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Season B harvest supports Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • August 2023
Season B harvest supports Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes

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  • Key Messages
  • Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
  • Current and Projected Anomalies
  • Projected Outlook through January 2024
  • Key Messages
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are anticipated throughout the country, driven by the availability of household food stocks from the average Season B harvest. Crop and livestock sales, higher agricultural labor wage rates, and expanded employment and trade prospects are increasing income access. In addition, improved cross-border trade and labor migration are further boosting income access and the availability of both food and non-food goods in the market. However, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to persist among refugees, with humanitarian assistance averting worse outcomes. The population facing Stressed outcomes is expected to increase during the primary October to December lean season due to limited food access as households deplete their own stocks and turn to food purchases amid elevated food prices.

    • In rural areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes persist due to sufficient household food stocks from an average Season B harvest and access to interseason crops. In localized areas in Western Province, where below-average harvests resulted from severe May flash floods, ongoing humanitarian assistance from the government and partners is maintaining Minimal! (IPC Phase 1!) outcomes. Moreover, increased income from crop and livestock sales, higher agricultural labor wages for land preparation, and stable food prices since June are bolstering household purchasing power, enhancing food access through market purchases. According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda (NISR), July's rural food inflation rate remained steady compared to June. Nevertheless, food prices remain elevated, with an annual food inflation rate rise of 32 percent compared to July 2022.

    • In Kigali City, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected, driven by improved food access as household purchasing power strengthens due to increased income opportunities from industrial activities and steady food prices. Moreover, average Season B harvests and improved cross-border trade with Uganda and Tanzania are stabilizing market supply. The removal of VAT on selected food items has also helped stabilize food prices. According to the July 2023 NISR report, monthly food inflation rates in urban areas remained steady, but the annual inflation rate was approximately 23 percent, indicating the above-average food prices. Peak high food prices are anticipated during the October to December lean season due to reduced rural-urban food supply, likely leading to an increase in the population experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. However, the Stressed population will likely remain below 20 percent. 

    • Around 134,000 refugees and asylum seekers in Rwanda are expected to face Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. Although cash transfers were adjusted to mitigate the effect of rising food prices, ongoing increases in food costs are still eroding the impact of these transfers, especially during the upcoming lean season. Most refugees rely on humanitarian assistance for about half of their monthly food needs, supplemented by income from small trading and livelihood programs supported by UNHCR and other groups. Moreover, the ongoing conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo has led to approximately 11,500 new Congolese refugees arriving since November 2022, while about 4,800 refugees have been resettled to third countries since January 2023.

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year
    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current and Projected Anomalies
    ZoneCurrent AnomaliesProjected Anomalies
    • Driven by domestic and regional factors, monthly prices for staple foods and non-food items remained stable but atypically high, eroding purchasing power, especially for poor households.
    • Staple food prices are likely to slightly decline after the Season C harvests but remain elevated due to high production and transportation costs. The price of imported items is likely to remain high due to the low value of the local currency against the USD. Food prices are expected to be significantly high during the main lean season from October to December. 
    • Monthly food prices stabilized after the average Season B harvest but remain atypically high, constraining food access among poor households who are reliant on market purchases. In July 2023, the rural CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 32 percent from last year but remained stable in June 2023.
    • Tensions between Rwanda and DRC continue disrupting cross-border trade (crop and livestock sales) and labor migration, restricting income-earning opportunities, especially among residents in the Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts of Western Province.
    • Given the below-average Season B harvest due to crop destruction from heavy rainfall, landslides, and flash flooding, food stocks will likely be depleted earlier than normal in parts of Western Province, increasing reliance on market purchases amid high food prices. 
    • Forecasted above-average August to September rainfall is likely to increase the Season C harvest, improving food availability.
    • Tensions between Rwanda and DRC are likely to persist, limiting cross-border trade and labor movement and thus reducing household income from these opportunities.
    • Forecasted above-average rainfall from October to December is likely to cause severe flooding and landslides, inhibiting trade, destroying crops, and reducing harvests in localized areas. 
    Kigali City
    • High food prices driven by weak local currency against the USD are constraining food access among poor households. To reduce inflation, the Central Bank of Rwanda (CBR) has raised interest rates from 7 percent in May to 7.5 percent in August. However, CBR projects continuous growth in the economy to reach 6 percent by the end of the year, creating more job opportunities.
    • The urban CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages in July 2023 rose by 23 percent compared to July 2022 but remained stable compared to June 2023.
    • Food prices in urban areas are expected to remain high, primarily due to elevated production and transportation costs. This price trend is expected to peak during the lean season from October to December due to reduced rural-urban supply. Additionally, the prices of imported food items are likely to remain high due to increased fuel costs, higher transportation expenses, and the weakened value of the local currency in comparison to the USD.
    • The current urban unemployment rate will likely decrease slightly as the economy continues to grow, likely reducing the purchasing power of urban poor households.
    Refugees and Asylee population
    • According to WFP's July 2023 brief, the average cost of the  food basket was 13,404 RWF, reflecting a 2.5 percent decrease from the June price, slightly improving the purchasing power of cash transfers. However, due to funding constraints, refugees continued to receive cash transfers lower than the  recommended amount, limiting the food and non-food items that can be purchased. For highly food-insecure households, the current cash transfer value of 10,000 RWF was about 25 percent less than the average cost of the food basket in June, while it was 63 percent less for moderately food-insecure households. 
    • Tensions at the Rwanda and DRC border continue to displace people from DRC to western Rwanda, with nearly 1,000 new asylum seekers officially registered by UNHCR in July. The influx of new refugees is putting pressure on limited humanitarian assistance.
    • WFP cash transfers to highly/moderately food-insecure refugees and asylum seekers will likely remain the same. However, the value of these cash transfers is expected to continue declining, particularly during the lean season from October to December, when food prices are expected to increase, decreasing both the quantity and quality of food available to refugees.
    • Tensions between Rwanda and DRC are expected to persist, increasing the number of displaced people seeking refuge in Rwanda. Consequently, there will be an increased demand for humanitarian assistance, exacerbating funding shortfalls.

