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Above-average rainfall throughout 2018 expected to drive food security improvements

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Somalia
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Above-average rainfall throughout 2018 expected to drive food security improvements

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Key Messages
    • Food security has improved significantly in many of the areas worst-affected by the 2016/17 drought, as a result of large-scale humanitarian assistance and improvements in seasonal performance. Most areas of the country are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist in some areas and among IDP populations. Between July and September, in the absence of continued humanitarian assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in riverine livelihood zones and northern and central Somalia. Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is likely in Guban Pastoral livelihood zone.

    • Food security is expected to improve between October and January, driven by seasonal improvements, and most areas will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though some populations throughout Somalia will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse. Areas of greatest concern are IDP settlements, most of which will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), and Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, where poor households have very few saleable animals to purchase food and will likely remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    • April to June Gu rainfall started earlier than normal and was significantly above average. Below-average Gu production in July is likely in riverine areas where floods caused substantial crop losses, though above-average production is likely in rainfed areas. Overall the harvest in July is expected to be average. Flooding increased recession cultivation opportunities and the September off-season Gu harvest is expected to be above average.

    • There is an elevated likelihood of an El Niño event occurring in late 2018, driving above-average rainfall during the October to December Deyr season. Deyr rainfall is expected to support average production and normal livestock births and productivity in most areas, though flooding will likely cause crop losses in riverine and lowland areas.

    National Overview

    Current Situation 

    From late 2016 through late 2017, Somalia experienced a prolonged drought that resulted in significant livestock losses and consecutive seasons of below-average production, causing severe – and at times extreme – acute food insecurity. The performance of the 2017 Deyr season was mixed, but overall rainfall was sufficient to support improved livestock conditions and near normal production, and food security began improving in late 2017. Large-scale humanitarian assistance throughout 2017 also played a significant role in driving improvements and likely preventing Catastrophic outcomes. Despite early indications that the April to June 2018 Gu season would be below average, heavy rainfall during this time has been largely beneficial, and this alongside continued humanitarian assistance has supported further food security improvements across much of Somalia.

    The Gu rainy season started earlier than usual in late March and rainfall totals were well above-average through mid-May. Rainfall was closer to average in late May and June (Figure 1). According to Climate Hazards Group InfraRed Precipitation with Station data (CHIRPS) rainfall estimates, rainfall totals were 110-190 percent of normal across most of Somalia, though slight rainfall deficits were experienced in the Northeast (Figure 2). This equates to roughly 25-100 millimeters (mm) of rainfall in the Northeast, 50-175 mm in northwestern and central areas, and over 250 mm across the South.

    Due to heavy rainfall in Somalia and the Ethiopian highlands, river water levels exceeded full capacity (Figure 3) in late April and flooded many riverine areas and caused flashfloods in some lowland areas. Flooding temporarily displacing over 359,000 people, the majority of whom were from Hiraan. In the northwest, tropical Cyclone Sagar also led to significant flooding that caused fatalities, displaced people, damaged infrastructure and livelihood assets, and killed many livestock.

    In riverine areas, floods damaged irrigation and infrastructure and destroyed an estimated 10,900 hectares (ha) of farmland in Hiraan, 10,000 ha in Middle Shabelle, 11,000 ha in Middle Juba (Figure 4), 8,100 ha in Jamame district of Lower Juba, and some farms in Gedo. Flooding also destroyed many maize crops in Lower Shabelle, a key area for maize production. Although crops are developing normally in all other riverine areas, the area under cultivation for July Gu crops is below average in riverine areas overall. Following the flooding, many riverine farmers decided to delay replanting and only engage in recession cultivation, which is now ongoing.

    In rainfed agricultural and agropastoral livelihood zones, above-average Gu rainfall has been beneficial for crop development and the area planted is average or above average. In most areas, crops are developing normally, though flashfloods caused crop losses in Wanlaweyn, Baidoa, Qansaxdheere, and Afmadow. Crop damage was significant in Afmadow, though their contribution to total national production is minimal. In Bay, a high-production region for sorghum, flashfloods destroyed an estimated 12,800 ha of cropped land. Many crops were replanted and are at the vegetative stage. In central Cowpea Belt livelihood zone, farmers planted a greater than normal area of land; sorghum crops are in good condition and the cowpea harvest is underway. In Northwest Agropastoral livelihood zone, the first round of short-cycle maize cultivation is below normal due to the late start of Gu rainfall, though planting of long-cycle sorghum was normal. In Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone, farmers planted above-normal amounts of short-cycle sorghum.  

