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September - December seasonal rains conclude with ongoing drought in the eastern Horn

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • December 31, 2021
September - December seasonal rains conclude with ongoing drought in the eastern Horn

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • Rainfall from September to December was characterized by a significantly delayed onset, uneven distribution, and largely below average performance over much of the eastern Horn. The 2021 deyr/hageya/short rains season was a poor season comparable to 2016 with some areas of southern Ethiopia, eastern Kenya, and southern Somalia receiving even lower rainfall than October to December 2016. Drought severity will likely intensify through the January to March dry season, as above-average temperatures further deplete water and pasture resources.

    • Agricultural production prospects are likely to be poor to failure for much of the eastern Horn, marking three consecutive below-average harvests. In marginal agricultural areas of Somalia and Kenya, preliminary estimates based on available assessments indicate the January/February 2022 cereal harvests are 60-70 percent below average. 

    • In pastoral areas of southern Somalia and northeastern Kenya, rainfall in late November and December improved rangeland resource availability in the short term. Ongoing livestock migration from rainfall-deficit areas to areas with more favorable grazing options will likely lead to the quick depletion of these renewed pasture and water resources.

    • There is an increased likelihood for the continuation of dry and hotter-than-normal normal conditions across the eastern Horn over the next two weeks, along with Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda. The tropical rainfall system remains firmly established in Tanzania and southern Africa. Light to moderate rainfall is forecast over DRC, Rwanda, Burundi, and parts of Ethiopia and Kenya.


    With the end of the 2021 deyr/hageya/short-rains in December, rainfall is cumulatively less than 75 percent of the long term average across much of the eastern Horn, and in many areas performed worse than 2010 and 2016 when significant droughts were also recorded (Figure 1). Cumulative rainfall in worst-affected areas ranged from 60 percent of average to less than 30 percent of average in central and southern Somalia, northwestern and parts of eastern Kenya, and eastern Ethiopia. Meanwhile, the short rains relatively performed better in the western sector, including Uganda and parts of west-central Kenya, where the rains were cumulatively 75-90 percent of the long-term average. However, parts of the northern sector of East Africa are uncharacteristically wetter-than-normal, particularly western coastal Yemen, northern Somalia, parts of Darfur in Sudan, and north-central South Sudan. The rest of the region recorded cumulatively near-average rainfall from September to December.

    In late November and December, above-average late seasonal rainfall in southern Somalia and northeastern Kenya reduced cumulative deficits and provided short-term improvements to pasture and surface water conditions for pastoralists in the drought affected areas (Figure 2). Field reports indicate that livestock are migrating from poor rangeland areas into areas with relatively better pasture and water availability following the short-term improvements in rangeland resources.

    By early January, vegetation greenness as measured by the satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) was above normal following the late seasonal rains in parts of southeastern Ethiopia northeastern, eastern and coastal Kenya, and coastal southern Somalia (Figure 3). However, significantly below-normal vegetation greenness is widespread across much of the eastern Horn following three below-average rainy seasons, with central and southern Somalia, southern Ethiopia, and much of northern and eastern Kenya recording either the lowest or near lowest NDVI values recorded on the 20-year historical record. Following the rainfall in December, monitored water points improved slightly in localized areas but largely remain near-dry to empty.

    Agricultural production prospects remain poor across the eastern Horn despite improvements in cumulative rainfall totals in December. Most crops are in the early vegetative stages and with the forecast cessation of rainfall, crops will not receive enough water to reach maturity. In marginal agricultural areas of Kenya and Somalia, preliminary field assessments estimate that the January/February 2022 cereal harvests are 60-70 percent below average.

    According to the FAO, there is a diminished threat of desert locusts migrating into equatorial East Africa due to the unfavorable environmental conditions. However, control operations are continuing against a limited number of small immature swarms in northeast Somalia that formed last month from local breeding.

