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Interseason crops and labor income expected to mitigate effects of lean season

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • April 2023
Interseason crops and labor income expected to mitigate effects of lean season

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Projected Outlook through September 2023
  • Key Messages
    • Depletion of Season A food stocks during the April to May lean season is expected to reduce poor households’ consumption of own-produced staple food crops. However, the presence of diverse vegetable production, income from labor, and the anticipated price reductions from the VAT removal are likely to support poor households ability to meet their basic food needs. While concern for acute food insecurity is generally low, there are some areas that face localized dry spells that could reduce food production and limit labor opportunities for poor households. In addition, depletion of own production earlier than normal is anticipated in a few districts across the country due to below average rainfall, dry spell and erratic rainfall during Season A, driving Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes for some. Furthermore, poor households in Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts in Western Province are likely to have below-average income, given disruptions to cross-border trade and labor opportunities caused by ongoing conflict along the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that is likely to reduce their income and food access.

    • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR) Consumer Price Index (CPI), food and non-alcoholic beverage prices rose 72.4 percent in rural areas and 41.3 percent in urban areas in March 2023 compared to the same time last year. However, the availability of interseason crops like green vegetables and fast-maturing crops, access to income from agricultural labor, and increased livestock sales will likely sustain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes during the projection period. Furthermore, ongoing favorable rainfall is expected to contribute to a bumper Season B harvest that will enhance food access in rural areas around June, and the number of households facing Stressed (Phase 2) or Crisis (Phase 3) outcomes is likely to decline. The districts of Misanze, Nyabihu, Rulindo, Ngororero and Gicumbi are receiving heavy rainfall and are expected to face increased risks of flash flooding and landslides that are likely to damage crops and houses in localized areas. Additionally, it is likely the removal of VAT on maize, rice, and Irish potato in late April will reduce the prices by about 20 to 50 percent.

    • In Kigali City, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period as poor households will likely access diverse income-earning opportunities that will supporting meeting their food needs. Improved cross-border trade with Uganda, Burundi, and Tanzania is enhancing market supply and increasing food availability. However, while improved market supply is moderating prices to some degree, food and non-food prices remain high. Given the sustained high unemployment rate and the atypically high food and non-food prices, urban purchasing power will continue to be below average, increasing the number of poor urban households with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the April to May lean season.

    • The approximately 127,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Rwanda are expected to remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) throughout September, with monthly cash transfers and food assistance preventing worse food insecurity outcomes. The continued conflict in DRC caused an influx of about 6,000 new Congolese refugees in Rwanda between November 2022 and April 2023, which is likely to overstretch humanitarian assistance. WFP increased the amount of cash transfers to refugees who are at risk of high or moderate acute food insecurity, by about 43 percent in February 2023 to compensate for high inflation, approximately enough to cover 50 percent of the monthly food basket. However, the price of food is increasing at higher rate, it is likely that the increased cash transfer will not be sufficient to cover the basic food needs, and it is expected several households will likely reduce their food purchases.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar of atypical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    • Driven by domestic, regional, and global factors, atypically high prices for staple foods, gasoline, and non-food items continue to erode poor households’ purchasing power.
    • Food and non-food prices are expected to remain elevated due to high production costs, reduced regional crop production, and high transportation costs, which are driving above-average prices of imported goods. Prices are expected to be high during the minor lean season from April to May.
    • The government of Rwanda announced, around the end of April, the removal of VAT in late April, and it is anticipated to reduce the price of staple food by 20 to 50 percent.  
    • Sustained atypically high food prices are constraining food access during the lean season. The rural CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages in March 2023 rose abnormally by about 72.4 percent from last year and 4 percent from February 2023.  
    • Tensions between Rwanda and DRC are significantly disrupting cross-border trade, affecting many residents in the Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts of Western Province who depend on labor migration, petty trade, and livestock and vegetable sales with DRC.
    • While ongoing heavy rainfall across the country is expected to produce a bumper Season B harvest, localized flash flooding, landslides, and crop destruction are likely to occur in Northern and Southern provinces.  
    • Tensions between Rwanda and DRC are likely to persist, limiting cross-border trade and labor movement and thus reducing household income from these opportunities.
    Kigali City
    • Driven by the loss of construction and manufacturing jobs due to high fuel and transportation costs, the urban unemployment rate remains high at 24 percent, constraining food access and limiting household income.
    • The urban CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages in March 2023 rose by 41.3 percent compared to March 2022 and 4.3 percent compared to February 2023.
    • Food prices in urban areas are likely to continue rising due to reduced supply from rural areas during the minor April to May lean season, increased imported food prices, high fuel costs, and higher transportation costs.
    • The current unemployment rate will likely remain high, with slowed economic growth in 2023.
    Refugees and Asylee population
    • According to WFP's February 2023 briefs, monthly cash transfers to refugees at high or moderate risk of acute food insecurity, increased by about 43 percent to mitigate the increased cost of food, covering approximately 50 percent of the food basket. The cost of the minimum food basket remains elevated, increased by 86 percent in February 2023 compared to February 2022.
    • Tensions between Rwanda and the DRC continue to displace people from DRC to western Rwanda, increasing the number of people in Rwanda seeking humanitarian assistance.
    • WFP will likely continue to distribute revised rations to refugees and asylum seekers in 2023. The value of cash transfers will likely continue decreasing during the April to May lean period as food prices remain above average, compromising the quantity and quality of food purchased, by refugee and asylum seekers.
    • Rwanda-DRC tensions are expected to continue, driving displaced populations to Rwanda, resulting in increased demand for humanitarian assistance amid funding shortfalls.

