Download the Report
Food security continues to be of concern due to flooding, protracted impacts of past poor seasons, conflict and insecurity, desert locusts, and poor macroeconomic factors, despite the favorable 2019 Kiremt and Deyr seasons. Poor household income and food access from livestock and labor has declined in parts of the country while food prices remain atypically high. As a result, much of the eastern part of the country is expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from February to September. Humanitarian assistance is expected to improve outcomes in some areas to Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!).
The impact of desert locusts on crops and pasture has been localized with relatively minor crop and pasture losses. However, the ongoing desert locust upsurge in the lowlands of northern, eastern, and southeastern areas continue to threaten both crops and pasture. Crop losses in belg-dependent areas are expected to be locally significant although have little impact on national production. In pastoral areas, some pasture losses are expected. Although, the above average pasture from the Gu/Genna season will most likely mitigate impacts during the dry season in southern and southeastern pastoral areas.
Conflict, insecurity, ethnic violence, and the clash between state and non-state actors across the country, specifically in western and southern Oromia continue. This is increasing the loss of lives and livelihoods and displacement. Displaced households have difficulty accessing incomes and food and in some cases humanitarian assistance. These conditions are expected to continue throughout the scenario period and further increase as the August elections approach.
Despite average national production, staple food prices across much of the country are atypically increasing, including in central and western surplus-producing areas. Staple food prices are anticipated to continue increasing as the lean season approaches and the election period begins. Conflict is expected to disrupt the movement of food from surplus producing areas to deficit areas. As labor rates are not expected to keep pace with price increases, household purchasing power is expected to further deteriorate.
According to FAO, desert locust bands and swarms are present in much of Somali Region, the Rift Valley, and southern SNNP and Oromia Regions along the Kenya and Somalia border affecting 180 woredas (Figure 1). The first desert locust swarm arrived in July/August 2019 from Yemen, where eggs hatched in Afar Region and spread into Eritrea. Based on information from the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) and FEWS NET field assessments, the second swarm originated from Somalia and Djibouti and migrated into Somali Region in November 2019. Desert locusts then spread across much of Somali Region and into southern Oromia and areas of SNNPR. Desert locust impacts have been localized with no large-scale impacts on pasture, crop production, and livelihoods to date.
It is currently the dry season over much of Ethiopia and locusts are laying eggs and breeding across areas of Somali, Afar, eastern lowlands of Amhara, Oromia, and SNNPR, including the Rift Valley. Control measures are ongoing through aerial and ground spraying. However, they are mostly concentrated in areas of highest concern in southern areas but have been insufficient to contain any further spread of locusts.
In the most likely scenario, the desert locust upsurge is expected to continue spreading due to favorable agroclimatic conditions despite the existing level of control measures, specifically, in the lowlands of Somali, rift valley areas of SNNP, and Oromia Regions. The swarms are expected to be pushed northward from Kenya back to Ethiopia with a shift in the winds. According to FAO, a new wave of breeding is anticipated for March and April. The western highlands are not expected to be affected since temperatures and vegetation are not conducive for locusts. Localized damage to crops is expected in some areas; however, the national Belg harvest is expected to be average due to favorable conditions. In areas worst-affected by locusts, the harvest is expected to be below average, negatively impacting household access to income and own production in Belg-dependent areas. In southern and eastern pastoral and agropastoral areas, pasture is likely to be above average, helping to mitigate desert locust impacts as some pasture will likely be available for livestock consumption. However, in worst-affected areas where desert locusts are most concentrated, atypical pasture deterioration is expected during the June to September dry season. As a result, livestock body conditions, and productivity is likely to be affected after the 2020Gu/Genna, in particular in southern and southeastern lowland areas.
