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Food security to improve in January with Season A harvests

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Rwanda
  • October 2014 - March 2015
Food security to improve in January with Season A harvests

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Assumptions
  • Most likely food security outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Poor households in the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral Zone, Eastern Congo Nile Highland Subsistence Farming Zone, and Bugesera Cassava livelihood zones currently face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity due to increased market dependence during the lean season, above-average food prices and below-average wages.

    • Despite erratic rainfall in September, Season A planting continued in October and harvests are expected to be near average, except for cassava crops. Below-average cassava production is expected due to the spread of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) in Bugesera.

    • Food security is expected to improve across the country starting in January 2015, as harvesting begins. Season A harvests will replenish household food stocks, stabilize staple food prices and increase income earning opportunities for the poor.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    • Acess to food for the poor is constrained during the October to December main lean season when poor households are largely dependent on markets to meet food requirements. Earlier than normal depletion of Season B food stocks this year has added additional strain on poor households’ capacity to meet essential food and non-food needs.  Staple food prices generally remained stable in September. However, prices for some commodities, particularly cassava and sweet potato, remain 15 to 20 percent higher than last year. These crops are a primary source of food during the lean season because they act as bridge crops before Season A harvests become available in December. Current income levels are generally insufficient to offset increased expenditure on food and some poor households, particularly in the Bugesera Cassava, Eastern Congo Nile Highland Subsistence Farming and Eastern Semi Arid Agropastoral livelihood zones, have increased sales of small animals in order to meet food needs. Poor households in these areas currently face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity.
    • Season A planting is almost complete across the country. Rainfall deficits of up to 60 millimeters in September prevented germination of maize and beans crops planted in August and interrupted planting. However, above-average rains in late September improved soil moisture and enabled crop recovery. Maize, beans, and cassava are the main Season A crops. Constrained access to seeds and other inputs reduced area planted in some areas.
    • Dry marshland conditions in June and July compromised Season C vegetable crop performance and reduced yields in September/October. Vegetables harvested in Season C only contribute about five percent of annual production, but sales of Season C crops are an income source for many poor households. Due to below-average harvests, poor households earned less than they typically do from vegetable sales in September and October.
    • An outbreak of Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) destroyed over 15,000 hectares of cassava crops in Bugesera since the end June reducing supply of cassava to markets and milling factories. A major staple crop for the poor, crop losses have reduced food availability, particularly for households in Kamonyi, Muhanga and Ruhango districts. Farmers in areas affected by CBSD uprooted crops in order to prevent the spread of the disease.
    • Increased labor supply this season has depressed on-farm wages. Daily wages in September were 15 percent lower than last year.
    • Agricultural labors in the West continued to migrate East for jobs on larger farms. Labor migration is common during the lean season but the number of labors so far this year has nearly doubled compared to last year, according to estimates from district authorities. The upsurge in labor migration suggests increased strain on poor households to meet essential food and non-food needs.
    • Government safety net programs continued to provide labor opportunities for the poor. Twenty-one thousand laborers employed by the Rural Sector Support Project (RSSP) and the Land Husbandry Water Harvesting and Hillside irrigation (LWH) Project and 140,000 people under the Vision 2020 Umurenge Program earn 1000 Rwandan Francs (RWF) per day for the poor. The Vision 2020 Umurenge Program operates in 240 sectors country-wide and covers all districts.
    • The decline in prices of major staple foods continued in September. Increased imports from Tanzania and Uganda—a strategy to offset supply-side constraints of Season B production deficits—caused a 5 to 20 percent drop in prices since August. However, prices remain higher than last year, reducing household access to food. Poor households are most vulnerable to price shocks during the October to December main lean season when market dependence peaks and wages are lowest.
    • Livestock body conditions continued to improve with increased water and pasture availability. Early rains in August and normal cumulative rainfall in September improved pasture and water availability for livestock in agropastoral areas in Kirehe, Kayonza, Nyagatare, and Gatsibo districts; increasing livestock productivity.


    The most likely scenario for October to March 2015 is based on the following national‐level assumptions:

    • Season A Production: Average production is expected despite erratic rains in September that interrupted planting and seed germination. Crops recovered with good favorable rains in October and normal crop growth is expected. Staggered harvests may occur in some areas due to delayed planting. Below-average cassava production, however, is assumed due to damage caused by Cassava Brown Streak Disease (CBSD) in Bugasera.
    • Rainfall performance will vary across the country. Based on forecasts from the Rwanda Metrological Agency, average to above-average October to December rainfall is assumed for northern and western Rwanda (Figure 1).  Rains in the eastern part of the country are expected to be normal to below normal.
    • Agricultural labor availability will follow seasonal trends. Labor demand and wages are expected to decline in November and increase again during the harvest period from December to January. Labor demand and wages are expected to stabilize during the post-harvest period through March.
    •  West to east labor migration is expected to continue through the lean season and during harvests.  Poor households will continue to seek better labor opportunities by migrating east where farm sizes are bigger.
    • Imports from Tanzania and Uganda will continue stabilizing maize and rice prices, particularly in Kigali and Eastern Province, until Season A harvests begin in December and increase domestic supplies to markets.
    • Export of cassava and Irish potato to Burundi and DRC will behave normally despite reduced cassava production and net domestic supply to markets.
    • The prevalence of CBSD in Kamonyi, Muhanga and Bugesera districts is likely to spread as current control mechanisms (uprooting the affected plants) are ineffective. So far, an estimated 20 percent of cassava plants have been affected.
    • Livestock prices are expected to decline seasonably between October to November as sales and supply to markets increase during the lean season. Prices will increase again as Season A harvests begin in December and livestock sales decline.

    Most likely food security outcomes

    During the peak of the lean season, access to food and income typically declines for poor households across the country. Most households will still be able to meet food needs until green consumption begins in December when food security outcomes are expected to improve country-wide. Most households will face Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from October to March 2015. Poor households in the Bugesera Cassava, Eastern Congo Nile Highland Subsistence Farming and Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral livelihood zones, will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity until December. Increased food availability and access associated with Season A harvests in December/January will improve food security of poor households to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from January to March 2015.

    For more information on areas of concern during this outlook period, please download the full report.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar of typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October, 2014

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October, 2014

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 1. Rwanda rainfall forecast, October to December 2014

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Rwanda rainfall forecast, October to December 2014

    Source: METEO Rwanda

    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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