    Projected Outlook through September 2023

    Food access among rural households remains constrained at the start of the minor lean season, with many poor households depleting own-produced food stocks and relying on market purchases amid high staple food prices. However, rural areas are likely to sustain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes during the lean season due to the availability of locally produced interseason crops such as bananas, sweet potatoes, cassava and fast maturing vegetables as well as access to some income from agriculture labor (weeding and chemical fertilizer application) and sales of livestock and small ruminants. Depleted own-produced food stocks, reduced regional food supplies due to low production in neighboring countries, and high production costs are driving atypically high food prices, approaching double the usual seasonal price. According to the rural food CPI for March 2023, food prices increased by 7 percent in March 2023 compared to the previous month and 72.4 percent compared to March 2022. However, the recent government intervention to reduce food price inflation by VAT on Irish potatoes, rice, maize flour, and maize grains is expected to lower prices of these staple foods by 20 to 50 percent around May/June, which is likely to enhance access to food in both rural and urban areas.

    As the minor lean season progresses, poor households are anticipated to become increasingly dependent on food purchases, constrained by below-average income and high food prices. As a result, some poor households (though less than 20 percent in any given area) are likely to increasingly rely on cheaper and less preferred food items like locally produced vegetables, providing the opportunity to meet the minimal adequate food needs but while not meeting all non-food needs, indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Ongoing tensions on the Rwanda-DRC border are expected to continue displacing populations and disrupting cross-border trade, especially in Western Province. Some small-scale traders in Western Province’s Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts are adapting to alternative trading options, but they still face significantly reduced income from lost trade opportunities in DRC. In other rural districts where stock depletion is high, including Nyamagab and Nyaruguru districts in the Southern Province, Gakenke and Rulindo districts in the Northern Province, Ngororero, Rutsiro and Nyabihu districts in the Western Province, and Bugesera and Kayonza districts in the Eastern Province, households are expected to increase livestock sales in the lean season to access additional income. Overall, the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is likely to increase in rural areas but remain less than 20 percent of the total population of these areas.

    The long rainy Season B is progressing well, with favorable rainfall reported across the country, with above-average rainfall in March and April, compared to climatic data (Figure 1). This is raising prospects of a bumper Season B harvest in June. However, intense rainfall in some districts increases the risk of flash flooding in lowlands and landslides in mountainous areas. Excessively waterlogged soil reportedly negatively affected moisture-sensitive crops like beans in Southern provinces, while hailstone destroyed crops in some parts of Northern provinces. These impacts may reduce the harvest in localized areas, but average to above-average harvests are likely in most areas. Increased food availability after the Season B harvest in June is expected to decrease prices, boost market supply, and increase household food access in rural areas, driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through September 2023.

    Figure 1

    Rainfall (mm) received in 2022-2023 (CHIRPS) in Central Rwanda
    Rainfall for central province of Rwanda

    Source: USGS

    In Kigali City, continued Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected due to sustained improvement of household income levels in the past two years driven by steady economic recovery, growing business opportunities, and increased food supply from enhanced cross-border trade. However, atypically high food and non-food prices, high costs of transportation, and reduced purchasing power will likely continue to constrain food access among urban poor households, increasing the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in Kigali. According to the latest March 2023 urban CPI, prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 4.3 percent compared to February 2023 and by 41.3 percent compared to March 2022. Low regional supply and reduced food supply from rural to urban markets in the ongoing April to May lean season are likely to increase food prices further, constraining the purchasing power of poor urban households. However, the government's decision towards the end of April on the removal of the VAT on Irish potatoes, maize, and rice is likely to moderate the prices of these items starting around May and June. In addition, the Season B harvest in June is also expected to stabilize food prices due to increased rural-urban supply.

    Based on UNHCR’s March 2023 estimates, Rwanda hosts about 127,000 refugees and asylum seekers, most of whom depend almost entirely on humanitarian food assistance. Insecurity in the eastern DRC, which intensified in November 2022, continues to increase the number of refugees, with UNHCR estimating that almost 6,000 new asylum seekers arrived in Rwanda from DRC between November 2022 and the first week of April 2023. Despite receiving reduced food rations, the majority of the refugee population is expected to remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!), with food assistance preventing worse outcomes among this displaced community. According to WFP, the cost of the minimum food basket remains atypically high, increased by 86 percent compared to February 2022. To cope with continued high food price inflation in Rwanda, WFP adjusted the cash transfer values in February from 7,000 RWF to 10,000 RWF and from 3,500 RWF to 5,000 RWF for refugees/asylees who are likely at high risk and moderate risk to face acute food insecurity, respectively. Refugees would likely face wide food consumption gaps in the absence of assistance, given their lack of supplemental livelihoods, heavy reliance on humanitarian food assistance constrained by funding shortfalls, low-income-earning opportunities, and high food prices.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Rwanda Remote Monitoring Update, April 2023: Interseason crops and labor income expected to mitigate effects of lean season, 2023.

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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