The locust outbreak is not anticipated to be contained through June 2020 and will likely continue spreading with the start of Kiremt rainfall to areas where conditions are favorable to desert locusts. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to continue in some areas, specifically lowland areas, of SNNP, Oromia, Amhara, Afar, and Somali Regions, and the eastern escarpment of Tigray in June to September. These food security outcomes are anticipated to continue due to the compounding effects of continued drought recovery anticipated atypically high food prices, conflict-related displacement, weather hazards, macroeconomic challenges, and desert locusts.
In a worst-case scenario, desert locusts would invade a larger extent of lowland and main cropping areas due to high temperatures. Additionally, Gu/Genna would fail allowing for more widespread locust breeding and movement of large concentrated swarms across the eastern half of Ethiopia, including some surplus producing areas of the country. Locusts would also be pushed into north and northeastern areas of the country from the Red Sea catchment. This would result in below-average national Belg production, restricting cereal supplies, and further price increases across the country in an already tight market. In pastoral and agropastoral areas, pasture availability would deteriorate atypically early, leading to atypical livestock migration and excess livestock selling in worst-affected areas. Food security outcomes would deteriorate and result in an increase the number of people in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, specifically in Somali, and lowland areas of SNNP, Oromia, Afar and Amhara Regions and eastern escarpment of Tigray.
 For more detailed assumptions on FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for desert locusts please see the assumptions section of this report.
 An upsurge per FAO, is when an outbreak or contemporaneous outbreaks are not controlled and if widespread or unusually heavy rains fall in adjacent areas, several successive seasons of breeding can occur that causes further hopper band and adult swarm formation and generally affects an entire region.
According to the Ethiopian Central Statistical Agency (CSA), national 2019/20 Meher crop production is estimated to be nearly 33.0 million metric tons (MT), which is about 12.0 percent above the four-year average. The increase in main season production is attributed to the favorable performance of the 2019 Kiremt rainy season and an increase in the area planted. Despite the favorable national Meher harvest, production was below average in most parts of eastern and southern Tigray, eastern and Waghimera Zone of Amhara, and eastern Oromia, particularly in East and West Hararghe Zones, and lowland areas of Arsi and Bale, bordering Somali region.
Performance of rainfall for the October to December 2019 Deyr/Hagaya was significantly above average, which was among the wettest Deyr/Hagaya seasons on record (Figure 2). The extension of 2019 Kiremt rainfall, across much of the country, resulted in crop damage in some mid and higher elevated areas and flooding particularly in Somali Region. This resulted in some crop and livestock losses, damage of water points and school facilities, bridges, and displacement of around 14,000 people. On the other hand, the continued rainfall improved pasture and water availability in most southern and southeastern pastoral and agropastoral areas. In agropastoral areas, households that were able to replant, harvested crops slightly later than normal and production is estimated to be below average. This is mostly due to consecutive flooding events, which prevented households from replanting and in other areas poor household’s ability to access seeds for multiple plantings. The improved pasture and water availability improved livestock body conditions and productivity, particularly in areas that had a poor 2019 Gu/Genna season.
Despite desert locusts in southern and southeastern parts of the country, livestock body conditions are generally good due to the improvements and above-average availability of pasture and water. Desert locusts have only had localized impacts on current pasture conditions. Livestock migration is occurring normally across most southern and southeastern areas. Although, conflict along the Somali/Oromia border is restricting pastoral movements. This is forcing most livestock to a few areas where livestock are highly concentrated, resulting in pasture and water shortages. Livestock holdings in southern and southeastern areas are gradually improving; however, remain below average as pastoralists are still recovering from the 2015/16 drought. Livestock conceptions, production, and productivity have improved although continue at below average rates in these areas.
Meanwhile, much of Afar and Sitti Zone in Somali Region (which is seasonally similar to northern pastoral areas) has experienced three consecutive years of poor rainfall. Additionally, many far northern areas Afar did not experience an extension of the 2019 Karan/Kiremt season. Across much of this area, pasture conditions are generally below the median per the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as of the February 21 to 29 period (Figure 3). As a result, livestock body conditions have started to deteriorate in northern Afar and Waghimera zone of Amhara. Key informants indicate atypical livestock migration occurring, especially in Zone 2, as there is little pasture in typical grazing areas. Some households have moved their livestock to bordering areas of Tigray to access pasture and water. Camel and goat birthing rates are slightly below normal. Though, milk yield per animal is near normal in most areas; however, total milk production for human consumption is below average due to below normal herd sizes. Access to food and income from the sale of livestock and livestock products is below average, which is restricting pastoral household purchasing power.