    The availability of pasture and water is also average or above average in most areas of the country. The exceptions are parts of Coastal Deeh and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones in Banderbeyla, Eyl, Garowe, and Iskushuban; Addun Pastoral livelihood zone in Dhusamareb and Adado; and Hawd Pastoral livelihood zone in southern Galkayo, where ground reports indicate below-normal availability of pasture and water. However, livestock in these districts are able to access sufficient pasture and water in neighboring areas.

    Most water catchments were fully replenished with Gu rainfall and free water is available through natural sources, causing the price of water to seasonally decline across most reference markets between February and May. In northeastern and central regions, the price of a 20-liter jerry can of water decreased 15-45 percent. The price of water has not declined in some areas of the northwest, however, as high fuel prices are increasing transportation costs.

    Low to medium goat births occurred during the 2018 Gu season, supporting small increases in herd sizes. However, low to no cattle and camel calving occurred this season due to very low conception in 2017. The exceptions to this are in the southern regions of Bay, Middle Juba, Lower Juba, Middle Shabelle, and Lower Shabelle, where medium cattle calving occurred. Despite these increases, herd sizes remain well below average as many pastoralists lost between 25 and 75 of their livestock during the 2016/2017 drought and recent births represent small growth from very low levels.

    With recent livestock births, most poor household now have access to goat milk for consumption. In northern and central areas where the number of livestock giving birth was still lower than normal, total milk availability remains below average. In the above mentioned southern regions, milk access is near normal.

    Medium to high rates of livestock conception took place between April and June 2018 in most areas. High livestock conception rates were driven by the favorable Gu season and the fact that fewer than normal livestock conceived in past seasons, allowing a larger proportion of the herd to be available for conception during the Gu.

    Markets are generally well supplied with local cereals, though at seasonally low levels. Between April and May, the retail price of maize increased 5-15 percent across key markets due to seasonal

    declines in stocks and expectations of low maize production in riverine areas. Conversely, the retail price of sorghum remained stable or declined slightly due to adequate supply and normal harvest prospects. Overall, local cereal prices are 20-35 percent below the same time last year and 10-15 percent below the five-year average. The retail price of imported rice, the key staple in northern and some central regions, is 3-10 percent higher than last year and roughly 5 percent above average. However, the retail price of rice in the Northwest is 15 percent higher than last year and 25 percent above average due to the depreciation of the Somaliland Shilling (SLS) against the U.S. Dollar (USD).  

    In most agricultural and agropastoral areas, labor demand and wage rates are near normal. As a result of this and below average cereal prices, the labor-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT) are around 35-140 percent above the same time last year. Relative to the five-year average, however, trends are mixed across the country. In flood-affected areas, agricultural labor demand is low and poor households are earning less income than usual through this source.

    Livestock prices are increasing gradually across the country, driven by improved livestock body conditions and, in some markets, low supply of livestock for sale. In May, the price of a local quality goat was on average 15-20 percent higher than the same time last year and 10-30 percent above the five-year average. As a result of this and below-average cereal prices, household purchasing power is significantly above last year and normal. The sale of a local quality goat purchases between 65 and 100 kilograms of cereal, 10 to 50 percent above average. However, in the Northwest and Sorghum Belt, the goat-to-cereal ToT are average due to relatively higher cereal prices in rural markets to which there are lower trade flows.

    Protracted conflict in many southern and central regions continues to cause loss of life and negatively impact the flow of traded goods, market functioning, and access to humanitarian assistance. Furthermore, conflict persists between Somaliland and Puntland over boundary areas, localized clan conflicts are ongoing in Maxaas of Hiraan and Cel-afwein of Sanaag, and there are renewed insurgent attacks in the Golis Mountains of Bosaso and Qandala of Bari. Conflict continues to be a primary driver of displacement across Somalia in addition to climate-related drivers, and an estimated 2.6 million people are internally displaced across Somalia, around 2.2 million of whom are living in settlements in urban areas. According to the UNHCR-led Protection and Return Monitoring Network (PRMN), an estimated 109,000 persons returned to their places of origin between January and May 2018. The number of returnees is significantly higher than the 44,000 who returned in the last half of 2017.

    Large-scale humanitarian assistance continues to be delivered in many areas of Somalia. Although the number of beneficiaries reached monthly in 2018 has declined compared to mid- and late 2017, the reach of humanitarians remains high and broadly in line with the estimated (Figure 5). Field information indicates the transfer is between a half ration and full ration.

