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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes persist in many riverine and northern pastoral areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Somalia
  • December 2020
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes persist in many riverine and northern pastoral areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • At the end of the October to December 2020 deyr rainfall season, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in several riverine areas and most northern pastoral areas. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is also likely in some agropastoral areas in Bay, Bakool, and Togdheer regions and in IDP settlements. Food insecurity is most severe in parts of Bari region, where the impacts of Tropical Cyclone Gati on local food and income sources are likely driving Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes. A forecast of below-average rainfall during the April to June 2021 gu rainfall season, exacerbated by the desert locust upsurge, is likely to suppress food and income sources in rural areas throughout the scenario period.

    • In late November, Tropical Cyclone Gati brought flash floods to parts of Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones in Iskushuban and Caaluula districts of Bari region.The cyclone caused human and livestock deaths, damaged productive assets such as fishing boats and equipment, and damaged roads, houses, schools, hospitals, and water facilities. Households who lost their livelihood either migrated to IDP camps or were able to access food assistance and social support locally. Given that the population was already struggling to meet their food needs due to livestock losses during prior droughts and low seafood demand during the COVID-19 pandemic, many households are expected to have large food gaps indicative of Emergency (IPC Phase 4).  

    • In riverine areas, erratically distributed deyr rainfall resulted in flash floods for the third consecutive season. Desert locusts also consumed crops, especially in Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle. Additionally, several riverine areas with damaged river infrastructure will be vulnerable to floods during the anticipated, below-average 2021 gu. Inadequate harvests and the loss of income from agricultural labor will most likely sustain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes.

    • Crisis (IPC Phase) outcomes are expected in many northern pastoral livelihood zones, driven by the effects of below-average rainfall on livestock production amid the ongoing recovery of livestock herd sizes since the 2016/17 and 2018/19 droughts. However, preliminary field assessment results suggest the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone has likely declined thanks to food assistance, livelihoods support, and favorable off-season rainfall.

    • In agropastoral areas, preliminary field assessments indicate total cereal crop production is below the historical average. However, household food stocks, livestock sales, milk consumption and sales, and stable terms of trade are sufficient to prevent more significant deterioration in food security outcomes. Poor households will likely also access some agricultural labor income during the 2021 gu season.


    October to December 2020 deyr rainfall ranges from near average in south-central and parts of northeastern Somalia to below average in northern and southern Somalia. According to satellite-derived estimates, rainfall was 50-80 percent of the historical average in the North and most of the South, with the deepest deficits of 25-50 percent of average located in parts of Toghdeer and Lower Juba regions (Figure 1). The distribution of the deyr rains during the season was characterized by a timely start in central Hawd Pastoral and Addun Pastoral livelihood zones and a late to very poor start across the rest of the country. Rainfall continued to perform poorly throughout the season in most areas and generally ceased by mid-November. Key exceptions include Bay and Bakool regions, where rainfall was adequate to support agriculture, and Coastal Deeh Pastoral livelihood zone and adjacent areas of Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zone in Bari region, where Cyclone Gati brought heavy rains in late November. East Golis Pastoral and other parts of Northern Inland Pastoral in Bari and Sanaag also benefitted from light to moderate rainfall from the cyclone.

    In November and December 2020, the Food Security and Nutrition Analysis Unit (FSNAU) conducted several field assessments to assess national cereal crop production. In northwestern Somalia, FSNAU and the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture and Development report that prospects for the gu/karan harvest in November/December are worse than previously projected. Crop losses were high in Northwest Agropastoral livelihood zone, especially in Borama, Gabiley, and Hargeysa districts. Although initial satellite-derived estimates had previously shown karan rainfall (July-September) performed well, ground evidence indicates that rainfall was poorly distributed and insufficient to support normal crop production. Desert locust and stalk borer damages were also significant.

    FSNAU’s preliminary field assessments in southern Somalia indicate total main and off-season deyr cereal production will likely be below the long-term average (1995-2019), but similar to the five-year average given the volatility in annual production in recent years. In general, the late onset and erratic distribution of deyr rainfall led to reductions in planted area and further affected seed germination and crop development. However, localized torrential rainfall in riverine areas led to flash flood events, given the vulnerability of river infrastructure after several seasons of significant flood events and insufficient repairs. Further, the spread of the desert locust upsurge into the South occurred earlier in the deyr agricultural season in 2020 than in 2019, resulting in significant damage to crops in marginal agropastoral livelihood zones and riverine areas in Hiiraan and Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, as well as agropastoral areas in central Somalia. Estimates of damage caused by desert locust are unavailable but are assessed to be significant among cereal, sesame, and vegetable crops.

    As a result, there are significant regional differences in cereal production prospects for the main deyr harvest in January/February 2020. Significant crop losses are reported in riverine areas in Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, and the Juba regions. Significant losses are also reported in Sorghum High Potential Agropastoral livelihood zone in Lower and Middle Shabelle regions, marginal agropastoral areas in Gedo, Hiiraan, the Jubas, and Middle Shabelle, and Cowpea Belt Agropastoral livelihood zone. Conversely, crop production in agropastoral areas of Bakool, Bay, and Lower Shabelle and riverine areas of Lower Shabelle are performing well, aided by better rainfall performance as well as the availability of irrigation, despite the presence of negative factors such as pest infestation, excessive soil moisture and difficult weed control, and insecurity.

