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Meher harvests to improve food security in October, but Deyr rains may be below average

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • June 2016 - January 2017
Meher harvests to improve food security in October, but Deyr rains may be below average

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • More than 10 million people require emergency food assistance in 2016, following El Niño-induced drought in 2015. Worst-affected areas include Wag Himra, East and West Hararghe, and pastoral areas in Shinile and southern Afar, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes will continue through September.

    • The number of people requiring emergency assistance should begin to decline significantly with the onset of Meher harvests in October 2016. Seasonal forecasts indicate 2016 Kiremt (June to September) rainfall will likely be above average in most agricultural areas, leading to prospects for average Meher harvests. Improvements in livestock body conditions, livestock productivity, and prices should also further improve household access to food and income. 

    • Excessive rainfall during the Kiremt season may trigger flooding that could temporarily displace households, damage crops and livestock, and temporarily limit humanitarian access to flood-affected areas. 

    • Seasonal forecasts and a high likelihood of a La Niña occurring during the 2016 Deyr season suggest rainfall will likely be below average in southern and southeastern pastoral areas. This will likely lead to poorer than usual generation of pasture and water sources, which will lead to earlier and worse than normal deterioration of livestock body conditions, reduced livestock productivity, and below-average livestock prices. In these areas, food security may deteriorate beyond the outlook period, particularly if the 2017 Gu (March to May) rains are also limited by La Niña. 


    Current Situation

    Belg (February to May) rainfall was late and unevenly distributed geographically in February and March, but was followed by well above-average rainfall from April through mid-May. Overall, cumulative seasonal rainfall totals were above average in most areas, except in parts of southern SNNPR and Amhara, where seasonal rainfall in some areas was between 50 and 80 percent of average.

    Kiremt seasonal rainfall started on time in most central, western, and eastern parts of the country, and is just beginning in the northeastern part. The amount and distribution so far is normal, except in some parts of SNNPR, eastern Oromia, and northern Somali Region, where early season rainfall deficits have started to accumulate. Land preparation and planting of short maturing crops have started in some areas. The overall impact of the Kiremt rainfall performance so far is conducive for seasonal agricultural activities.

    The increased rainfall was generally favorable for land preparation and planting activities for Belg crops normally harvested around June, as well as for planting of long-maturing crops such as maize, sorghum, and finger millet to be harvested during the Meher. In Belg-dominant areas of Tigray and Amhara, planting occurred on time, but was delayed by three to four weeks in SNNPR. Area planted is qualitatively estimated to be near normal, but the shortened growing season due to delayed planting in some areas, combined with floods due to torrential rains, and localized seed shortages indicate that Belg harvests will be moderately below average. Where planting was late, like in SNNPR, harvesting will be delayed by about a month, in July rather than in June. In marginal Belg-producing areas of eastern Oromia such as West Hararghe, households did not plant Belg crops and instead planted long-cycle crops to be harvested later in the Meher season.

    Torrential rainfall in April/May caused flash flooding and/or landslides in Southern Tigray, eastern Amhara, southern Afar, northeastern Somali, areas in SNNPR along the Rift Valley displacing around 200,000 people, disrupting some agricultural activities, and damaging infrastructure. Worst-affected households will likely need food and non-food assistance.

    In pastoral areas, the recent Sugum/Gu/Gana (March to May) rains in Afar, most of Somali, southern SNNPR, and Oromia were generally good from early April and have recharged water sources and regenerated pasture and browse. Nearly all emergency water and livestock feed distribution programs have now stopped and there are no more abnormal deaths of livestock. Body conditions for shoats have largely returned to normal and larger animals such as cattle have started to show some improvement, but are not yet fully recovered. Total livestock holdings, births, and milk production remain low and will take several years, especially for cattle and camel, to return to normal levels. As pastoral conditions and livestock body conditions have improved, prices for livestock have also started to increase. In Shinile market, for example, shoat prices in April 2016 were 20 to 25 per cent higher than at the same time last year.

    Though at a very high level, food prices are generally stable. The stability is largely due to the massive humanitarian assistance, and may also be due to lower than normal purchasing power. These prices are significantly higher than those of last year and the last five-year average. The national level food price inflation (source CSA) in May 2016 was 8.4 percent. The corresponding inflation rate for 2015 and 2014 were 10.1 and 6.3 percent, respectively.

