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Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected amid recovery of food imports and economic activity

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Rwanda
  • February 2022
Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes expected amid recovery of food imports and economic activity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Seasonally high food availability from the Season A harvest and associated decline in food prices are driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in Rwanda. Improved food supply chain flows, following the recent easing of COVID-19 restrictions, coupled with the re-opening of the border with Uganda, and resumed food imports in January, are expected to moderate food prices despite a less favorable outlook for the Season B harvest. Food imports will particularly benefit households in the Eastern Province, where Season A bean and maize harvests were below normal.

    • Urban households are seeing a gradual increase in income and purchasing power, facilitating Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Data collected by Rwanda's National Institute of Statistics (NISR) shows a gradual recovery in economic activity following the lifting of stringent COVID-19 control measures, a decline in new cases, and the ongoing vaccination campaign that has so far fully immunized 61.7 percent of the population. For instance, the December 2021 industrial production survey showed a 10.3 percent increase in manufacturing – mainly driven by the food sector – compared to December 2020. 

    • Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are likely occurring among Rwanda's refugee and asylee population, which number around 127,000 people. This population remains at risk of food insecurity due to their lack of productive assets and social support, compounded by the reduction of income sources under COVID-19 restrictions. The most recent WFP report indicates 113,475 people received assistance in December, with those categorized as highly vulnerable by WFP receiving a 92 percent cash ration and those categorized as moderately vulnerable receiving a 46 percent cash ration. Without food aid, this population would likely face food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.


    In February, most rural and urban households in Rwanda are benefitting from seasonally high food availability, driven by a normal Season A maize harvest alongside other seasonal roots, tubers, and vegetables. Household purchasing power and access to food are also seasonally higher compared to earlier in 2021, but food prices remain higher than pre-pandemic levels in urban areas, as evidenced by the NSIR CPI. Additionally, in January, prices rose atypically by 5.1 and 4.8 percent in urban and rural areas, respectively, mainly driven by spiking vegetable prices in the aftermath of excessive rainfall that has flooded vegetable-producing marshlands (Figure 1).

    Despite the month-on-month price increases, market supply and purchasing power are expected to improve in the near term following the re-opening of the Rwandan-Ugandan border. The closure triggered an increase in food prices in 2019, a trend later exacerbated by supply chain constraints during the pandemic. The anticipated inflow of moderate-to-low-priced foods from Uganda is expected to push down the price of maize, pulses, and select processed goods – such as cooking oil, sugar, and juice. According to key informants, the price of a kilogram of maize in Northern Province dropped by about 14 percent on the day the border re-opening was announced. The benefit is expected to be most significant in urban areas and Eastern Province, where food prices are still above-normal due to food inflation in the former and locally poor rainfall performance in cropping zones in the latter.

    Looking forward, food imports from Uganda are expected to play a key role in moderating food prices and sustaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. Atypical rainfall during the dry season (Figure 1) is impeding the harvest and drying of maize and beans. According to key informants, farmers anticipate this will cause post-harvest losses in the range of 10-15 percent due to excessive moisture spoilage. These losses are likely to contribute to the earlier-than-normal depletion of Season A food stocks at the household level. Furthermore, the rains are likely to delay land preparation and planting for Season B production, thus leading to below-normal maize and bean harvests in mid-2022. While these challenges will likely lead to an uptick in the number of rural households that are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), most households will cope by increasing their consumption of substitutes like bananas and cassava and expanding their reliance on other income sources like casual labor and sales of poultry and small ruminants.

    Meanwhile, a relatively positive economic outlook fueled by growth in the food production, construction, trade, and tourism sectors suggests that urban households will likely continue to see a gradual recovery of their income sources. Coupled with the likely decline in food prices, many urban families should see an improvement in their ability to cover their minimum food needs, resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes and a relative decline in the number of households that are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The end of the Omicron wave in Rwanda and roll-out of the vaccination campaign – according to the Ministry of Health, 61.7 percent of the population was fully vaccinated as of February 22 – are further stimulating economic activity following an uptick in growth in 2021. The latest NISR Labor Force Survey showed growth in the industrial sector by 12 percent, service sector by 11 percent, and agriculture sector by 6 percent in the third quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter of 2020. Similarly, the Index of Industrial Production indicated a 10.3 percent increase in manufacturing activities in December 2021 compared to last year, mainly driven by food production followed by non-metallic mineral production. However, both NISR data and the World Bank's analysis indicate that income levels and formal employment will likely remain below pre-pandemic levels, and households remain vulnerable to the potential for the government to re-instate movement restrictions whenever a surge of infection occurs.

    The outlook for the refugee and asylee population in Rwanda is less positive. Many households lack social and economic resources and have little to no access to productive assets or financial capital. These trends were exacerbated further during the pandemic, and many currently depend on humanitarian food assistance. Based on WFP's food assistance plans and available funding, levels of food assistance are expected to remain similar in 2022 compared to 2021. As in 2021, the highly vulnerable will likely receive cash intended to provide up to 27 days of their kcal needs, while those classified as moderately vulnerable will likely receive cash intended to provide up to 14 days of their kcal needs. However, the amount of food that can be bought will fluctuate based on prevailing food prices, and households are likely to also use this cash to purchase essential non-food needs. WFP's monthly food price monitoring found that the average price of the food basket in December 2021 was four percent higher (8,319 RWF/USD 8.02) compared to November 2021, but three percent lower than in December 2020. Overall, this population is expected to remain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!). Without humanitarian food assistance, they would likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse.

    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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