    While main season production prospects are poor in riverine areas, the early-season floods are conducive to off-season recessional cultivation of vegetables, cowpeas, and sesame. These activities have gradually started as of early December in riverine areas in Gedo, Juba, Middle Shabelle, and Hiiraan. As a result, agriculture labor demand is rising a notably positive effect on wages. In Rahole of Bu’aale district of Middle Juba, the daily agriculture labor wage rate could fetch 9 kg of white maize in December, which is more than four times higher than December 2019 and 80 percent above the five-year average.  Although rainfall performance was generally below average, livestock production conditions have remained favorable through December due to the high availability of dry pasture in the North and the regeneration of vegetation in cyclone-affected areas and south-central Somalia. According to satellite-derived estimates and field assessment information, pasture and water availability increased significantly in most north-central pastoral and agropastoral areas. However, rangeland in the South has been more significantly affected by poor rainfall as well as the ongoing desert locust infestation. In particular, vegetation is below normal in most of Gedo and the Juba regions and some parts of Bakool, Bay, Hiiraan, and Lower Shabelle. As of December, the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index showed a declining and below-normal trend in vegetation across southern and central Somalia and deteriorating but mixed vegetation in the North (Figure 2). The risk of additional desert locust damage to rangeland is highest in the South due to prevailing wind patterns that are encouraging southward swarm migration, especially in riverine areas of the Shabelle regions.

    Livestock body conditions for all species are average to good (PET score 3-4) in most parts of the country owing to improved rangeland conditions and availability of dry pasture. In most pastoral and agropastoral livelihood zones, livestock migration broadly remained normal within the traditional wet grazing areas in December. However, in some north-central pastoral livelihood zones, early livestock migration is occurring from rain-deficit areas to areas in Hawd Pastoral and Addun Pastoral livelihood zones with better pasture and water availability. According to field assessment information, a medium level of camel, goat, and sheep births is reported in most pastoral and agropastoral areas. Cattle calving rates are medium to low in the South and low in the Northwest. In general, the births have led to an increase in household herd sizes and income from milk sales, while offering an increase in milk consumption. However, pastoralists in northern rainfall-deficit areas (specifically in Northern Inland Pastoral of Northwest, Addun Pastoral of Northeast, Coastal Deeh Pastoral, and East Golis Pastoral of Northwest) report below-normal milk production, negatively affecting both household consumption and income from milk.

    Staple food prices broadly declined after peaking in October. Maize and sorghum availability is now ample in most markets, as early-harvested crops arrived on the market in December along with the delayed, off-season gu harvests in September to October. In the North, local stocks from the gu/karan harvest have also been boosted by steady import flows from Ethiopia. In December, sorghum and maize prices were near the 2019 and recent five-year averages across most reference markets. In Baidoa, for example, the retail price of a kilogram of red sorghum was SOS 6,600, which is similar to November 2020, December 2019, and the December five-year average. In Qorioley, the retail price of a kilogram of maize was SOS 5,300, which was also similar to all three reference periods. Similar trends are observed across the South, including in Mogadishu and Kismayo, as well as in central and northwestern regions. The main exception is the Northeast, where local monetary policy is driving depreciation of the Somali Shilling and placing upward pressure on imported and domestic staple food prices.

    On average, the price of a local quality goat declined seasonally by five percent from November to December as pastoralists typically sell some livestock at the end of the rainfall season to pay off debt and purchase other household needs, leading to a temporary increase in market supply. An exception to this trend is observed in parts of central and northern Somalia, where livestock migration to areas with better rangeland resource availability has led to an increase in the local goat price as market supply fell. Overall, in most regions, livestock prices – and especially local goat prices – prices varied between SOS 902,500 – SOS 2,017,142 per goat and were similar to higher than both the December 2019 and December five-year averages. The highest price was observed in the Northeast and the lowest in the Juba regions.

    Despite positive market trends nationally, protracted conflict and insecurity continue to limit trade movement in Bakool, Matabaan of Hiiraan, Xaradheere, Ceel Dheer, and Ceel Buur districts of Galgaduud region, Wanlaweyn district of Lower Shabelle, and Caadale district of Middle Shabelle. Unresolved inter-clan conflict is also a contributing factor to periodic disruptions to trade and livestock and population movements in Wanlaweyn of Lower Shabelle, Awdwak of Galgaduud, and Matabaan of Hiraan. Further, episodic conflict continues to lead to the loss of lives and productive assets.

    Given the above factors, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes remain most likely across many agropastoral and pastoral areas of Somalia. Cyclone-affected areas in Bari region remain of highest concern, where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are likely due to significant livestock losses and damage to water and fishing infrastructure on top of existing shocks, including prior droughts and a decline in fishing exports throughout the pandemic. According to Somalia Food Security Cluster reports, humanitarian actors have reached an average of 1,828,331 people per month with food assistance from October through December 2020, which is 5 percent higher than the monthly average in the July to September 2020 period. 42 percent and 37 percent of the total beneficiary population were located in the South and Northwest, respectively.  


