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Household food stocks depleted as lean season peaks

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Rwanda
  • November 2012
Household food stocks depleted as lean season peaks

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outcomes through March 2012
  • Key Messages
    • Despite the lean season currently peaking, households in most areas of Rwanda will be able to meet essential food and non-food needs by employing normal livelihood strategies and will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity through March 2013. However, the food security of poor households in the East Congo‐Nile highland farming and West Congo-Nile Crest tea livelihood zones has been declining, and these areas will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until the new harvests in late December replenish stocks. 

    • Significant rainfall levels fell over the central and western parts of the country from October 21 through November 10. In some western areas, such as the Rusizi district, particularly heavy rains caused crop damage, totaling about 477 ha.  

    • Below-average rainfall in the East at the beginning of season 'A' (September and October) caused planting delays and crop damage in areas of the Kayonza, Kirehe, Bugesera, and Ngoma districts. Some cropping areas are being replanted and as a result, delayed and below-average harvests are likely. 


    Current Situation
    • Lean season: The lean season is currently peaking across the country. To varying degrees depending on the locality, season 'B' harvests in July through August were poor. This has caused the current lean season to be more difficult than usual. In most areas, poor households are earning income through normal livelihood strategies (ex. petty trade, selling livestock and animal products, etc.) and have been able to meet their food and non-food needs through market purchases. However, in the East Congo‐Nile highland farming and West Congo-Nile Crest tea zones, poor households were more severely impacted by the low season 'B' harvests. Poor households in these zones can only afford essential food needs and some are engaged in atypical coping strategies, such as selling additional small animals (ex. rabbits, chickens), limiting meal portion sizes, and reducing the number of meals consumed per day. Households in these two zones are currently facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity.
    • Above-normal rains in the West: According to the Rwanda Meteorological Agency, western areas of the country received abundant rainfall, averaging 3.9mm to 5.8mm per day in October, which is about 30 to 50 percent above-normal. Localized hail and floods have damaged crops in some areas of the Rutsiro district (Kivumu and Nyabirasi sectors) and the Karongi district (Rubengera, Bwishyura and Gitesi sectors). Heavy rains also caused 66.5 ha of rice, 183.5 ha of maize, 106 ha of beans, 106 ha of cassava and 16 ha of vegetables to be destroyed in sectors bordering the Bugarama marshland in the Busizi district.
    • Poor rains in the East: In some parts of the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral Zone (Kirehe, Kayonza and Bugesera), no rainfall occurred during two consecutive dekads of October. This damaged crops that were at the germination stage in some areas and in other areas, it delayed planting activities. A recent visit in this zone showed that due to the poor rainfall, 33 percent of the total area planted was delayed and 39 percent of the area would likely need to be replanted. This will cause harvests to be delayed by approximately one month, prolonging the lean season, and causing season 'A' crop production to be below-normal. In addition, if harvests are delayed until mid-February as forecasted for some of areas, season 'B' planting activities, which normally occur at that time, may be compromised as household members are busy with harvesting activities.
    • Agricultural labor: At this time in the agricultural season, weeding is the primary agricultural activity. Since weeding does not take as much agricultural labor as other farming activities, labor demand is at normal, low levels, causing labor wages to decline as compared to last month.   
    • Staple Food Prices: Staple food prices (maize, beans, Irish potatoes) on most markets are stable or slowly rising and are between 15 to 36 percent higher than last year. This may be partially due to low market supply relating to last season's poor harvests and high demand for seeds during the planting and replanting period. Food prices are expected to rise until mid-December when the lean season ends. Following the green and main harvests, prices are expected to stabilize or slightly decline.  
    • Livestock Prices: During the lean season, households often sell livestock as part of normal livelihood strategies or atypical coping strategies. Given the unusually low, food stocks facing many households, some are selling more livestock animals than normal. This has caused an above-normal supply of animals on local markets and has lowered livestock prices. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the period of October 2012 to March 2013. A full discussion of the scenario is available at the most recent Food Security Outlook.


    Projected Outcomes through March 2012
    • Most poor households throughout the country will rely on normal livelihood strategies to enable them to meet essential food and non-food needs through market purchases until the harvests in December. Households will then rely on either their own production or the market for their food needs through March 2013. These households will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity throughout the entire outlook period.
    • Poor households in the East Congo‐Nile highland farming and West Congo-Nile Crest tea zones will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until the harvests in December. At that point, harvests will replenish both household and market food stocks and prices will decline slightly. Poor households in these livelihood zones will then also be able to meet essential food and non-food needs without coping strategies and will be food secure (IPC Phase 1) through March 2013.  
    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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