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Food security improves among poor households following harvests

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Rwanda
  • February 2013
Food security improves among poor households following harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
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    Key Messages
    • Rain gauge data in eastern Rwanda indicate that season 'A' rainfall levels were below-average. This poor rainfall caused a 60-80 percent decline in crop production in some areas. In particular, significant crop losses have been noted in almost all sectors of Kayonza (Ndego, Murama, Kabare, Rwinkwavu, Mwiri and Murundi) and Kirehe (Nyamugali, Kigarama, Mahama, Mpanga, Gahara, Nyarubuye and Nasho). These areas will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) oucomes from now through June.  

    • Heavy rains, erosion, and crop diseases caused below-average harvests in the Eastern and Western Congo Nile areas. While households in these areas are currently relying on their own food stocks, they will become market dependant two to three weeks earlier than normal and will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food security outcomes from April to June. 

    • For the rest of the country, recent season 'A' harvests have replenished food stocks, improving food availability and access. Poor households are currently able to meet both essential food and non-food needs and are facing Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. 

    Current Situation
    • Recent harvests: Season 'A' harvests are almost complete across the country, with the exception of the West Congo Nile tea and food crop zone were harvests are ongoing. Rain gauge data from Byimana and Kawangire indicate that season 'A' rainfall was below-average in eastern Rwanda. A recent FEWS NET led assessment to the Eastern Agro-pastoral and East Agro-pastoral semi-arid zones found that this poor rainfall caused crop production in these zones to be down 60 to 80 percent compared to normal. Poor temporal distribution of rainfall at the beginning of the season, heavy rains later on, and an above-average prevalence of crop diseases (banana Xanthomonas wilt and maize caterpillar) have also caused slightly to moderately below average harvests in other areas of the country, particularly the Eastern and Western Congo Nile areas.
    • Household food stocks:  Household food stocks in the Eastern and Western Congo Nile areas are below average due to crop losses during season 'A'. Household food stocks in these areas are expected to be depleted by the beginning of March, which is about two to three weeks earlier than normal. The situation is worse in eastern Rwanda where a dry spell caused significantly below-average harvests. In these areas, the lean season is expected to start in late February, which is about one month earlier than normal.  
    • Livestock conditions: The eastern livelihood zones of Rwanda are major livestock production zones that supply animals to the rest of the country. In January, about 800 cows in these zones were identified with foot and mouth disease. In order to prevent further transmission of this disease, the region is currently subject to an official quarantine. As a result, no sales of livestock or livestock products are allowed within these zones or between these zones and other areas of the country. This has significantly reducing incomes for agropastoral households.  
    • Staple food prices: January bean prices at key markets declined by about 15 percent compared to December due to the recent harvests. However reduced market supply has caused prices for Irish potatoes and maize, two other important stable food in Rwanda, to increase slightly by 8 and 5 percent, respectively. Prices for most commodities are generally higher than last year's levels. For example, prices for beans, Irish potatoes, and whole maize have increased by 16 percent, 2 percent, and 18 percent, respectively.
    • Agricultural wage opportunities: Agricultural labor is an important source of income for poor households in many areas of Rwanda. At this time of the year, agricultural labor opportunities are primarily related to season 'A' harvests and land preparation activities for season 'B'. Wages for these activities are currently at normal levels.  
    • Upcoming season 'B' rainy season: The season 'B' rainy season generally begins in mid-February and continues through May. A recent FEWS NET led assessment found that in the eastern livelihood zones, the start of this rainy season has been slightly delayed by about two weeks. While this delay is not expected to have any impacts on season 'B' harvests yet, the seasonal progression of the rains needs to be closely monitoring. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2013. A full discussion of the scenario is available at the most recent Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    Household food stocks in most areas were replenished during the recent season 'A' harvests. As a result, poor households in most areas of the country are currently relying on their own food production, as is typical for this time of the year. Through June 2013, these households will be able to employ normal livelihood strategies (livestock sales, consumption and sales of own crop production, casual labor, etc.) to access food through either their own food stocks or market purchases. These households will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through the entire outlook period.

    Households in the Eastern agro-pastoral semi arid zone suffered significant crop losses during the last season, resulting in below-average food stocks. As a result, many households in these areas have already started resorting to market purchases one month earlier than normal. In addition, the livestock quarantine in this zone has prevented households from earning income from livestock and livestock product sales, an important livelihood strategy in this zone. In order to meet essential food and non-food needs, households in this zone are relying on atypical coping strategies including intense labor work and skipping meals. As a result, this area will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes from now until the green harvests in June.

    In the Eastern and Western Congo Nile areas, the lean season is expected to start in March, which is about two to three weeks earlier than normal. To meet essential food and nonfood needs, households in these areas will also resort to atypical coping strategies and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April until June. 

    Figures Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar in a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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