    Information is not yet available on nutrition outcomes; SMART surveys will be conducted across many rural livelihood zones of Somalia in July. It is expected, though, that the prevalence of malnutrition in rural areas currently is lower than the same time last year due to increased access to milk and other food sources relative to the same time last year. However, Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM), as measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ), likely remains within ‘Serious’ (GAM(WHZ) 10.0-14.9%) or ‘Critical’ (GAM(WHZ) 15.0-29.9%) ranges. High malnutrition is driven by the fact that food availability remains below normal in many areas, and chronic issues including disease and limited access to health services. Since December 2017, 4,300 cases of AWD/cholera, including 28 deaths, have been reported. An estimated 5,736 cases of suspected measles were also reported since the beginning of 2018. Recent nutrition results are available for 13 IDP settlements and two urban centers, Kismayo and Mogadishu. The median GAM (WHZ) across these surveys was 16.6 percent, an improvement from the 2017 post-Gu, during which time the median GAM (WHZ) record was 18.7 percent.  

    In southern pastoral areas, most poor households are experiencing None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity and have sufficient milk for consumption and sales, and average livestock to sell to cover food purchases. In agropastoral areas of Bakool, Bay, Hiraan, Lower Shabelle, and Lower Juba, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes exist. Poor households are earning normal levels of income through agricultural labor, including in Bay where many households displaced during the 2016/17 drought are now engaging in agricultural labor and planting crops. Poor households are currently consuming some harvests and are able to purchase normal amounts of food given favorable ToT, meeting their minimal food needs. However, many are diverting some income towards the repayment of debts rather than purchasing non-food needs. In riverine areas of Hiraan, Middle Shabelle, Lower Juba, and Middle Juba, flooding caused significant crop damage, limited agricultural labor, destroyed food stocks, and in some areas led to an increase in water-borne illness. With limited food and income sources, poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and are either facing food consumption gaps or selling livelihood assets to meet their food needs. Many IDPs continue to face food consumption gaps or engage in Crisis coping and remain in need of humanitarian assistance.

    In the northern agropastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes exist. Poor households do not currently have access to Gu crops given minimal maize cultivation and milk access is atypically low. Poor households are relying heavily on humanitarian assistance and community support. In northern and central pastoral livelihood zones, most poor households are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). The consumption of milk and ability to sell a few livestock have driven these improvements, as well as continued large-scale humanitarian assistance. However, many are unable to afford all basic non-food needs as a high proportion of income from livestock sales is allocated to the repayment of debts accumulated during the prolonged drought. In Guban Pastoral livelihood zone, where many poor households experienced additional livestock losses in mid-2018, food security has further deteriorated. Outcome data and qualitative information collected in May indicates that Crisis (IPC Phase 3!) outcomes persist, and humanitarian assistance and social support continue to play a significant role in mitigating food consumption gaps.  