    Projected Outlook through January 2024

    Adequate household stocks from the Season B harvest together with the availability of interseason foods have sustained stable food access among rural households, supporting Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food security outcomes in rural areas. In addition, improved income levels from crop and livestock sales, increased daily wage rates for agricultural labor for land preparation, and stable seasonal food prices have enhanced food access. According to key informants in Northern Province, consumer prices for a kilogram of maize have remained stable since June, ranging between 600 and 700 RWF, while a kilo of beans ranged between 1300 and1400 RWF in the same period. Food price stability reported by key informants is corroborated by July 2023 rural food CPI data, which showed that food prices increased by merely 0.4 percent compared to June 2023 (Figure 1). However, there has been a 32 percent increase in food prices compared to July 2022. The temporary food price stability is linked to the availability of food stocks from the overall average Season B harvest, together with the impact of the removal of VAT from selected staple foods. Meanwhile, a below-average harvest was reported in localized areas that were adversely affected by the May 2023 flash flood that destroyed crops and other assets, particularly in Ngororero, Nyabihu, Rutsiro, and Rubavu districts in Western Province. However, affected households are expected to continue receiving adequate assistance from the government and external partners through the next harvest season, sustaining Minimal! (IPC Phase1!) outcomes. The ongoing conflict in the eastern border region of DRC is expected to continue disrupting cross-border trade, particularly in Nyamasheke and Rusizi districts in the Western Province. This disruption will likely cause reductions in income from the sale of crops and labor opportunities, thereby limiting purchasing power and access to food for poor households that depend on these income sources.

    Figure 1

    CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages in urban and rural areas
    CPI for food and non-alcoholic beverages in urban and rural areas

    Source: FEWS NET

    In the main October to December lean season, many poor households are likely to deplete their own food stocks, becoming increasingly reliant on food purchases amid peak high food prices, which will widen food consumption gaps. However, the upcoming Season C harvest in September, which contributes approximately 15 percent of the national annual crop harvest, is expected to be favorable due to the projected above-average August to September rainfall, thus improving food and income access and reducing the impact of the lean season. Similarly, enhanced access to income from planting and weeding activities, livestock sales, and cross-border trade and labor opportunities will increase food access and improve purchasing power. Furthermore, the forecasted above-average rainfall in October to December is expected to result in an above-average Season A harvest, likely enhancing overall food access across the country from mid-December. However, heavy rainfall during this period will likely lead to flash flooding in lowland areas and landslides in mountainous regions, causing loss of crops and income sources. The government and partners are expected to provide humanitarian assistance to those displaced or otherwise affected by the floods, mitigating severe deterioration of food security outcomes. Overall, an increase in households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes is expected in rural areas during the lean season, but these households are unlikely to exceed 20 percent of the total population, sustaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes at the area level through January 2024. 

    In Kigali City, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes will likely be sustained throughout the projection period due to improvement of household income-earning opportunities as a result of continued economic growth, stable food prices due to increased food supply from the Season B harvest, enhanced cross-border trades, and removal of VAT on selected staple foods in April 2023. According to the June 2023 Index of Industrial Production report, industrial output from the formal sector sustained an upward trend, increasing by 4.5 percent compared to June 2022. 

    However, despite these positive trends, inflation remains high due to local currency depreciation against the USD, sustaining atypically high food and non-food prices that limit food access among urban poor households. The July 2023 urban CPI confirms that prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 23 percent compared to July 2022 but remained stable compared to June 2023, due to increased food supply after the Season B harvest. The persistently high food prices will likely continue to constrain food access among urban poor households throughout the projection period, increasing the number of households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in urban areas, particularly during the October to December major lean season, when food prices are expected to increase due to low rural-urban market supply. However, the population with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in urban areas is expected to remain below 20 percent. Additionally, the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) increased borrowing interest rates from 7 percent in May 2023 to 7.5 percent in August to stabilize the economy, which is projected to grow by 6 percent in 2023. The growing economy is expected to gradually generate more business and employment opportunities that will increase the employment rate and income opportunities in the capital. 

    Based on UNHCR’s July 2023 report, Rwanda is hosting approximately 134,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority (87 percent) of whom are classified as highly food-insecure households. In addition, due to the conflict in the eastern DRC, an estimated 11,500 new Congolese asylees have arrived since November 2022, further stretching limited humanitarian funds. Most refugee households rely heavily on humanitarian food assistance and are expected to remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!), with cash transfers for food assistance preventing worse food insecurity outcomes. However, food prices have continued to rise, eroding the purchase value of cash transfers. According to WFP price monitoring, the adjusted cash transfer amounts for highly and moderately food-insecure individuals were 28 percent and 64 percent lower, respectively, than the minimum food basket values. With the ongoing funding shortfall for humanitarian assistance, the influx of asylees, and their heavy reliance on humanitarian food assistance due to limited access to supplemental income and food sources, food consumption gaps are expected to widen during the October to December lean season, increasing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. However, WFP cash transfers, along with the UNCHR’s ongoing livelihood and self-reliance project, are likely to prevent further deterioration of food insecurity.

    Recommended citation: FEWS NET. Rwanda Remote Monitoring Update, August 2023: Season B harvest supports Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes, 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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