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Rwanda Food Security Outlook

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Rwanda
  • February 2012 - June 2015
Rwanda Food Security Outlook

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Key Messages
    • Food security improved following the season A harvests that ended in January. The current situation is the same across all livelihood zones except for areas that depend on marshland farming which had a relatively poorer harvest for season A. Above normal rains during season A reduced the production of beans and maize. They have both since risen in price. 

    • In the Eastern Congo-Nile Highland Subsistence Farming Livelihood Zone, households will likely be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by the April to June 2012 period as poor households face a small livelihoods protection deficit due to drawing down food stocks and assets earlier due to the late start of the rains and poor access to casual labor for planting.

    • The delayed start of season B is likely to affect crop production mainly maize and beans and labor opportunities in most livelihood zones. However, the near normal rains forecasted for long term rains of March, April, and May suggest that the harvest starting in June will likely be near average. 

    Current Situation

    During the post harvest period from season A from December to February, most poor households have harvested their own crops and continue to rely on households stocks for food. Dependence on market purchase is relatively low. Planting for season B typically runs from February to early March and provides the landless and other poor households with opportunities for casual, agricultural labor.

    In February through March, food availability is expected to remain stable with markets and many households supplied from the season A harvest. Though the recent harvest volume of maize and beans was below average, prices remain relatively stable due to the season A harvest continuing to come into the market. Poor households which are reliant on markets this time of year will find markets well supplied and prices relatively stable. However, this year, the long rainy season started slightly late in the third week of February. This has delayed planting in some livelihood zones and reduced immediate opportunities for casual, agricultural labor.

    The food security situation of the outlook period will be characterized by two stages. In the first stage, from February to March, most households will have access to stocks from season A and not be dependent on market purchases. In second stage from April to May, households will be more dependent on market purchases and price changes will have a greater impact on household’s ability to access food.

         Most likely scenario

    The most likely scenario is based on the following national assumptions:

    • Household food stocks will likely last through early April.

    • The Season B March to May rains will start late, but rainfall totals and distribution will be near normal.

    • Agriculture labor demand is expected to be average, but with the normal seasonal peaks of demand for casual, agricultural labor in March for Season B planting and in June for the Season B harvest and Season C planting. Labor demand in April and May is relatively low.

    • Milk availability is expected to decline during the lean season in April and May.

    • Livestock prices are expected to decrease as more livestock enter the market during the lean season in April and May.

    • Prices of main staple food crops such as maize, Irish potatoes, beans, and bananas are expected to rise in a seasonally normal pattern from March until the end of May. Staple food prices will stabilize in June with the arrival of the Season B harvests on the market.

    The Eastern Semi-arid Agro Pastoral and Eastern Agro-Pastoral Livelihood Zones

    The sale of livestock and crops are the main sources of income for poor households in these areas, but agricultural labor is also an important source of income. The season B rains benefit the Eastern agro-pastoral and semi‐arid pastoral zones by supporting the regeneration of pasture and improved water availability for livestock. Milk production which is currently normal is expected to decline during the April to May lean season. The price of milk will gradually increase between early April and when pastures green up over the course of the rainy season. Food prices will also likely to increase as households deplete their own food stocks in early April and rely primarily upon market purchases until the season B harvest starts in June. However, through the rainy period, the physical condition of livestock will gradually improve, making them more valuable on the market. The drop of food availability from household stocks in late April and May will, for many households, be compensated for by increasing availability livestock products such as milk and by livestock sales to cover market purchases.

    The Season B maize harvest in June in the Eastern Semi-arid Agro-Pastoral and Eastern Agro-Pastoral Livelihood Zone is likely to be affected by the delayed onset of the long rainy season in this livelihood zone. Maize is the primary crop for market sales, followed by banana. Both foods are staples. The advent of maize processing factories in Rwanda in the last five years has increased maize consumption among all income groups, and as such, many farmers increasingly only plant maize as the primary crop for market sales. Relatively favorable maize prices for producers over the past few years have continued to attract farmers in this zone to the crop. This season B, due to the late start of the long rains and recent dry conditions, fewer households are expected to plant maize. In this region and in other zones of eastern Rwanda, sorghum is being planted instead of maize, and in some areas dry planting of sorghum has already begun. While the season B harvest will only have started at the end of the scenario period, some households may have less income from crop sales at the end of the scenario period since sorghum is typically not as valuable of a cash crop as maize. As a result middle and better-off households may sell more livestock at the end of the season, and some poor households are likely to temporarily migrate to other zones searching for casual labor at the end of the scenario period and during the season B harvest. However, for the scenario period, the usual livelihood strategies will ensure adequate food consumption. Middle and better off households will remain in No Acute Food Insecurity (IPC Phase I). With adequate rains and good seasonal progress, even poor households will be able to cover their food needs. Poor households may travel to other areas, including to banana plantations, in search of work during the lean season, but no unusual, negative coping strategies are expected to be employed to meet immediate food needs.

    This scenario has assumed near-normal totals and distribution of rain. If the long rains were to be poorly distributed or rain totals were to be well below average in these areas, opportunities for casual, agricultural labor would likely be below normal. This would reduce an important source of income for the poor during the scenario period. However, poor availability of casual, agricultural labor combined with a well below average season B harvest due to poor rainfall distribution or total rainfall could adversely impact food security by reducing income from agricultural labor and from crop sales from the season B harvest which starts in June. These impacts would be most acutely noticeable in July and August when households in this region, at least in part, depend on their stocks from the season B harvest.

    East Congo-Nile Highland Subsistence Farming Livelihood Zone

    Households are currently meeting their food consumption through a mixture of stocks from season A and market purchases. Poor households normally have less than half a hectare of land, so they rely more heavily on agricultural labor for middle and better-off households to fund market purchases of food. With the late start of the long rainy season, agricultural labor opportunities in this zone have been limited during February. For poor households, this loss of labor during a period when typically there is peak agricultural labor demand may have lead them to completely draw down their stocks of food from season A or to sell some small stock such as goats, pigs, or rabbits, if they are available, to purchase food in February. Other households may have sent household members to urban areas in search of temporary, casual labor to cover costs. While households likely have been able to cover their food needs in February and March using typical livelihood activities, they employed these activities earlier than in years when the long rains began on time.

    While the rains are likely to proceed normally in terms of both distribution and totals once they start, the reduced access to agricultural labor due to the late rains in February may have a residual effect in this zone. Labor rates are lower during the lean season. While some year-round labor is available on tea plantations and in urban areas, traveling to these areas has a cost for poor households, and the income from casual labor, even if available, is lower than that during the early planting for season B. As poor households will have already drawn down season A stocks and some of their other usual livelihood activities starting in February, after income from providing labor for planting for season B ends in April, poor households will likely to need to make additional, unsustainable sales of small stock or of other livelihood assets to cover market purchases during this year’s lean season. While poor households are likely to meet their food needs through these sales, having begun stripping livelihood assets, they will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from April to June.

    If casual, agricultural labor wages during the shortened planting period for season B were to be significantly higher than usual due to higher than usual demand for agricultural labor, food security outcomes would likely improve in this and in other livelihood zones.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3. March to May 2012 Seasonal Forecast for East Africa

    Figure 2

    Figure 3. March to May 2012 Seasonal Forecast for East Africa

    Source: IGAD Climate Predication and Outlook Center (ICPAC)

    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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