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Mixed performance for June-September seasonal rains across the northern sector

  • Seasonal Monitor
  • East Africa
  • September 30, 2021
Mixed performance for June-September seasonal rains across the northern sector

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The June to September (JJAS) rainfall season is important for crop and livestock production in western and central Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, northeastern Uganda, western Kenya, and northwestern and southern coastal Somalia. Rainfall performance varied across the region, with strong deficits observed in northwestern Kenya and Uganda, localized deficits observed in Somalia, South Sudan, and southern and central Ethiopia, and excess rainfall observed in Sudan Yemen, and parts of northern Ethiopia.  

    • During the June to September rainfall season there were reports of flooding resulting in the damage or destruction of homes, loss of assets, crop damage, and displacement. The worst-affected areas were in floods-prone areas of Sudan, Ethiopia, and South Sudan, impacting around 770,000 people across Sudan and South Sudan.  These areas experienced persistently heavy rains, high river basin levels, and saturated soils conditions. Localized, low-lying riverine areas of the Shabelle river basin in southern Somalia also reported flooding due to atypically heavy rains over the upstream catchments in Ethiopia’s highlands.

    • Agricultural production prospects vary across areas dependent on the JJAS rains not only due to rainfall performance but also conflict and economic factors. However, agricultural production is likely to be average to slightly above average for much of the northern sector, apart from conflict-affected areas of Ethiopia. Below-average production is likely in areas affected by below-average and poorly distributed seasonal rains in northeastern Uganda, southeastern South Sudan, southern and central Ethiopia, and northwestern Kenya.

    • The short-term rainfall forecast for mid-to-late-September is indicative of increased likelihood of early to timely onset of September – December season rains over the western sector of East Africa, with associated flood risks/landslides in prone regions. However, cumulative rainfall is forecast to be below average in Uganda, Burundi, and Rwanda with sunny and hotter-than-normal conditions over much of the eastern sector during this period.

    • According to the latest national, regional, and global forecasts, the 2021 deyr/short-rains, October to December season is expected to be significantly delayed, poorly distributed, and cumulatively below average; coupled with hotter-than-normal conditions over the eastern Horn. This is likely to result in three sequential poor rainy seasons and result in below-average agricultural production and livestock body conditions in marginal agricultural and pastoral livelihoods.


    From June through mid-September rainfall was largely average to above average over most parts of Yemen, Sudan, western Ethiopia, and western South Sudan (Figure 1). In particular, 125 to 200 percent of typical seasonal rainfall amounts were recorded in Yemen, northern regions of Sudan, and parts of northern Ethiopia. According to latest reports from UNOCHA, around 770,000 people have been affected by floods in Sudan and South Sudan.

    However, below-average cumulative rainfall was recorded over much of Uganda, northwestern Kenya, parts of central and southeastern South Sudan, and parts of the southern and central areas of Ethiopia. Although moderate to locally heavy rainfall was recorded in early- to mid-September helping ease the prolonged and atypically dry conditions in these areas and provide short-term relief to rangeland resources, it was likely too late for significantly water-stressed-crops in these regions.

    As of September 20, 2021, vegetation greenness, as measured by eMODIS/NDVI satellite data, is above-average over most of Sudan, South Sudan, northern and eastern Ethiopia, Eritrea, northern Somalia, and Yemen (Figure 2). This is attributed mostly to adequate seasonal rainfall since the early to timely onset of JJAS seasonal rains. However, below-average vegetation greenness has been observed in localized, flood-affected areas, and in areas experiencing rainfall deficits including Sudan, northern and southeastern South Sudan, and southern and central Ethiopia. In the southern sector, atypically dry conditions are present across much of Uganda, western Kenya, and along the coastal regions of Somalia and Kenya following cumulatively and uneven March to September seasonal rains and an ongoing hotter-than-normal dry season. Additionally, surface water pans in the predominantly pastoral zones of the eastern Horn have significantly declined, ranging from low to dry levels.