    As of June 22, 2016, the total humanitarian requirement of the country stood at USD 1.52 billion for all sectors. The share of the food sector is USD 1.1 billion, of which only USD 0.5 billion (46 percent) has been pledged. Humanitarian assistance programs to address food consumption gaps for populations affected by the El Niño-induced drought are underway, although there are concerns over the irregularity and late delivery of food distributions. Three rounds of relief food distributions have been completed so far and the fourth is in progress. The total caseload is 10.2 million people, with the NDRMC covering approximately 6 million people, the Joint Emergency Operation Program (JEOP) covering 2.8 million people, and WFP covering about 1.5 million people. Meanwhile, four to five rounds (out of six total) of PSNP assistance have been delivered to beneficiaries. Health and nutritional interventions are in full swing. Emergency seed distributions are also underway to households most in need.

    At the national level, the number of children admitted to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP) for treatment of acute malnutrition has decreased in recent months, but is still higher than usual for this time of year. For example, the number of TFP admissions declined by six percent between March and April 2016, but April 2016 admissions were 10 percent higher than at the same time last year, and 11 percent higher than the recent four-year average. The atypically high number of admissions is likely due to a combination of the effects of last year’s El Niño-induced drought, as well as a scale-up of treatment programming in order to meet an expected increase in needs. In general, improvements in recent months have been attributed to the various humanitarian interventions, including delivery of emergency food assistance, school feeding, and PSNP programming.

    In areas worst-affected by drought in 2015, such as southern Afar, northern Somali, eastern Oromia, southern Tigray, and areas along the Tekeze catchment of Amhara and Tigray, households continue to face food consumption gaps and/or large livelihood protection deficits, even with ongoing assistance. In the absence of this assistance, poor households would be facing even larger food consumption gaps and a significant increase in acute malnutrition would be likely. Therefore, these areas are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!). Areas where food access remains constrained, but in which food consumption gaps are less severe, include parts of central Somali and Oromia Regions, as well as northern SNNPR, which are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Humanitarian assistance is sufficient to cover food consumptions gaps for most households in need in large parts of northern Afar and eastern Amhara, and small parts of Tigray and central Oromia, which are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).

    In southern pastoral and agropastoral areas of Somali, southern Oromia (including Borana, Guji and lowlands of Balle), Southern SNNPR, livestock to cereal terms of trade have been increased since January 2016. In Liben and Warder markets, for example, terms of trade (TOT) between shoats and maize have increased by 43 and 49 percent between January and May 2016, respectively. The good seasonal rains in the last two years and the near-average Gu 2016 rains have improved food and income from livestock production, enabling most households to meet their food consumption needs. In addition, the Government of Ethiopia is assisting food-insecure households using Emergency and PSNP resources. These areas are currently at Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) or at Stressed (IPC Phase 2).