    Revisions to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Somalia Food Security Outlook for October 2020 to May 2021 include:

    • Based on the results of the joint field assessment conducted by FSNAU and the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture and Development in November 2020, the gu/karan cereal harvest in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone is expected to be significantly below average. They estimate sorghum and maize production will be equivalent to about 17,050 MT, which is 42 percent of the 2010-2019 average and 51 percent of 2019 gu/karan production.
    • Based on the results of the FSNAU preliminary post-deyr field assessment in November 2020, 2020 deyr main and off-season cereal production in southern Somalia is projected to be approximately 85 percent of the 1995-2019 average and near the five-year average. However, significant regional differences are anticipated, and updates will be provided in the results of the 2020 Post-Deyr IPC Technical Release in early February.
    • Based on the results of the FSNAU preliminary post-deyr field assessment in November 2020, birth rates during the 2020 deyr are expected to conclude at medium levels for cattle, goats, and sheep across most of Somalia. Camel calving is also trending slightly higher than previously projected, with total births likely to be somewhat higher than medium levels by the end of the deyr. Based on reported camel conceptions in the 2020 gu, recent rainfall performance, and livestock body conditions, medium to low camel calving and medium cattle, goat, and sheep births are expected during the April to June 2021 gu season in the South. In north-central regions, low camel calving and medium goat and sheep births are projected.
    • Local cereal prices are expected to seasonally decline from December to February in southern markets but will increase from March through May to above-average levels. Rising food prices are expected as a result of consecutive seasons of below-average cereal production, including the 2020 gu and 2020 deyr.


    Current food security outcomes are most likely to be sustained or deteriorate from January to May 2021, driven by the impacts of the below-average 2020 deyr rainfall season, the anticipated below-average 2021 gu rainfall season (April-June 2021), and the desert locust upsurge in the context of multiple weather shocks since 2016, protracted conflict and insecurity, and economic slowdown during the COVID-19 pandemic. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to remain widespread. Cyclone-affected areas in Bari region remain of highest concern based on available information. However, there are some indications from FSNAU’s preliminary field assessment that household out-migration prior to the cyclone may have mitigated the loss of livestock assets for local households. The FSNAU-led post-deyr field and household survey assessment is currently ongoing in December and will inform any revisions to projected outcomes.

    In riverine areas, the below-average main season deyr harvest and below-average off-season deyr harvest are expected to limit household food and income sources. Although the recent increase in the labor wage may alleviate food insecurity for some households, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to persist in riverine areas of Hiiraan, Lower Juba, and Middle Shabelle, though Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are more likely in riverine areas of Gedo, Middle Juba, and Lower Shabelle where flooding was less significant. Although below-average gu rainfall is anticipated in 2021, there is still a risk of flood events along both the Juba and Shabelle Rivers due to increased open river breakages and weak riverbanks. Consequently, episodic heavy rainfall events are likely to disrupt agricultural labor, trade, and population movement. Some households in Lower Juba and Middle Juba, which have been worst affected by successive flood events, may be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    In pastoral areas, the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to increase during the January to March dry season, sustaining Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Northern Inland Pastoral, East Golis Pastoral, Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing, and Guban Pastoral livelihood zones. Although livestock production is currently stable, consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall, anticipated medium to low livestock births during the gu, and ongoing livestock herd recovery – coupled with shortfalls in annual income from frankincense, fishing, and remittances during the pandemic – will most likely adversely affect food security for many poor households. However, preliminary field information from the post-deyr assessment indicates the population Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Guban Pastoral may have declined due to the combination of sustained food assistance and positive impacts of atypical, off-season rainfall on livestock production in October and November.

    In agropastoral areas, most areas are likely to experience Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is still projected in Bay region, pending the final results of the post-deyr field and household survey assessments, Cowpea Belt Agropastoral livelihood zone, where cowpea production is reportedly poor, and Toghdeer Agropastoral livelihood zone. Overall, the magnitude of the population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is likely to be lower than previously projected due to better-than-anticipated crop production in Bay, Bakool, and Lower Shabelle; medium livestock births and milk availability; and stable terms of trade. Households will access some agricultural labor income during the gu cultivation period, beginning in March.

    Finally, IDP settlements are most likely to sustain Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes given limited access to food and income sources. However, given the decline in staple food prices, the proportion of the urban population in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected to be lower than previously projected and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely.

    Figures Land preparation and planting is from March to mid-May and September to mid-November. Deyr rainy season is from October to Ja

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Map of Somalia showing rainfall accumulation during October-December 2020 as a percent of the long-term average

    Figure 2

    Figure 1

    Source: UCSB Climate Hazards Center

    Map of Somalia showing vegetation conditions in late December as a percent of the long-term median

    Figure 3

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography over the next six months. Learn more here.

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