    Overall, the crop production prospects are likely to be average to slightly above the five-year average in Sudan, western Ethiopia, and South Sudan. However, conflict and floods have caused crop losses and raised the risk of higher-than-normal post-harvest losses in parts of South Sudan. In Ethiopia the national meher production, and in Kenya, the national long rains harvest are expected to be slightly below-average, with larger yield deficits in the Karamoja region of Uganda. Yield estimates are not yet available in South Sudan; however, prospects are qualitatively assessed to be similar to slightly better than 2020.

    According to FAO, Desert Locust hopper bands and swarms are reportedly present or assumed to be present in northern Somalia as well as Afar, eastern Amhara, and Tigray regions of Ethiopia; however, swarm presence is difficult to confirm in northern Ethiopia due to the ongoing conflict. Due to current favorable meteorological and environmental conditions in these regions, there is increased likelihood for increased breeding from September and October.

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

    • In Somalia, FEWS NET and FSNAU estimate 2021 gu cereal (maize and sorghum) production, harvested in July/August, is 60 percent below the 1995-2020 average due to poor rainfall across agropastoral areas and episodic flooding in riverine areas. Off-season production, usually harvested in September/October, is also below average in southern coastal Somalia due to poor rainfall from June to September. In the Northwest, the cereal harvest in November is projected to be around 60-65 percent below the 10-year average due to uneven rainfall distribution. Another below-average cereal harvest is likely in January, based on the forecast that deyr rainfall will be delayed and below average from October to December.
    • In Ethiopia, the overall performance of kiremt (June-September) rainfall has been largely mixed; with an early onset, above to average rainfall amounts, and persistent floods in most northern and western areas of the country. While in southern and central areas rainfall has been erratic, significantly delayed, and below average. The recent moderate to heavy rainfall in areas where rainfall has been poor eased cumulative rainfall deficits; however, has not resulted in improvements in cropping conditions due to the prolonged water stress during the season. The most affected areas by drier-than-normal conditions include central Oromia, areas of Sidama, Gambella, central Tigray, and northern Rift Valley. Crop production prospects for key agricultural areas of the western highlands of Ethiopia are generally likely to be average, with below-average production anticipated in southern and central areas. The ongoing conflict in Amhara, Afar, and Tigray regions is driving significant declines in the engagement in agricultural activities and production prospects in Amhara and Tigray. Overall, belg and meher production is likely to be slightly below average to below average.
    • In Kenya, the government officially declared the drought a national disaster in early September following a multi-agency assessment on food insecurity. Following sequential below-average rainfall seasons since October 2020. The impact of multiple below-average harvests has negatively impacted household own food production and income, which has been further exacerbated by the ongoing economic impacts of COVID-19. The most affected areas are the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of northern, eastern, and coastal Kenya. In parts of western Kenya final crop conditions are expected to be mixed due to rainfall deficits and abnormal dryness during critical growth stages. Government estimates anticipate a national near-average long-rains harvest.  
    • In Sudan, main season millet and sorghum crops are in vegetative to reproductive stages for harvest from November. Crop conditions are generally favorable due to above-average rainfall for the June through August period except in the east where recent flooding may impact crops. National production is likely to be below 2020 agricultural production due to uneven and insufficient rains over parts of Darfur and Kordofan regions, flooding along the White and Blue Nile basins, and high input and labor costs.  Overall rangeland resources have remained favorable across much of the country, apart from localized areas where rainfall has been below average.
    • In South Sudan, seasonal rainfall performance varies across the country, ranging from near-average in northern and western areas to below average in central and eastern areas. Conflict, seasonal floods, and long dry spells pose risks to crop yields, which will be harvested on a rolling basis from September through December. Apart from these anomalies, field reports and key informants so far indicate that crop production prospects in 2021 are similar to or relatively better than 2020 in most areas. Flood-related crop losses are most significant in low-lying areas in Aweil South of Northern Bahr el Ghazal and Leer of Unity, where crop fields are completely submerged. Crop losses associated with rainfall deficits are highest in Eastern Equatoria. Erratic rainfall also permitted isolated cases of Fall Army Worm incidence in maize fields in Wulu county of Lakes, Pibor, and Torit and Magwi counties of Eastern Equatoria. Elsewhere, key informants and satellite-derived data suggest soil moisture deficits in southern and eastern South Sudan have broadly recovered due to an increase in rainfall in August, mitigating yield losses.
    • In Uganda, particularly Karamoja and much of the northern regions of Uganda, which relies on the June through September seasonal rainfall, experienced cumulatively below-average rainfall, driven by a significantly delayed onset of the JJAS rains, long-dry spells, and inadequate rains to support favorable agricultural production prospects. Recent moderately heavy rains across the northern regions are expected to provide relief to some of the most rainfall deficit areas and could be an early indication of the onset of the September through December seasonal rains in parts of Uganda.
    • In Rwanda and Burundi, it has remained generally sunny, but with regions receiving uneven above-average rainfall in August and early September. This is attributed mostly to the earlier-than-normal southward drift of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ). Season A is expected to be generally below average owing to the expected negative influence of the anticipated weak La-Niña and negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions across East Africa, including Rwanda and Burundi, despite an early to timely onset of the current seasonal rains.
    • In Yemen, exceptionally wetter-than-normal conditions have been present across most parts of the country during the JAS period. However, in September, the seasonal rains were slightly below average over the northwestern and east-central regions of Yemen. Meanwhile, land surface temperatures have been hotter-than-normal, exceeding 40°C in most lowland areas and exceeding 50°C over parts of eastern, southern, and central Yemen. According to FAO, some desert locust swarms were observed in the country and are likely to continue breeding through September due to current favorable meteorological and environmental conditions.