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

    • In Somalia, the deyr rains were well below average across most of the country. The worst-affected areas are in central and southern Somalia, where cumulative rainfall ranged from 60 percent to less than 30 percent of the 40-year average. Nugaal, Mudug, Galgaduud, and Hiiraan are currently under severe to extreme drought conditions (SPI<-1.5), with exceptional drier-than-normal vegetation conditions and scarcity of surface water adversely affecting the pastoral communities in these areas. Rainfed crop production in southern Somalia is approximately 60-70 percent below average due to erratic and insufficient rainfall, marking the third to fourth consecutive season of poor production season depending on the region. However, the northern regions of Sanaag, Bari, and Togdheer received cumulatively average to above-average rainfall, supporting favorable rangeland resources but attracting significant livestock in-migration from other drought-affected areas. Meanwhile, the Lower Juba region of southern Somalia of Somalia recently received late November into December rains, with beneficial short-term impacts on pasture and water resources. Overall, the forecast of dry and hotter-than-normal conditions in Somalia are likely to continue exacerbating the severity of drought conditions in the coming months, before the onset of the gu rains in late March into April.
    • In Ethiopia, October to December deyr/hegaya rainfall in southern and southeastern pastoral areas was well below average, ranging between 45-75 percent of average. Moderate to extreme drought conditions are ongoing across many areas of Borena and Guji Zone of Oromia, Dollo, Korahe, Shabelle, Afder, Liben, and Daawa Zones of Somali, and some isolated hegaya receiving areas of SNNPR. In the drought-affected areas of Somali, Oromia, and parts of southern SNNPR Regions, pasture and water availability are very poor. Production prospects in deyr/hageya cropping and agropastoral zones are likely poor due to poor seasonal rainfall performance. Out-of-season rainfall was observed in parts of Dire Dawa, southeast Afar, and Tigray, including Wellega zone. According to FAO, in late December desert locusts migrated to the edge of the Rift Valley in southern Ethiopia. Overall, there are optimistic signs that the upsurge is declining. Typical dry and hot conditions are forecast in the coming weeks across the country which will only exacerbate drought and poor vegetation conditions in southern and southeastern pastoral areas.
    • In Kenya, the October to December short-rains season was largely characterized by a significantly delayed onset and cumulatively well below average rainfall across most of the country. There is an ongoing drought across northern and eastern Kenya. Rainfall in late November and December provided short-term improvements to rangeland resources, particularly in northeastern and southeastern Kenya. However, vegetation and water supplies are expected to deteriorate during the January to March dry season due to increased pressure on rangeland resources and hotter-than normal temperatures. Rangeland resource-based conflict are likely between pastoralists and wildlife. Maize production prospects remain poor for eastern, southeastern lowlands and coastal counties, as crops are in vegetative stages at the cessation of rainfall. Farmers are expected to be more dependent on growing legumes and other short-maturation crops. In bi-modal western Kenya and parts of the central highlands, slightly below-average harvests are likely due to uneven rainfall distribution and periodic crop-water stress during the cropping season.
    • In Sudan, the dry season and hotter-than-normal conditions are driving below-average vegetation greenness in southern Sudan. The ongoing dry season is expected to continue until the start of the 2022 rainy season in June 2022. Vegetation conditions are expected to continue deteriorating, driven by the hotter-than-normal conditions. This is likely to affect pastoral communities that typically migrate to the southern grazing areas during the dry season.
    • In South Sudan, the bimodal cropping areas of central and eastern Equatoria state, and particularly the greater Kapoeta area, received below-average rainfall from October to December, resulting in localized crop water stress. There is an increased likelihood of below to near-average maize yield prospects in most of the southeastern districts bordering Uganda. Meanwhile, the rest of the country experienced average to slightly above average rainfall at the end of the main annual harvest, resulting in sustained to rising flood extent in several areas in the Sudd Wetland and Sobat and Pibor river basins. Although satellite data suggests vegetation conditions are currently greener-than-normal in many river basin areas, field reports indicate that saturation of grazing grounds persists, leading to a reduction in pasture for livestock and an increase in livestock disease incidence. Rainfall is forecast to subside in South Sudan, allowing for floodwaters to gradually recede; however, flood extent is most likely to remain above typical levels well into the January-May dry season.
    • In Uganda, significantly below-average October to December rainfall in northern, parts of central, and eastern Uganda is expected to result in below-average second season production. In bimodal areas, harvesting is ongoing following the patterns of varied and staggered planting and rainfall distribution through the season.  The cereal and legume harvest is moderate to slightly below average with localized areas of very poor crop harvests in Teso and parts of northeastern Uganda. However, other crops like cassava, bananas, sweet potatoes had near-average production. However, in Karamoja, the minor long-cycle sorghum harvest in December is significantly below-average. Rangeland resources across the north-eastern to southwestern Uganda are also likely to have been affected by the below-average rainfall, which is limiting livestock migration to dry-season grazing areas and resulting in slightly below-average milk productivity.
    • In Rwanda and Burundi, Season A rainfall performance is likely to conclude as widely average, marked by the alleviation of earlier deficits in eastern Rwanda and eastern and northern Burundi. Maize is reportedly in the reproductive growth stages following a delay in planting at the start of the season in September. Despite the cumulatively average rainfall performance, below-average bean and cereal harvests are likely in eastern Rwanda and eastern and northern Burundi due to earlier deficits at critical growth stages and pest damage. However, these crop harvests are generally expected to be average on the national level in both countries.
    • In Yemen, the western coastal regions remain wetter-than-normal, while the rest of the country was generally sunny and dry, with average to hotter-than-normal land conditions. With the onset of winter, the weather typically becomes drier and temperatures typically decrease. As such, vegetation and natural pastures are currently scarce across much of the country, increasing livestock owners’ reliance on fodder. Winter breeding of desert locusts has started in western Yemen with solitary adult and solitary hoppers present. 


    According to the two-week rainfall outlook for January 10-24, 2022, there is an increased likelihood for light to moderate rainfall in western Kenya, most of Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and eastern DRC (Figure 4). The northern sector and eastern Horn are typically dry with the start of the dry season. However, hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures are likely to drive the rapid deterioration of any improvement in vegetation greenness following the end of season rains in December. Between January and March, drought severity will likely intensify in the eastern Horn through the January to March dry season, as above-average temperatures further deplete water and pasture resources. Furthermore, climate research indicates waning La Niña conditions will likely cause a fourth consecutive season of below-average rainfall across the region from March to May 2022. 


    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: UC Santa Barbara Climate Hazards Center

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 4

    Figure 4.

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    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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