Belg 2020 rainfall has started in southwestern parts of the country. Rainfall has been favorable and slightly above average in SNNPR; however, there are some slight early season deficits in eastern and central Oromia and eastern Amhara. In Belg-receiving areas of the country, land preparation and some early season planting is underway. With the start of the Belg and the emergence of vegetation, which desert locusts favor for multiplication, formation, and spread of desert locust groups and bands are likely ongoing, especially in lowland parts of these areas. As of March 5, according to FAO, control measures are ongoing with slightly over 41,000 hectares treated since measures started being implemented.
Ethiopia’s inflation rate has been increasing since late 2018 peaking in February 2020 at nearly 21 percent. In February 2020, the consumer price index (CPI) indicated year on year inflation was 21.8 percent, this is a significant increase in the inflation rate from 18.7 percent in January (Figure 3). According to the National Bank of Ethiopia, the high rate of inflation is due to the widening balance of trade mainly from infrastructural developments, among others, amidst a reduction in international reserves and liquidity. This is resulting in the depreciation of the Ethiopia Birr (ETB), and higher prices of imports for fuel, spare parts, food, and agriculture inputs.
Despite the near average Meher harvest, on average national staple food prices are unseasonably increasing even in some surplus-producing areas of the country. Typically, after the Meher harvest, prices significantly decrease. Staple prices in some markets are following seasonal trends decreasing from a peak in October; however, continue to remain above the five-year average. Prices are above average, especially in eastern parts of the country, as the result increased transportation costs, insecurity restricting domestic trade from surplus western areas to eastern parts of the country, and high inflation rate. According to Ethiopian Trade and Business Corporation (ETBC), maize prices in Hosanna market (a surplus southern producing market, Figure 4) peaked in October and have slowly declined through December. However, December 2019 maize grain prices were 16 and 21 percent above the same time last year and five-year average respectively. Maize prices in Dire Dawa, in eastern Ethiopia and Addis Ababa Central market, were nearly 60 and 70 percent above the same time last year, respectively. In both, these market prices were 100 percent above the five-year average.
Livestock prices across the country have also increased; however, they are increasing at a slower rate than staple foods. This has negatively affected some pastoral household's purchasing power. Although in some pastoral areas of Somali Region, livestock and staple food prices increases are generally following a similar trend, which is having little impact on household purchasing power. With seasonally low income from agriculture activities and a decline in income from casual labor, households are currently unable to generate enough income to purchase food to meet all their food needs. In most pastoral and agropastoral areas this is forcing households to atypically sell livestock. In northern pastoral areas, livestock prices are not increasing at a similar rate as staple food prices. As a result, purchasing power is continuously decreasing in northern pastoral households.
The current behavior of agriculture and non-agricultural labor opportunities across the country is highly influenced by the agricultural season and security situation. Since it is the dry season in most parts of the country and insecurity is increasing, labor opportunities for the poor remain below average.
According to the IOM Round 20 (collected in November to December 2019) National Displacement Report, released in February 2020, over 1.7 million people were identified as displaced in nearly 1,200 sites. IOM found the biggest cause for displacement was conflict, resulting in nearly 1.15 million Internally Displaced People (IDPs). The rest of the IDPs were due to drought and seasonal flooding. According to UNHCR, there have been more than 370,000 new displacements since November 2019, across areas of the country. These populations have been displaced as the result of conflict. The highest rate of displacement is taking place in Somali and Oromia Regions.
