture and water depletion are likely. This will lead unusual livestock migration patterns, and a reduction in livestock production and productivity. Affected areas include some parts of Afder, Shebelle, Korahe, Dollo Zones in Somali Region, and lowland areas of Guji and Borena Zones in Oromia Region. Unusual migration patterns will lead to overgrazing and increase the risk of communicable livestock disease outbreaks. These will likely reduce household-level food and income access unless adequate and timely humanitarian interventions are in place. Poor households in these areas will likely move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) with the continued presence of assistance from July to September 2014. This means that households will be more dependent on food assistance during this time.
    • Afar and northern Somali Region: With continued rain expected to increase pasture, browse, and water availability, livestock productivity will likely improve. Livestock prices are likely to remain mostly stable. In addition to income from livestock and livestock product sales, households will also receive ongoing emergency food assistance and PSNP transfers. These sources of food and income should allow households to meet their minimal food needs, but they will be unable to address their non-food needs such as livestock drugs. Most western and southern parts of Afar Region and Sitti and Fafan Zones in Somali Region will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).
    • Northeastern Afar: In Dalul, Berhale, Erebti, Afedera, Elidar, Bidu, and Kurri Woredas, previous poor seasons caused a decline in livestock holdings and ownership of other assets. Livestock production and productivity reducations have reduced household income and food access. Poor households in these areas will likely continue to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through September 2014 until kidding and lambing are likely to increase milk availability and start a gradual improvement in food security after that.
    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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