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Rising food prices and forecast of below-average rainfall likely to increase acute food insecurity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • August 2016
Rising food prices and forecast of below-average rainfall likely to increase acute food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2017
  • Key Messages
    • Acute food security still largely remains stable except in the drought-prone Eastern Province, especially in Kayonza and Nyagatare Districts, where poor households are experiencing difficulty meeting their livelihood protection needs, while a smaller population faces significant difficulty meeting their basic food needs. FEWS NET projects that at least Kayonza District faces Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. The Government of Rwanda is responding with cash and food-for-work programs. 

    • According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, compared to last year, food prices increased by about three percent in May, five percent in June, and six percent in July. Traditionally, two months after the harvest, they would be seasonally decreasing, but are now rising and exerting pressure on food access and purchasing power. With forecasts indicating below-average rainfall from October to December, partly influenced by an expected La Niña, crop production prospects are low, which may cause further price rises.  

    • According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Rwanda currently hosts over 80,000 Burundian refugees. The number of arrivals rose by about 1,100 in July, and the numbers are likely to keep rising as there is no headway in the current negotiations to peacefully resolve the political crisis and conflict in Burundi. The Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan for Rwanda that covers both food and non-food needs remains less than a quarter funded.

    ZONE

    CURRENT ANOMALIES

    PROJECTED ANOMALIES

    Eastern Semi-Arid Agropastoral and Eastern Agropastoral Livelihood Zones

    ·         The poor 2016 Season B rains resulted in below-average harvests and scarcity of drinking water for livestock, especially in Kayonza and Nyagatare Districts. Due to previous production shortfalls, and crop failure in some areas, the lean season  likely began early in August for poor households in the drought-prone areas.

    ·         Forecasts indicate below-average rainfall for the next major cropping season, partly influenced by a likely La Niña, which will negatively affect the January 2017 harvest. This is likely to lead to lower agricultural labor opportunities and reduced yields, exacerbating acute food insecurity.

     

    Nationally

    ·         Compared to last year, food prices increased by about three percent in May, five percent in June, and six percent in July, mainly as a result of rising prices of locally produced foods, such as beans, maize, and vegetables. There is no available information, which specifies which commodities experienced the highest price increases. Regardless, they are constraining food access, especially for the highly market-reliant poor.

    ·         Food prices typically increase during the October to December lean season ahead of the main harvest in January. However, two additional events will exert further pressure on food prices in Rwanda until the next harvest: a recent Government of Burundi ban on food exports to Rwanda, and a decision by the Government of Tanzania to discourage formal food exports to neighboring countries in order to assess the country’s own food stocks. 

     


    PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2017

    Though no official results of the 2016 Season B performance are available, there is increasing evidence that the sorghum and bean crops that looked promising in many areas of Rwanda during a FEWS NET assessment in May, never fully matured due to the early cessation of rains. Pending Government of Rwanda verification, it is assumed that countrywide, the 2016 B crop production was average to below average. As a result, the Government is responding with cash and food-for-work programs in Kayonza, Nyagatare, and Kirehe Districts, which is helping to mitigate an early start of the lean season for poor households.

    In September, there will be the Season C harvest of Irish potatoes, beans, and vegetables, but this only accounts for about 10 to 15 percent of total annual production, so its contribution to overall food availability is minimal. Land preparation and planting for the 2017 Season A will also begin in September. However, in the East, agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be lower due to recent dry conditions outside of irrigated areas, and the current forecasts that indicate that the total rainfall in Rwanda is likely to be below average during the October to December 2016 period. This is likely to lead to below-average crop production by January 2017, particularly in the drought-prone districts of Kayonza, Nyagatare, and Kirehe. If the December 2016-January 2017 harvests are average to below average again, some poor households in Kayonza and Nyagatare may continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity and expand their coping mechanisms, such as increased livestock sales and labor migration. The Government of Rwanda is also likely to continue using targeted cash and food-for-work programs in these areas.

    Food access and purchasing power have been constrained over the past year as the cost of food has risen more sharply than the pace of overall inflation. The current food price increases are attributed to a couple of factors: 1) a lower than expected domestic crop production, 2) a high import demand from the Democratic Republic of Congo, 3) sustained purchases for agencies and NGOs running regional humanitarian programs, and 4) a shortage of fruits and vegetables following a Government of Burundi ban of food exports to Rwanda.

    According to UNHCR, as of August 18, Rwanda hosts approximately 80,600 post-April 2015 refugees from Burundi. The arrivals of Burundian refugees, which were about 600 people in May, 1,300 in June, and 1,200 in July continue to rise, despite the ongoing negotiation efforts between the Government of Burundi and the opposition. The Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan for Rwanda that covers both food and non-food needs remains significantly underfunded. Refugees are facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) acute food insecurity despite the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Acute food insecurity for most areas of Rwanda is Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and is expected to remain so through most of the scenario period. However, Kayonza District is in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity and poor households in other districts in Eastern Province, such as Nyagatare and Kirehe, are also facing Stressed (IPC Phase) outcomes.

    Figures SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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