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Food security improves with ongoing season ‘A’ harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Rwanda
  • January - June 2014
Food security improves with ongoing season ‘A’ harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Agricultural season ‘A’ harvests are ongoing. Nationally, crop production levels are expected to be average, although localized production shortfalls occurred in some areas of the country due to the combined effects of poor quality seeds, pests, and rainfall anomalies.
    • While the arrival of newly harvested crops on local markets caused staple food prices to decline seasonally between November and December 2013, prices remain well above last year’s levels due to the residual market effects of below-average season ‘B’ harvests in June/July. However, most poor households will be able to offset the effects of these high prices though their typical livelihood strategies.
    • Due to relatively normal food availability and access, poor households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between now and the end of the outlook period in June 2014.

    National Overview
    Current Situation

    Agricultural production
    Season ‘A’ harvests are currently ongoing with national crop production levels expected to be normal. However, localized production shortfalls have been observed in several areas. For example in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral zone, crops had to be replanted due to poor quality seeds, causing a delay in harvests and production levels to be about 10 percent below normal. In addition, harvests are expected to be about 20 to 30 percent below average in the Mayange, Rweru, Gashora, Kamabuye and Juru sectors of Bugesera district and in the Western Tea and Food  livelihood zone due to the effects of atypical dryness in October and November, an above-average prevalence of maize stalk borers and aphids, and erosion.

    Labor incomes
    Harvesting activities are currently providing poor households with normal wages and total income levels through on-farm labor. Wages are seasonally average, ranging from 700 to 1,000 RWF per day. Labor opportunities for the poor are also being provided by the government through safety net programs such as the Rural Sector Support Project, the Vision 2020 Umurenge, and the Kirehe Watershed Harvest and Management Program. Wages from these government-led programs are generally higher than on-farm labor wages and range from 1,500 to 2,000 RWF per day. During the ongoing, short dry season (January to February), poor households are participating in normal levels of local construction work and migratory labor to neighboring towns.

    Livestock conditions and incomes
    With the recent end to the rainy season, pasture and water are readily available. This is contributing to good livestock body conditions and seasonally high cattle prices. For poor households who generally sell small animals (goats, pigs, and chickens), livestock prices are seasonally stable.

    Markets and prices
    Due to the ongoing harvest, food availability on all markets has improved and has caused food prices to decline. For example, bean prices decreased 20 to 25 percent at the Mahoko market and 17 to 20 at the Kabarondo market in the Eastern Agro-Pastoral zone between November and December. However, prices still remain 79 to 85 percent above last year’s levels and two-year average, respectively, due to the residual effects of below-average, June/July harvests in Rwanda and in neighboring countries (ex. Uganda).

    Refugees and returnees
    Approximately 3,000 Rwandans returned from Tanzania in August 2013 are still temporarily settled in the Kiyanzi transit camp in the Eastern province while the government works to re-integrate them into local communities. In addition, approximately 75,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, including 15,000 new refugees who arrived during the first half of 2013, are living in camps located in Nyagatare, Karongi, Gicumbi, Rubavu and Nyamagabe districts. The arrival rate of refugees from the DRC is currently, on average, about 2,600 individuals per month. Due to this influx of refugees, the Rwandan Government has started construction of a fifth refugee camp in Mugombwa in Gisagara district where some refugees have already begun to settle. Refugees and returnees residing in camps are currently meeting their food and nonfood needs through humanitarian assistance provided by UNHCR and WFP.


    The most likely scenario for January through June 2014 is based on the following national‐level assumptions:

    • Season ‘A’ harvests: Harvesting activities will continue through mid-February, particularly for maize in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral zone. At a national level, production levels from agricultural season ‘A’ will be average.
    • Food stocks: The ongoing harvest will replenish household food stocks back to seasonally normal levels. Similar to a normal year, these stocks will last approximately two to three months, or until March or April. Between April and the start of the next harvest in June, households will rely on market purchases to meet their food consumption needs.  
    • Minor lean season: Similar to a normal year, the minor lean season will run from early April to the end of May, when early green harvests for season ‘B’ begin.
    • Trade flows: Due to surplus production of maize and rice in Tanzania last year, normal inflows of these commodities from Tanzania into Rwanda are expected during the outlook period. In addition, no export bans are expected to be put in place by the Tanzanian government. However, bean imports from the DRC and Uganda will be below-average during the next six months due to civil insecurity in the DRC and below-normal production levels in Uganda during their short season.
    • Market conditions and staple food prices: Food prices are expected to follow normal seasonal trends. Between January and mid-February, prices will decline as newly harvested crops continue to arrive at local markets. Prices will then rise beginning in late February and will peak during the minor lean season (April/May) when market and household stock are at seasonally low levels and market demand increases. Once season ‘B’ harvests begin in June, prices will again decline. However, due to inflation and the residual effects of the 2013 below-average season ‘B’ harvest, prices will remain above last year’s levels and the two-year average during the entire outlook period.
    • Livestock conditions and prices: Due to a replenishment of pastures and water availability during the recent rainy season, livestock body conditions will remain stable during the short dry season (January and February). Regarding livestock prices, seasonally low market supply will cause prices to remain stable between January and March before then deteriorating in April/May as households sell more animals to meet needs during the minor lean season.  
    • Season ‘B’ rainy season: Seasonal forecasts from major forecasting centers (ECMWF, IRI, and NOAA) suggest that the rainy season will begin normally in mid-February and will continue until May. Total cumulative rainfall totals and distribution will also be average.
    • Season ‘B’ agricultural activities: Land preparation and planting activities for agricultural season ‘B’ will begin on time in February and March, respectively. Season ‘B’ harvests will also occur on time in June with average production levels.
    • Agricultural labor: From January to June, agricultural labor demand, supply, and total income levels will follow normal seasonal trends. Wage rates will peak in February and March when land preparation and planting activities are most intense.
    • Refugees and returnees: Due to continued civil insecurity, refugee inflows from the DRC will continue at current levels (approx. 2,600 persons per month). According to UNHCR-Rwanda, this will cause the total refugee population to reach a record 91,000 people this year. No major inflows of Rwandan returnees are expected during the outlook period.
    • Off-farm activities and access to credit: Off-farm activities, including construction work, petty trade, and government-run safety nets programs, will continue at normal levels between January and June. Credit to buy staple food products for poor households will be available at normal levels. 
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Except for certain areas of concern (described in detail below), households will rely on their own production to meet consumption needs until the lean season begins in early April. Despite above-average food prices on local markets, households will access food without major difficulties through market purchases between April and June using cash generated from normal income sources. As a result, at least 80 percent of the population in most areas of the country will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between January and June 2014. 

    Areas of Concern

    Eastern semi arid agro-pastoral zone

    Current situation

    The current harvest of beans, as well as the early green harvest of maize, marks the end of the agricultural growing season ‘A’. During the recent rainy season, this livelihood zone registered average rainfall levels which provided favorable conditions for crop growth and development. However despite these rainfall conditions, the maize harvest is currently one month delayed because households had to replant their crops after planting poor quality seeds earlier in the season. In addition to causing a delay in harvests, this will cause total crop production levels to be about 10 percent below normal. Currently, households are accessing food through a combination of their own crop production and market purchases, and are generating normal cash incomes from off-farm safety net programs, agricultural labor, small animal sales, and petty trade.

    In this livelihood zone, beans and maize are important staple foods for poor households. At the Nyakarambi market, bean prices have declined by 17 to 21 percent compared to November 2013 levels as the ongoing harvest replenishes household and market stocks and reduces local market demand. Meanwhile, maize prices have increased 17 percent as harvesting activities for this crop have not yet begun. For both of these crops, prices remain well above last year’s levels which has caused a deterioration of household purchasing power.  


    The most likely scenario for January to June 2014 for the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

