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The agricultural season 'A' is underway due to early rains

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Rwanda
  • September 2012
The agricultural season 'A' is underway due to early rains

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  • Key Messages
  • Updated food security outlook through December 2012
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    Key Messages
    • The agricultural season 'A' is underway across most of the country, although the rains have not yet begun in a few localized areas. Due to early rains, the planting season started two weeks earlier than normal in most areas. Seasonal weather forecasts remain favorable and are predicting normal to above-normal rainfall in western districts of the country and normal to below-normal rainfall in eastern districts. This suggests that a normal season 'A' harvest will occur in January.  

    • Poor households in most regions have nearly depleted their food stocks from this year's poor season 'B' harvests. In the Eastern Congo‐Nile highland subsistence farming and West-Congo Nile tea and food crops livelihood zones, poor households are currently meeting most of their food needs through market purchases. Poor households in these areas are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October until the season 'A' harvests in December because their food stocks, which are currently below-normal, will be exhausted.

    Updated food security outlook through December 2012

    Agricultural season ‘A’ has begun in many areas of the country. In the northern and western provinces, beans, maize, and Irish potatoes are the main crops cultivated during this growing season. In the eastern and southern provinces, rice and cassava are the primary crops grown, although maize and beans are also cultivated. This season's rains have not been evenly distributed across the country and in some areas, such as the districts of Bugesera and Kirehe in Eastern Province and the districts of Muhanga and Gisagara in Southern Province, the rains have not yet begun. In certain regions, such as Nyagatare, farmers had not started planting when the early rains began, and therefore they were unable to take full advantage of the rains. According to the Rwanda Meteorology Department, heavy rains are forecasted for October. This could have a negative impact on beans growers in Northern Province since heavy rains can damage young plants (approximately two to three weeks old), resulting in a poor harvest.

    This season's rains, which normally occur from October to December, started earlier than usual during the first dekad of September. For crops to develop normally in all regions of the country, the rains need to continue through at least mid-October. The current forecasts for this season's rains remain favorable with normal to above-normal rainfall forecasts for the western and central regions of the country and normal to below-normal rainfall forecasts in the eastern regions (Figure 3). This suggests that a relatively normal harvest will occur in January. However, the above-normal rainfall levels predicted for western Rwanda raises the probability of flooding in flood-prone areas.

    With a few local exceptions, staple food prices have remained relatively stable or have risen slightly compared to last year. Prices are expected to rise during the October to November lean season until the green harvest begins in December. 

    Poor households in most livelihood zones have nearly depleted their food stocks from the poor season 'B' harvests. For example, a recent field visit to the West Congo‐Nile tea and food crop zone, the Eastern Semi‐arid Agro‐pastoral zone, and the Bugesera cassava zone found that many households have shifted to market purchases to meet their food needs due to low household food stocks. Low food stock levels at this time of the year are normal in Rwanda because landholdings are limited (poor households own on average less than 0.1 ha of land). Therefore, poor households usually resort to other livelihood strategies, such as off-farm casual labor or the sale of livestock, to generate income. This year's poor season 'B' harvest, as well as the practice of crops being used for seed or sold to purchase other farm inputs, also contributed to the current, below-normal food stock levels. Government safety nets, such as the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program which provides poor households with off-farm labor opportunities during the dry season, are in place to reduce the impact on poor households' consumption levels. The season 'C' harvest, which occurs from September through December in marshland areas, is also ongoing. However, season 'C' is a smallest of Rwanda's three annual harvests and is not expected to off‐set the low food stocks.

    As food stocks decrease in eastern pastoral areas, poor households participate in agricultural labor and the sale of livestock to generate cash income to purchase food on the market. There is currently a favorable availability of pasture due to the prolonged season ‘B’ rains, and therefore, the physical condition of livestock is generally good. However, agricultural wages and livestock prices are low due to the seasonally normal, high levels of agricultural labor and livestock supplied to local markets.

    As the lean season begins in October, food security is expected to worsen for poor households in the Eastern Congo‐Nile Highland subsistence farming livelihood zone, the Western Congo‐Nile Crest tea livelihood zone, and the Bugesera cassava livelihood zone. Poor households in these areas are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from October until the season 'A' harvests in December. Middle and better‐off households, who still have household food stocks available and are less dependent on the market purchases for staple foods, are expected to remain food secure through December.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar and Critical Events

    Source: FEWS NET Rwanda

    Rainfall forecast, October to December 2012

    Figure 2

    Rainfall forecast, October to December 2012

    Source: Rwanda Meteorological Department

    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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