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Average to above-average rainfall in northern and western sectors favorable for cropping conditions

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • August 21, 2019
Average to above-average rainfall in northern and western sectors favorable for cropping conditions

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • June-September rainfall performance remained average to above-average from early July to early August in unimodal areas. This has sustained largely favorable cropping conditions across northern and western agricultural zones of East Africa.

    • Persistent, heavy rainfall led to reports of flooding in several regions of Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan as of early August. Worst-affected areas include in Khartoum, Sennar, and west Darfur states in Sudan; Afar and northwest Amhara region in Ethiopia; and Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Jonglei states of South Sudan.  More rain is forecast in coming weeks.

    • The eastern Horn and Tanzania remained seasonally sunny but atypically hotter than normal, which has accelerated declines in water and pasture availability in pastoral areas of Kenya, parts of eastern Ethiopia, and central and southern Somalia.

    • There is increased concern for post-harvest maize losses, for the on-going harvest and drying in parts of eastern Uganda and western Kenya, as sustained moderate to heavy rains are forecast this month.


    Rainfall performance from July 11th to August 10th was broadly average across the northern and western sectors of the region, though localized areas received well above-average rainfall amounts. Unimodal rainfall-dependent areas include Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and western Kenya (Figure 1). Parts of eastern and western Sudan have received persistently above average rainfall since the start of season, resulting in soil saturation and reports of flooding in Khartoum, Sennar, and west Darfur states. Heavy rainfall also caused widespread floods in South Gondor Zone of Amhara region in Ethiopia, leading to water logging and loss of life and property. There are also confirmed reports of flooding over Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Jonglei states of South Sudan. Eastern regions of Uganda and neighboring western and northern Rift Valley counties of Kenya have also continued to receive consistently above-average rainfall since June. In contrast, parts of northeastern Ethiopia and parts of South Kordofan state in Sudan accumulated below-average rainfall amounts (50-80 percent of average).

    Overall, seasonal rainfall performance from June to date has been largely beneficial for main staple food crops in Sudan, western and central Ethiopia, South Sudan, and Uganda. In Kenya, above-average rainfall has significantly improved cropping conditions in high potential agricultural zones in western and Rift Valley areas, where a significantly delayed and poor start of season had delayed planting of maize and other crops by more than one month. However, heavy rainfall is a cause for concern for maize harvesting and drying in parts of eastern Uganda and could cause waterlogging and crop leeching in north-Rift counties of Kenya.

    Meanwhile, much of the eastern Horn and Tanzania remained seasonally sunny but atypically hotter than normal, leading to rapid deterioration of pasture and water resources. This has predominantly affected pastoral and marginal agro-pastoral zones in eastern and northern Kenya, parts of central and southern Somalia, and southeastern Ethiopia. Vegetation and water deficits are expected to worsen until the onset of short rains/Deyr/Hageya season in late October to early November.

    eMODIS/Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomalies in early August are indicative of significantly greener-than-normal vegetation conditions in northeastern Tanzania and much of the Rift Valley and western regions of Kenya as well as in northeastern Uganda, South Sudan, parts of Ethiopia, and northern Somalia (Figure 2). Similarly green conditions are also evident in most of eastern, central, and western Sudan. However, localized but exceptionally drier-than-normal conditions in central-northern Sudan call for close monitoring, as these have not improved since July. Persistent cloud cover has obscured ground vegetation observations in eastern Ethiopia and southern Sudan. Prevailing hot and dry conditions have led to negative vegetation anomalies in south-central Somalia, eastern Kenya, parts of Ethiopia, and much of Tanzania.

    The following is a country-by-country update on recent seasonal progress to date:

