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Maize production likely to be impacted by drop in December rainfall

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • December 2016
Maize production likely to be impacted by drop in December rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Most of Rwanda experienced favorable rainfall during Season A, which has led to average to above-average bean production, except in a few localized areas. However, the lack of rains in the third dekad of December is likely to lead to below-average maize production. If the rains resume rapidly and last two more weeks, there may be an adequate maize harvest to support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through May 2017. 

    • With depleting stocks ahead of the harvest and reduced regional trade, food staple prices continued to rise in November, negatively impacting food access. The National Institute of Statistics estimated that November prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages increased on an annual basis by 15.1 and 17.1 percent for urban and rural areas, respectively. 

    • According to UNHCR as of December 22, Rwanda hosted approximately 83,400 post-April 2015 Burundian refugees, who remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to a lack of access to livelihood activities, and amidst projected humanitarian assistance funding shortfalls. Influxes from Burundi are expected to continue, and current political conditions in the DRC could lead to Congolese refugee inflows. 





    ·         Food prices remain high and have been steadily increasing throughout the second half of 2016. Although this situation is favorable to net-seller farmers, poor households’ purchasing power is constrained, reducing food access, especially for those in rural areas, who rely mostly on markets for food.

    ·         Staple food prices may ease slightly through March 2017, following a likely favorable bean harvest, but the drop might be restrained by the level to which the maize harvest is below-average. Then prices will begin a seasonal upward trend, but are expected to decline at the end of May. The forecast average rainfall from March to May 2017 is expected to lead to good production, likely lowering food prices compared to 2016.

    Localized areas in Southern and Eastern provinces


    ·         Localized areas in Kamonyi District in Southern Province and Nyagatare District in Eastern Province experienced heavy rains in mid-November, which eroded soils and damaged crops. All crops are likely to have low yields in those localized areas.

    ·         Fortunately, the net impact of above-average rains at the district level is likely to be positive and move the majority of households in the previously drought-affected districts of Nyagatare and Kirehe from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through at least May 2017.


    The favorable Season A, up to mid-December, has led to average to above-average bean production, including in the drought-prone Eastern districts of Nyagatare, Kayonza, and Kirehe, which had experienced rainfall shortages over the past four seasons. However, rains ceased during the third dekad of December at the maize tasseling and grain filling stages. Although rains are likely to resume at the end of the year and last another week or two, the lack of rains at this critical growth stage is likely to lead to below-average maize production in January/February. The severity of maize yield reductions will depend on the performance of the Government of Rwanda-promoted and distributed short cycle maize varieties, and whether Season A rains will resume and last long enough to continue crop development. With the ongoing beans harvest, improved pastures in the east, and agricultural labor opportunities increasing, food security outcomes have continued to improve and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected through May 2017. However, there is the possibility that a small number of poor households in Eastern Province in Kirehe, Gatsibo, and Kayonza districts could continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity. These households will be able to meet their minimum food needs, especially with the harvest, but they may be unable to meet some of their essential non-food needs as they recover from four consecutive poor seasons.

    Forecasts currently indicate that the Season B rains from March to May 2017 are likely to be normal, which points to an average Harvest B, which would continue to support food security. There is still the chance for erratic rainfall like what was experienced in parts of Kirehe District this season or excessive amounts over a short period of time, such as in Kamonyi and Nyagatare districts, but overall total production is unlikely to be affected. In addition, the Government of Rwanda continues to invest in irrigation and drainage infrastructure in drought-prone districts, which is allowing these areas some added protection and encouraging them to diversify their crops.

    High and increasing food prices have persisted since April 2016, but are expected to begin easing slightly. High food prices reduce food access, especially for poor, rural households as their purchasing power is constrained. This is particularly challenging as they largely face unsteady, daily labor opportunities and even higher food prices due to remoteness from major regional markets. Staple food prices have been higher mainly due to lower than expected domestic crop production in June/July 2016, and to trade barriers put in place by Burundi, and until September 2016 by Tanzania. The final outcomes of the Season A harvest and of the currently forecast average Season B harvest are likely to help ease prices, but trade is still likely to be unstable with Burundi due to ongoing tensions.

    Due to funding shortfalls, WFP announced in November that it has been forced to discontinue a nationwide program for stunting prevention for children six to 23 months, as well as for pregnant and breastfeeding women. WFP reported that this puts children, especially those in Rwanda’s most food insecure areas with high levels of chronic malnutrition, at risk.

    According to UNHCR, as of December 22, there were approximately 83,400 post-April 2015 Burundian refugees, of which about 52,000 are hosted in Mahama Camp, Kirehe District. The refugees are entirely dependent on WFP food assistance, and there is uncertainty about future funding as the 2016 Burundi Regional Refugee Response Plan remains only about 40 percent funded. Refugees are facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity in the presence of these projected humanitarian assistance shortfalls. Refugee inflows from Burundi, and even from the DRC due to the political uncertainty that exists around the presidential elections, are expected to continue through the scenario period. 

    Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food security outcomes are expected to persist through May 2017. However, Burundian refugees are likely to face Crisis (IPC Phase 3) amidst projected humanitarian assistance shortfalls through the scenario period. A small number of poor households in eastern areas, such as Kirehe District, are also likely to continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. 


    Figure 1


    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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