    The most-likely scenario from June 2016 to January 2017 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Belg harvests will be moderately below average due to below-average early seasonal rainfall, the delayed start of season in some areas, excessive rainfall and flooding in some areas, seed shortages, and the impact of expected above-average Kiremt rainfall in July on late-planted Belg crops for which harvests are delayed.
    • Based on the high (64 percent) likelihood for a La Niña to develop by the July-August-September period, and based on NMANMME, and ECMWF seasonal forecasts, cumulative June to September 2016 Kiremt rainfall is likely to be above average in Tigray, parts of northern Afar, Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Gambela, and western Oromia. In the remaining Kiremt-benefiting areas, average rainfall totals are likely (Figure 1). Between October and December 2016, Deyr rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas is likely to be 10 to 25 percent below average, according to USGS/FEWS NET analysis of seasonal forecasts and historical weak to moderate La Niña events (Figure 2). 
    • In July/August, when Kiremt rains reach their peak, flooding in flood-prone areas is likely to be more extensive and severe than in a typical year and will likely temporarily displace households, damage crops and livestock, and temporarily limit humanitarian access to flood-affected areas.
    • Meher harvests starting in October 2016 are likely to be near average. Although the ongoing Kiremt rains will generally be favorable for agricultural production, some seed shortages, weakening of plough oxen, and expected excessive rains during the season are likely to limit production prospects beyond what is typical.
    • Market supply of cereals between June and September will be below the seasonal average in nearly all of the country because of the poor 2015 Meher harvest, although the government will likely release approximately 600,000 MT of imported wheat stocks in an attempt to maintain stable prices. Expected near-average Meher production will increase market supply to near-normal levels from October through at least the end of the outlook period in January.
    • Prices for locally produced staples, such as sorghum, maize, barley, and teff will peak as usual during the June to September lean season, but will be at higher-than-normal levels due to the impact of consecutively poor harvests in 2015. Between October and January, prices will begin to decline seasonally as expected average Meher harvests increase market supply and reduce household demand on markets.
    • In most areas, shoat prices are likely to be at normal levels through January, as their body conditions have mostly recovered. However, cattle prices are likely to remain below average between June and September, before improving to average levels between October and January as their body conditions return to normal. In southern and southeastern pastoral areas that typically receive Deyr rainfall between October and December, livestock prices will decline atypically early and more than usual, as below-average pasture and water conditions begin to impact their market value.
    • Agricultural labor opportunities, wage rates and incomes will remain normal throughout the outlook period in most cropping areas.
    • Formal and informal exports and imports across all borders are expected to function normally, with minimal or no insecurity and no policy restrictions limiting cross-border trade.
    • GAM prevalence is likely to show atypical seasonal rises during the main lean season (June to September) in areas worst affected by 2015 drought, with seasonal declines likely during the October to December post-harvest period in most areas of the country.
    • Despite estimated 10 to 25 percent pipeline breaks for beneficiaries under Government operations, the overall food assistance for the current caseload is likely to continue through September. JEOP resources will last through December 2016, but complete pipeline break are likely beyond September for GOE and WFP programming.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The effects of the 2015 drought are likely to continue until the start of Meher harvests in October 2016, particularly in crop dependent areas. These include lowlands of East and West Harerghe in Oromia, eastern Amhara, southern Tigray, areas along the Tekeze catchment of Amhara and Tigray, and along the rift valley in SNNPR. These areas are likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through September. With the expected near-average Meher harvest, access to food is highly likely to improve from October onwards. Expected decline in staple food prices and increased income from agricultural labor will also contribute to improvement in food access by poor households. Therefore, these areas will move to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In southern Afar and northern Somali, massive livestock deaths left most households’ livestock assets very low, limiting their access to income from the sale of livestock, livestock products, and labor for better-off pastoral households. As several good years may be required before livestock (particularly cattle) body conditions, births, productivity, and herd sizes fully improve, households in these areas will likely continue to face some food consumption gaps even into the second outlook period. Therefore, these areas will remain at Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) through September 2016, with slight improvements to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) from October 2016 to January 2017. Likewise, with much better pasture and water availability following the coming Karma rains in July and August, livestock production in northern Afar is likely to improve further, such that these areas will move from Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October 2016 to January 2017.

    In southern pastoral and agropastoral areas of Somali, southern Oromia (Borana, Guji and lowlands of Balle), Southern SNNPR, good rainy seasons in the last two years coupled with the near average Gu 2016 rains have improved food and income from livestock production. Most households are able to fulfill their food consumption from their own resources. As a result, some of these areas are likely to continue at Minimal (IPC Phase 1!) with humanitarian assistance while others will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from June to September. On the other hand, June through September is normally a dry season. This will be followed by the forecasted below-average October to December rainfall. These two combined will produce unusually long dry conditions that lead to below-average availability of pasture and water, weak livestock body condition, and reductions in both milk production and market values of animals from October onwards. As a result, most households will fulfill their food requirement but will be unable to afford some of their essential nonfood expenditures. Therefore, most of these areas are likely to be at Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October to January 2017. In south-eastern pastoral areas, food security is likely to worsen beyond January due to below average seasonal rains in October-December2016, aggravated by the normal dry condition through March.

    Most households in the western half of the country, particularly highland areas of SNNPR, and western Oromia, Amhara, Tigray, SNNPR as well as the entire Gambela and Benishangul Gumuz regions are likely to maintain adequate access to food. This considers carryover stocks from previous harvest and the expected good Meher harvest from October. The current Kiremt season is expected to improve livestock body condition, milk yields and calving rates. Additionally, income from agricultural labor will increase as labor opportunities improve. Therefore, these areas are likely to be at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) throughout the scenario period. 

    Figures Current food security outcomes, June 2016

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Seasonal Rainfall Anomaly Forecast (mm), June to September 2016.

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Seasonal Rainfall Anomaly Forecast (mm), June to September 2016.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2. Seasonal Rainfall Anomaly Forecast (Percent of Normal), October to December 2016.

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Seasonal Rainfall Anomaly Forecast (Percent of Normal), October to December 2016.

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    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.

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