    According to the two-week rainfall outlook for September 28-October 12 2021, there is an increased likelihood for moderate to heavy seasonal rains over western-central Ethiopia, southern Sudan, western South Sudan, western Kenya, western Yemen, and much of Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi (Figure 3). Rainfall across much of Sudan is likely to reduce as the intertropical convergence zone (ITCZ) gradually shifts southwards into the equatorial sector of East Africa. However, the rest of the region is expected to be abnormally hotter-than-normal and drier-than-normal, with occasional isolated showers before the start of the deyr/Short-rains season in October. However, abnormally heavy rains over Uganda and western Kenya are likely to elevate the risk of flooding and mudslides in Kenya and the Mt. Elgon region of Uganda, and flooding in the river catchments of western Uganda. There is also a flood risk in parts of the Sudd wetland areas and Sobat-Akobo-Pibor river catchments in South Sudan, Awash river catchment in Ethiopia, and Baraka-Anseba river catchments in Eritrea. Additionally, forecast moderate to heavy rains in Ethiopia is likely to increase the risk of flooding in the Blue Nile and Akobo catchments of Ethiopia. Based on observed and forecast rainfall through September 30, there are likely to be rainfall deficits over much of Uganda, southern, eastern, and northern South Sudan, western Kenya, coastal Kenya and Somalia, and northern and central Ethiopia (Figure 4). The rainfall deficits are likely to result in below-average crop production and rangeland pasture and water availability.

    The upcoming 2021/22 deyr/short-rains are likely to be below average and hotter-than-normal, especially over the eastern Horn, and likely to result in below-average crop production and short-term improvements in rangeland resources. This is attributed mostly to the forecast weak La-Niña event coupled with the anticipated short-lived negative Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) conditions and unfavorable western pacific (WP) sea surface temperature gradients in the coming months.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 2

    Figure 2.

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 3

    Figure 3.

    Source: NOAA/CPC

    Figure 4

    Figure 4.

    Source: UC Santa Barbara 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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