    • Season ‘A’ harvests: The maize harvest will be approximately 10 percent below normal due to the effects of replanting crops earlier in the season and localized problems with pests.
    • Food sources: Despite slightly below-average production levels, households will rely on their own crop production until mid-March, as usual for this zone. They will then be reliant on market purchases until the start of the next harvest in June.  
    • Prices: The effects of the local, below-average crop production will be mitigated by imports from both Tanzania and from the Eastern Plateau Banana livelihood zone. For beans, prices will continue to decline in January due to the recent harvest but will then increase seasonally between late February and May. Maize prices will also decline after harvests for this crop and then will rise steadily through the remainder of the outlook period.
    • Migration: Migration activities will peak in April and May during the lean season with household members migrating to other areas within the zone, as well as to the neighboring Eastern Agro-Pastoral livelihood zone. Migrants will return in late June when the season ‘B’ harvest occurs.  
    • Small animal sales: Households with school-aged children will pay school fees in January and February. In order to pay for this large expenditure, many poor households will sell small animals, such as goats, sheep, and chickens.  
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Despite a delayed and slightly below-average maize harvest, households in this zone are expected to face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes between January and June 2014. Through March, households will access food through their own crop production. Then between April and June, households will rely on market purchases to meet food needs. While continued, above-average food prices at local markets have restricted household purchasing power, the effects will not be large enough to significantly limit food access. Normal livelihood strategies, such as migration and switching to less preferred foods, will enable poor households to meet their essential food and non-food needs during the entire outlook period. 

    Western Congo-Nile Crest Tea and Food Livelihood Zone

    Current situation

    This zone is characterized by low fertility, old soils that are vulnerable to erosion. Cash crops, food crops, livestock and casual labor are the main livelihood activities in this zone. Crop production from season ‘A’ is nearing completion and is estimated to be 20 percent below average due to poor rainfall distribution. Reports from the zone indicate that soil erosion damaged Irish potato, bean, and maize crops. In addition, rice crops in the Kanjongo marshland flooded. Landslides in Gishyita, Mubuga, Ruganda, Murambi, Murundi, and Gasha sectors of Karongi district also washed away more than 500 ha of beans, cassava and sweet potatoes. Finally, a late start to the rainy season caused approximately five percent of households to decided not to plant any crops this season, leading to more than 1,200 ha in Karongi District, 500 ha in Rutsiro District, and 300 ha in Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts not being put under cultivation.

    Beans prices at major markets in the zone are selling for between 12 and 19 percent less than that of November 2013 levels because new harvests are arriving on local markets. However, these prices are still approximately 70 percent above last year’s levels due to the effect of two consecutive poor harvests in the zone.


    The most likely scenario for January to June 2014 for the Western Congo-Nile Crest Tea and Food livelihood zone is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

    • Season 'A' harvest: Due to rainfall anomalies within the zone, crop production will be 20 percent below average.
    • Food sources: Due to crop production deficits, households will deplete their food stocks in mid-February, which compares to March in a normal year.  
    • Trade: Cross border trade will occur normally between Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. This zone trades primarily with the southern part of Kivu (Bukavu border).
    • Staple food prices: Staple food prices at key markets in the zone will follow seasonally normal trends, with prices decreasing during the months immediately following the season ‘A’ harvest and then increasing between March and May. The presence of refugees in the zone will have no impact on local markets as the refugees’ food needs will be met by the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs, the WFP, and humanitarian partners.
    • Labor opportunities: Until the start of agricultural activities for season ‘B’, labor demand within the zone will be seasonally low. However, labor opportunities will then increase between mid-February and March when land preparation activities are most intense. Labor opportunities from tea plantations will continue at current levels  throughout the outlook period.  
    • Cash crops: Coffee and tea production in the zone does not vary seasonally and will continue at current levels between January and June.  
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Households in this zone will rely on their own crop production to meet food needs until mid-February. Then between late February and the start of next harvests in late June, households will employ normal lean season livelihood strategies, such as switching to less preferred foods and migrating towards Eastern livelihood zones, to access food through market purchases. Thus, despite moderately below-average crop production in the zone, poor households to continue to meet their food consumption needs and remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) between January and June 2014. 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Table 1: Possible events over the next six months that could change the most-likely scenario.



    Impact on food security outcomes


    - Rainfall anomalies during agricultural season ‘B’

    - This could cause below-average crop production, flooding, and soil erosion in affected areas. It could also delay harvests, causing an extension of the lean season.  


    - Large inflow of Rwandan returnees or refugees from neighboring countries

    - This could cause increased competition for labor opportunities and could cause wages and total household incomes to decline.


    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year in Rwanda

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year in Rwanda

    Source: FEWS NET

    Maize prices at the Nyakarambi market (RWF/kg)

    Figure 2

    Maize prices at the Nyakarambi market (RWF/kg)

    Source: FEWS NET

    Bean prices at the Nyakarambi market (RWF/kg)

    Figure 3

    Bean prices at the Nyakarambi market (RWF/kg)

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4


    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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