    • In Somalia, rainfall since the end of the April-June Gu has been light to moderate (10-25 mm) and uneven in Hagaa-dependent areas along the south-central coast and in Karan-­­receiving areas in the Northwest. Cumulative Hagaa rainfall is generally near average, but the Karan rains exhibit cumulative deficits of -25 mm to -50 mm. Overall, vegetation conditions across the north remain exceptionally greener-than-normal and favorable for pastoral activities. However, the poor distribution of the Gu and Karan rains has resulted in significantly below-average Gu cereal production and poor Karan production prospects in northwestern agropastoral areas. In central and southern Somalia, harvesting of significantly below-average to failed Gu crops are underway and pastoral conditions are average to below average.
    • In Ethiopia, average to above-average Kiremt seasonal rainfall across western, central, and southwestern regions is driving good agricultural production prospects and accumulation of adequate water in major hydropower water dams. However, heavy rainfall in August caused flash floods and overflow of major rivers in northwest Amhara, Afar, Gambella and SNNPR regions. According to ground reports, tens of thousands of livestock were lost in Afar region and water logging has affected the main rice-producing region of South Gondar Zone in Amhara. Other regions are currently experiencing soil saturation. There is an increased likelihood of further flooding, particularly in Awash, Baro Akobo, and Omo Gibe river basins, which may negatively impact crop production with water logging and erosion and cause further damage to central Oromia, Afar, Gambella, and southwestern SNNPR regions. Meanwhile, there are reports that parts of northeastern Afar and northern Rift Valley regions received normal rainfall amounts within the past 10 days, which has significantly improved water and pasture conditions in pastoral areas after several months of poor rainfall.
    • In Kenya, moderate to very heavy rainfall in the western and Rift Valley “grain-basket” since June has significantly improved cropping conditions. There are good prospects for agricultural production despite a significant delay in rainfall onset and planting. Meanwhile, off-season rains in southwestern and central Kenya have been largely beneficial for rangeland resources and small crops. Northern and eastern regions have generally remained typically dry with exceptionally hotter-than-normal conditions, resulting in rapid deterioration of pasture and surface water resources. Recent field and KFSSG reports are indicative of a worsening situation, especially in areas that experienced poor March– May seasonal rains. No significant rainfall is expected in these areas until late October.
    • In Sudan, there are confirmed reports of flooding in flood-prone areas of Khartoum, Sennar, and western Darfur states, due to weeks of well above-average rainfall within these regions and in the western Ethiopian highlands and eastern Ethiopia. The on-going seasonal rains have been generally beneficial for both agricultural and pastoral activities. However, parts of central-northern Sudan are experiencing significantly drier-than-normal vegetation conditions and require close monitoring.
    • In South Sudan, field and satellite observations are indicative of average to localized areas of above average rainfall performance during the past month. Although seasonal rainfall has positively impacted crop production prospects and water and pasture resources, flooding has been reported in parts of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Jonglei states in early August. Flash floods have displaced more than 3,000 households and destroyed crop fields in Aweil Centre, North, and West of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. In Jonglei, flash floods affected more than 6,500 households in Bor South, Duk, Twic East, Pochalla, and Ayod, destroyed crops, and significantly reduced trade flows from Bor South to these counties.
    • In Uganda, rainfall performance has been average to above average since June, especially in Eastern and Northern Regions. These rains have significantly improved rangeland resources and cropping conditions in Karamoja as well as bimodal northern areas. On-going harvesting and drying of the long-rains season crop has been constrained by continued rains, but has permitted second season land preparation and planting.
    • In Rwanda and Burundi, season B harvests are completed and conditions have remained generally sunny and dry since early July. Vegetation and surface water conditions are near average.
    • In Tanzania, seasonally sunny and dry conditions have prevailed, apart from its eastern coastal strip regions. Currently, there are observed drier-than-normal vegetation conditions in central and southwestern regions, following the end of the harvest and driven by hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures.
    • In Yemen, slightly above average to average rainfall amounts were observed in parts of western and central regions, leading to positive improvements in vegetation conditions. The rest of country remained sunny and dry.


    The rainfall outlook for through August 27th depicts an increased likelihood for moderate to locally very heavy rainfall in western and central Ethiopia, much of Sudan and South Sudan, northern Uganda, and parts of western Kenya (Figure 3). Flood risk remains imminent over western Darfur and parts of eastern Sudan; western, central, and southwestern Ethiopia; and flood-prone areas of South Sudan. Parts of the East African coastal strip in Somalia and Kenya are forecast to experience light to moderately heavy rains, together with Yemen’s western highlands and coastal areas. Meanwhile, most of the eastern Horn is expected to remain generally sunny and atypically hot. These weather conditions are likely to result in further deterioration of the rangeland resources, especially in areas that experienced poor March-May rainfall performance and regions that did not benefit from recent off-season rainfall.

    Based on current rainfall totals and the two-week forecast through end of August, cumulative rainfall is likely to be average to above average in much of Uganda, northern Sudan, parts of western and coastal Kenya, and Hagaa and Karan-dependent areas of Somalia (Figure 4). Slightly below-average cumulative rainfall is expected in parts of northeastern Ethiopia and Djibouti, southern Somalia together with few areas over southwestern Kenya.  Yemen is also forecast to experience below average rainfall amounts for remainder of August.

    Figures Map of cumulative rainfall from July 11th to August 10th, 2019, and a percent of the 1981-2010 average. Rainfall was broadly

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/Climate Hazards Center

    Map of vegetation conditions, AUgust 1-10, 2019, as a percent of the 2007-2016 median. Significantly greener-than-normal vege

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Map depicting the rainfall forecast in millimeters through August 27th. Heavy rainfall (40-125 mm) is predicted in Sudan, wes

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    Map depicting cumulative rainfall yhrough August 15th and the 2-week forecast through August 31st. Cumulative rainfall is lik

    Figure 4

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET/Climate Hazards Center

    FEWS NET’s Seasonal Monitor reports are produced for Central America and the Caribbean, West Africa, East Africa, Central Asia, and Somalia every 10-to-30 days during the region’s respective rainy season(s). Seasonal Monitors report updates on weather events (e.g., rainfall patterns) and associated impacts on ground conditions (e.g., cropping conditions, pasture and water availability), as well as the short-term rainfall forecast. Find more remote sensing information here.

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