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June to September rainfall drives generally favorable crop production prospects

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • September 23, 2019
June to September rainfall drives generally favorable crop production prospects

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • Average to above-average rainfall performance from June to September in the northern and western sectors – including unimodal areas of Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, northwest Somalia, and western Kenya – is driving improved agricultural production prospects, including in areas that suffered from a delayed or poor start of season in the March to May period.

    • Meanwhile, much of eastern Horn and Tanzania have remained typically sunny and dry. Some off-season rains have been received over coastal southern Kenya, northeastern Tanzania, and agropastoral areas of southern Ethiopia.

    • The rainfall outlook for the remainder of September depicts an increased likelihood for continued moderate to localized heavy rains for northern, western, and coastal East Africa.

    • There is an increased risk of continued flooding in Sudan’s eastern and Darfur regions, as well as northwestern Ethiopia and neighboring southwestern Eritrea.


    The June-September main rainfall season in Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan had a near-timely onset and has accumulated average to above-average rainfall amounts. In Ethiopia, the Kiremt rains were largely favorable for the cropping season and are likely to result in average to slightly above-average crop production prospects. In Sudan and South Sudan, yield prospects are similarly normal to above normal. However, flooding in parts of eastern and western Sudan, northern and eastern South Sudan, and southwestern, central, and northern Ethiopia has caused some crop loss in these areas. In Karan-receiving areas of northwest Somalia, heavy rainfall in August and September has driven crop production recovery and significantly increased yield prospects, following poor and erratic rainfall from April to June.

    Above-average rainfall since June has driven recovery of the April-September rainfall season in Uganda’s Karamoja subregion and the February-September rainfall season in the western and central Rift high and medium potential agricultural areas of Kenya, which both had a delayed start of season. The increase in rainfall has supported maturation of late-planted crops in both areas and is regenerating pasture and water resources. However, production prospects remain moderately to slightly below average due to reduced area planted in Karamoja and early season crop loss in Kenya. Meanwhile, much of the eastern Horn and Tanzania remained seasonally sunny and dry, punctuated by off-season rains in southern Kenya, southern coastal Somalia, and northeastern coastal Tanzania. In Somalia, southern coastal areas accumulated below-average rainfall amounts.

    Based on the eMODIS/Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), favorable rainfall in parts of the northern and western sectors has led to greener-than-normal vegetation conditions across eastern to western Sudan, in parts of northern Ethiopia, and along the greater Rift Valley of East Africa. In the remaining areas of the northern and western sectors, vegetation conditions are largely near-normal, corresponding to near-normal rainfall performance since the start of the season. In contrast, the eastern Horn continued to experience rapid deterioration of its rangeland resources, especially in the greater Mandera triangle encompassing northeastern Kenya, southern Somalia, and neighboring Somali region of Ethiopia. Poor vegetation conditions are also evident over western Tanzania, southwestern Uganda, and eastern Rwanda.

    In summary, crops planted in late May and June are now in the maturation stage and are in good condition in most of the northern sector. These crops are likely to be harvested on time during the October-December harvest period. However, the maturation of maize crops in Karamoja of Uganda and in western Kenya are generally delayed by a month to October and November, respectively, due to the delayed start of the season.