An Inter-agency Multi-Sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment report of IDPs in Guji Zone in the Oromia Region, in late December 2019 found that nearly 68,000 people, about 22 percent of the general population had been displaced (Figure 4). This is due to conflict between state and non-state actors. As the result of ongoing conflict, many of these populations have not returned
to their place of origin. As per the same report, IDPs and host communities have yet to receive assistance and the situation is exacerbated by the high levels of malnutrition among children, the elderly, and PLW.
PSNP resources are typically distributed between January and June 2020 for public works projects and direct support to about 8 million people throughout the country. PSNP distribution started for 2020; however, based on historical trends distribution is expected to be irregular and has not started in all areas of the country.
In 2020, the Government of Ethiopia and the international community through the Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) identified 6.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Out of the total population in need per the HRP, 5.9 million people are targeted for in-kind emergency food or cash assistance. This assistance is expected to be distributed in seven rounds. As per the prioritization committee (PC) analysis, there are significant carry-over resources that are expected to be used for distribution for the 2020 HRP. Humanitarian food distribution for 2020 has started in some areas of the country.
National therapeutic feeding program (TFP) admission data from the Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU) for September to November 2019 indicate a decline in the number of admissions; however, TFP admissions remain above last year and the five-year average. It is anticipated that the prevalence of wasting will continue to decrease through February 2020 and start worsening at the peak of the lean season.
Western and central surplus producing areas of the country are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) as these households continue to consume own foods. Food security is stable in most parts of the Southern Nations Nationalities and People Region (SNNPR), following the average Meher and Belg harvests in 2019 production, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes present in the western part of the region. However, in eastern parts of SNNPR bordering Oromia, and western areas of Somali Region bordering Oromia Region, conflict has negatively impacted household access to normal livelihoods. Additionally, households in these areas have exhausted their own produced foods, have limited access to markets, and/or have limited ability to access income from livestock and livestock products. As a result, much of these areas face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2), or in some isolated areas Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) as humanitarian food assistance is improving food access.
Most households including Belg producing areas in northeastern Amhara and Tigray Regions, areas along the Tekeze river and Waghimera Zone of Amhara, and eastern Oromia Region, particularly in East and West Hararghe Zones, and the lowlands of Arsi and Bale, bordering Somali region and those conflict-affected households in Gedio Zone of SNNPR have exhausted their stock from own production and have below-average market access to food. As a result, these areas are mostly in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Some areas which are receiving humanitarian food assistance are in Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!).
In addition to conflict, the high concentration of livestock in specific areas due to insecurity, impacts from desert locust infestations, and high staple food prices is resulting in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) among poor households in much of Somali Region.
Some parts of Afar and northern Somali Region food security outcomes remain stable with Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) ongoing due to late and unseasonable 2019 Kiremt rainfall. However, due to the consecutive poor seasons in northern Afar, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are present.
The most likely scenario from February to September 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
- The February to May Belg rainfall season is expected to be average; however, in northeastern parts of belg receiving areas, there is a slight tendency for rainfall to be average to below average.
- Gu/Genna/long rains (March to May) are likely to be average.
- The Sugum (March to May) in northern pastoral areas is expected to be average; however, in southern parts of this area, there is a tendency for average to below-average rainfall.
- Kiremt/Karma/Karan rains between June and September 2020 are likely to be average.
- In eastern and northeastern parts of the country due to the tendency for below-average rainfall and above normal temperatures, there are expected to be some negative impacts on pasture and crop performance.
- Belg land preparation, planting, and production is expected to be generally near normal with the expected average rainfall. However, some localized crop losses are expected in some Belg producing areas of the Rift Valley and central Ethiopia.
- Control measures for desert locusts are expected to continue at the local and national levels; however, they will most likely be insufficient to limit the outbreak and insecurity is likely to limit control operations in parts of the country.