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

    • In Somalia, heavy Karan rainfall in August and September in the northwest has driven significant recovery of short-cycle red sorghum and Gu/Karan maize crops. Although area planted is below average, above-average rainfall is expected to increase yields, which has increased the likelihood of near-average production. The northwest is also experiencing exceptionally good rangeland conditions. In contrast, central and southern regions remain extremely drier-than-normal, due to poor April-June Gu rains exacerbated by hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures. In addition, the July-September Hagaa rains in southern coastal largely failed. As a result, the ongoing harvest of off-season Gu crops is significantly below average to failed.
    • In Ethiopia, the Kiremt seasonal rains are expected to culminate in average to above-average rainfall amounts across most of the country. In the southwest and southeast, rainfall is currently more than 145 percent of average. This has led to better-than-normal rangeland resources in a number of areas, based on field observations and satellite-derived data. At this point in the season, agricultural production prospects for Meher crops are largely favorable and likely to be near average and better than last year. However, there is a risk that continued rainfall could result in excess moisture and lead to crop loss, especially in localized areas in southwestern, central, and northwestern regions that have already been affected by floods. In contrast, parts of the northeastern Rift Valley regions are likely to experience reduced yields due to erratic and below-average rainfall. Further, a slight delay in the start of the Kiremt rainy season in the northeast has contributed to below-average agropastoral conditions.
    • In Kenya, average to above-average rainfall amounts since late May in western high and medium potential agricultural areas have somewhat boosted maize production prospects. However, due to early season losses, unimodal long rains maize production is still expected to be up to 25 percent below the five-year average. This follows the significantly below-average bimodal long rains harvest in marginal agricultural areas. Although these rains are also driving some regeneration of pasture and water resources in northern and northwestern pastoral zones, Kenya’s northeastern and eastern pastoral regions are experiencing rapid deterioration of rangeland resources due to a hotter-than-normal dry season, which began in May. Off-season rains over southern and coastal counties have helped ease dry conditions in these areas.
    • In Sudan, near-average agricultural production is likely as an outcome of the average to above-average seasonal June-September rainfall. However, below-average crop development is likely in parts of North Darfur, North Kordofan, Kassala, and Blue Nile states, which were affected by delayed cultivation and dry spells in June and July. Heavy rains and flooding inn August have also caused considerable damage to some cropped areas in Jazeira, Sennar, Blue Nile, and White Nile states. The flood threat remains imminent, as more moderate to heavy rains are forecast in coming weeks.
    • In South Sudan, there is increased likelihood for crop production to be similar to or better than 2018 in response to increased area planted and average to above-average rainfall in most areas. However, crop production in some areas of eastern and northern South Sudan have been affected by flooding as a result of heavy rains. Rangeland and water resources have been well replenished and are likely to be adequate for livestock production.
    • In Uganda, the unimodal rainfall season in Karamoja began about one month late, but rainfall has performed well since late May, resulting into average to above-average seasonal totals. Cropping conditions are favorable and have increased the likelihood of average yield prospects for planted crops; however, total production is expected to be below average due to reduced area planted at the late start of season. In bimodal areas, many central and eastern districts have experienced continued off-season rainfall since June, when the first rainy season typically ends. This has constrained harvesting and drying activities and is likely to result in post-harvest losses.
    • In Rwanda and Burundi, conditions remained typically sunny and dry in Rwanda, but off-season rainfall has been well above average in Burundi. These rains are likely to ease the drier-than-normal conditions in northeastern Burundi bordering Tanzania and will likely enhance Season C production of crops in marshland areas.
    • In Tanzania, sunny and drier-than-normal conditions have prevailed since June in western areas, while off-season rains have been reported over its northeastern regions. The dry season will continue until the onset of Vuli rains in October and Msimu rains in late 2019.
    • In Yemen, much of country has experienced average rainfall performance for this period, though localized areas in the west have received above-average seasonal totals. Vegetation conditions are much better in the west and are currently greener-than-normal. The rest of the country remains typically sunny, but hotter-than-normal.


    The rainfall outlook for late September remains favorable, with moderate to locally very heavy rainfall amounts forecast over western and central Ethiopia, most of Sudan and South Sudan, Uganda, and western Kenya (Figures 3 and 4). There remains a risk of flooding in western Darfur and eastern Sudan, northwestern and central Ethiopia, and southwestern Eritrea, due to continuous above-average rainfall. Coastal Kenya and northeastern coastal Tanzania are also likely forecast to experience light to moderately.

    Meanwhile, the eastern Horn is expected to remain generally sunny and dry. These weather conditions are likely to result in further deterioration of the rangeland resources, especially in areas that experienced prolonged dry season with warmer-than-normal land surface temperature conditions over eastern Horn.  

    The recent consensus seasonal rainfall outlook by ICPAC and global climate science partners (, is indicative of enhanced seasonal rains in bimodal areas from October through December 2019. The forecast is driven by an anticipated positive Indian Ocean Dipole event, which is directly associated with abnormal warming of Indian Ocean waters off the East African coast. Average to above-average rainfall is expected in Somalia, southern and eastern Ethiopia, much of Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi. As a result, favorable pasture and water resource availability is expected as is favorable crop and livestock production prospects. It would be a welcome relief from several consecutive seasons of agricultural and hydrological drought.

    Figures Map of cumulative rainfall for September 1-15 and forecast rainfall for September 15-30. Positive anomalies are expected in n

    Figure 1

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Map of vegetation conditions measured by eMODIS/NDVI. Greener-than-normal vegetation conditions are observed across eastern t

    Figure 2

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Map of expected rainfall through September 29. Moderate to locally very heavy rainfall amounts ranging from 10 to 125 millime

    Figure 3

    Figure 3

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    Map of cumulative rainfall for September 1-15 and forecast rainfall for September 15-30. Positive anomalies are expected in n

    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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