- Given forecast for average March to May 2020 Gu/Ganna rains this will most likely lead to average pasture and water regeneration. However, winds, soil moisture, and vegetation are currently favorable for desert locust breeding. According to FAO’s February Locust Watch, desert locusts will likely continue to breed and spread through June 2020. Given the life cycle of desert locusts and the March to May start of the long rains season coinciding with the regeneration of rangeland and the start of planting activities, this will likely enable a new wave of breeding and further spread in March and April. This is expected to result in localized crop and pasture losses in agropastoral and pastoral areas of eastern areas of the country.
- In southern and southeastern pastoral areas, the anticipated average Gu/Genna rainfall between March and May is likely to lead to average pasture and water regeneration, which is expected to facilitate normal grazing and drinking for livestock during the dry season between June and September. However, areas worst-affected by desert locusts are expected to have a high rate of decline in pasture availability after the Gu as desert locusts are expected to consume pasture.
- In northern pastoral areas of Afar and northern Somali Regions, the anticipated average Sugum/Gu/Genna and Karam/Karan rains will help to improve pasture and water availability. However, warmer than normal climate will have impacts on the long-term pasture and water availability in northeastern parts of the country.
- The expected average Sugum/Gu/Genna and Karam/Karan rains in northern, southern, and southeastern pastoral areas will most likely improve livestock body conditions, production, and productivity to normal due to the availability of crop residue and expected increases in pasture and water with seasonal increases. However, in some localized northern, southern, and southeastern pastoral areas, improvements in livestock body conditions following these rains are likely to be temporary due to consumption of vegetation by desert locusts and the anticipated restriction of movement due to insecurity and the desert locust invasion. In areas affected by desert locusts, while favorable rainfall will likely mitigate pasture losses, atypical pasture deterioration is likely during the June to September dry season and is expected to lead to some atypical livestock migration. As a result, some deterioration in livestock body conditions is expected; however, no atypical livestock deaths are anticipated.
- There is a high likelihood of livestock disease, particularly an outbreak of Rift Valley Fever (RVF) in flood-prone areas of the rift valley and southern pastoral areas.
- Agricultural labor opportunities between February and June 2020 are likely to be normal. Although, due to the anticipated atypically high number of people in search of labor, below-average wage rates are likely in Belg-producing areas of SNNPR, Amhara, and central and eastern Oromia. Although, in most parts of Amhara, Tigray, and central Oromia labor availability is expected to have seasonal improvements; however, remains below average, from June to September 2020.
- Household income from non-agriculture labor is expected to be normal in most parts of crop dependent areas; however, wage rates are likely to be below average in comparison to the increasing cost of living.
- Supplies of staple cereals on markets are expected to remain at seasonally normal levels in most parts of Amhara, Tigray, and Oromia, following the average Meher 2019 harvest in most major cereal-producing areas of the country. However, staple cereals market prices are expected to remain above average and increase throughout the scenario period as the ETB continues to depreciate and its purchasing capacity deteriorates as the inflation rate is expected to remain high.
- Livestock prices are expected to be average to above average in many areas due to improved livestock body condition and the devaluation of the ETB. However, in lowland woredas along the Tekeze catchment of Amhara and Tigray Regions, and northern parts of Afar, livestock prices anticipated to follow a decreasing trend following the expected poor body condition as Belg rains in these areas are likely to be below average.
- The National Electoral Board of Ethiopia (NEBE) plans to hold a national general election in August 2020. Based on historical trends of ethnic intolerance, violence in recent years, and an increase of insecurity prior to and after elections, an increase in conflict is expected leading up to the elections. As a result, displacement and disruption of livelihoods are anticipated to increase around the time of the elections. An increase in conflict and displacement are expected to be the highest, along the Oromia and Somali, southern Afar and Amhara, SNNPR and Oromia, and Beneshangul-Gumuz and Amhara borders. Additionally, the conflict is expected to lead to the denial of access to affected communities by humanitarian actors, disruption of domestic trade and market supply, and a temporary high increase of staple food and nonfood prices where conflict disrupts market activities.
- In mid-November, the Sidama people of the Sidama Zone in SNNPR voted in favor of independent statehood and the referendum was considered as peaceful. However, issues related to border demarcation, retaliation and discrimination against minorities, and the power competition of different parties coupled with the upcoming election is likely to trigger further displacement and collapse of livelihoods of more people in this area.
- Based on historical nutrition survey and TFP admission trend data, levels of acute malnutrition vary by season where higher levels of acute malnutrition are recorded in the main hunger season (May to September) particularly in Meher-dependent areas. As such, TFP admissions are likely to increase between May and September mostly in Meher-dependent areas. In parts of East and West Hararghe, Dire Dawa, lowlands of Bale, Afar, and parts of Somali region, reported disease outbreaks including cholera, measles, and chikungunya are anticipated to persist contributing to further deterioration of acute malnutrition.
- PSNP resources are planned, funded, and likely to be transferred to about 8 million chronically food insecure people in eight regions of the country for six months between January and June 2020 on a regular basis.
- The HRP has planned for approximately 5.9 million people between January and June 2020 to receive emergency food and non-food assistance. However, humanitarian assistance distribution is anticipated to remain irregular. Plans for humanitarian food assistance for the June to September period were not available for this analysis, as such the analysis for the June to September period does not include the impacts of humanitarian food assistance.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
In Eastern Tigray and Amhara, East and West Hararghe of Oromia, and Burj and Amaro Zones of SNNPR Meher production was well below average and household food stocks are not expected to last through the February to March period. As a result, poor households will most likely start facing difficulties addressing their minimal food needs starting in February or March. Moreover, pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of northern Afar, Bale, Guji and Borena lowlands of Oromia Region, South Omo of SNNPR, and Warder, Shabelle and Liben Zones of Somali Region due to conflict-related displacements and concentration of livestock in specific areas due to insecurity, desert locust infestations, and high staple food prices, poor households in these parts of the country will be either Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) from February to May 2020. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in other southern and southeastern pastoral areas as livestock conditions are expected to continue to be average; however, herd sizes are still below average.
Access to own-produced crops is likely to improve somewhat in Belg-producing areas starting in June, whereas most poor households in Meher-dependent areas will face food consumption gaps as they move to their peak of the lean season between June to September 2020. In the western and central surplus-producing areas of the country, the average Meher harvest will most likely seasonally improve food consumption and income-earning from harvest labor.
The largest number of people in need of humanitarian food assistance is expected to be in the eastern part of the country during the peak lean season for Meher-dependent areas and areas worst affected by conflict due to the elections from June to September 2020. Despite the generally favorable June to September Kiremt/Karan/Karma and March to April Gu/Genna rains in the pastoral areas of the country, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in much of these areas due to asset depletion caused by the cumulative effects of repeated droughts, conflict, flood, and pest infestations.
Events that Might Change the Outlook
Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario.
Impact on food security outcomes
A late start and/or below-average Belg rains from February to May 2020
The area planted under long-cycle crops would be below-average, reducing Belg and long-cycle Meher crops, increasing demand on markets and decreasing labor demand associated.
A late start and/or below-average amount of Belg rains from February to May 2020 and Kiremt rains from June to September 2020
Livestock body conditions would deteriorate, and productivity would decline. Reduced milk production and reduced income from livestock sales would likely follow.
Desert locust infestation is not controlled and agroclimatic conditions favor locusts.
Both long and short cycle crops and pasture would be devastated and reduced both Belg and Meher production and livestock body condition. Increasing the areas in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
Long -term conflict across the country associated with the upcoming election
Livelihood activities would be obstructed, income from livelihood activities would be declined and loss of life and livelihoods
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
Source: FEWS NET/FAO/USGS
Current food security outcomes, February 2020
Source: FEWS NET
SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR
Source: FEWS NET
Source: FEWS NET/UCSB CHC
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Source: Central Statistics Authority (CSA)
Source: Inter-agency Multi-Sectoral Rapid Needs Assessment report
To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.