    • July/August Gu production is expected to be near average, consisting of above-average sorghum production and slightly below-average maize production. Production in riverine areas, primarily maize, is expected to be well below average; however, production in rainfed areas is likely to be above average for both maize and sorghum, and rainfed maize production will nearly compensate for losses in riverine areas. Above-average off-season September production is likely and when considering this, total maize production will likely be average or above average.
    • In northern agropastoral areas, below-average Gu/Karan maize production is likely in July/August, though average sorghum production is expected in October/November.
    • The July to August Xagaa coastal rainfall and Karan rains in northwestern Somalia are both forecast to be average.
    • According to the IRI/CPC consensus forecast, El Niño conditions are likely during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Over the Horn of East Africa, El Niño conditions are expected to drive above-average rainfall during the October to December Deyr season. Higher than normal incidents of flashfloods and river flooding are expected.  
    • Agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be average. Despite the likelihood that flooding during the Deyr season will disrupt some labor opportunities, Gu and Deyr recession cropping will provide agricultural labor opportunities.
    • January 2019 Deyr production is expected to be near average, due to likely above-average production in rainfed areas and below-average production in riverine areas. In addition to crop losses due to flooding, it is expected farmers in riverine areas will increase the production of sesame crops, a common practice when recession cultivation opportunities are high and when lower humidity after Deyr seasons supports sesame cultivation.
    • Pasture and water availability are expected to remain normal or above normal throughout the projection period. Normal livestock migration and livestock body conditions are expected.  
    • A high rate of goat kidding is expected in late 2018 and medium to low camel and cattle calving is likely in early 2019. Even with some livestock sales over this time, herd sizes are expected to increase slightly though early 2019, leading to herd size recovery to around 50-60 percent of average in the worst-affected central and northern pastoral areas.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in Baidoa and Qorioley, local staple food prices are expected to follow seasonal trends and remain below the five-year average (Figure 6). Maize prices will likely increase in the near-term given expectations of poor production in riverine areas, but will then decline and remain below-average as maize harvests in rainfed areas and off-season production adequately supply markets.
    • Rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, sugar, and diesel import volumes will be normal and prices will remain stable. The exception is in the Northwest, where moderate price increases are likely due to continued depreciation of the SLS. 
    • Livestock prices are expected to remain above average through September due to improvement in livestock body conditions and continued low livestock supply. However, prices are likely to decline closer to average in late 2018 as livestock births encourage additional sales. Livestock-to-cereal ToT will likely be above average through September, and near average from October to January.  
    • Humanitarian partners plan to distribute a 15-30 day ration via food or cash/voucher assistance to an estimated 2.8 million people per month between June and August, and an estimated 1.5-1.8 million people per month between September and December. However, funding levels for assistance beyond July are unknown. Therefore, this scenario assumes an absence of assistance from August 2018 to January 2019.
    • Government troops supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are expected to continuing seeking control of major towns in Middle Juba and Galgaduud, and armed conflict with al-Shabaab is likely. Conflict between Puntland and Somaliland over border areas is also expected throughout the projection period. Conflict is likely to lead to the loss of life and continued displacement of civilians, as well as disrupt trade and limit humanitarian access.
    • Many of the individuals displaced due to the 2016/2017 drought and recent flooding are likely to return to their areas of origin during the projection period. Conversely, many destitute pastoralists are likely to remain in displacement camps for another 1-2 seasons until their remaining livestock, currently with kinship, return to sustainable levels. Most of the estimated 179,000 people displaced by Cyclone Sagar are expected to remain displaced throughout the projection period. Conflict-related displacement in 2018 is expected to be similar to that of 2017. Overall, the number of internally displaced people is estimated to remain similar to the current estimated of 2.6 million.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Between June and September, some northern and central pastoral areas are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2), and Addun Pastoral, Coastal Deeh Pastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral livelihood zones would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of continued humanitarian assistance. During this time, milk consumption will decline and poor households will only be able to sell 2-3 goats; they will be required to use a portion of this income to repay debts accrued during the 2016/17 drought. Despite favorable ToT, total purchases will be insufficient to meet all basic food and non-food needs. Between October to January 2019, 5-10 goat births are likely in these livelihood zones, which will improve milk consumption, and poor households will be able to repay some loans and purchase cereal with livestock sales. Most will meet their minimum food needs but will have insufficient income to purchase all basic non-food needs, remaining Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The exception is Guban Pastoral livelihood where Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period in the absence of assistance. No livestock births occurred during the Gu and only 4-5 goat births are expected during the Deyr. Households may sell an additional 1-2 livestock towards the end of the year, and consumption will increase slightly with milk availability, but most income will go to repaying debts. Poor households are unlikely to sell additional livestock as doing so would risk exhausting remaining livelihood assets. Large food consumption gaps would persist in the absence of assistance.  

    In Northwestern Agropastoral and Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zones, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected between June and September, when poor households will have minimal Gu harvests. Additionally, households will have lower than normal access to milk during this time given below-average herd sizes. Food security is expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone in November with average Karan crop production, which will increase consumption and income from crop sales. Togdheer Agropastoral is also expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between October and January, when goats and households have access to milk for consumption and livestock for sale.

    In southern pastoral areas, where fewer livestock losses occurred during the drought and two consecutive favorable seasons have allowed for average livestock productivity, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period. In southern rainfed agropastoral areas, poor households are expected to harvest 2-3 months of cereal and consume some milk following low to medium camel and cattle calving in July. Income from agricultural labor and below-average prices will allow households to purchase normal levels of food. However, many poor households in these areas also need to use a large proportion of income earned to repay debts. Many will face difficulty meeting basic non-food needs and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). This includes Bay/Bakool Agropastoral Low Potential livelihood zones where many poor households lost a significant level of livelihood assets during the drought. Food security will further improve between October and December with another above-average season, though poor households will continue to divert a large proportion of income to debt repayment and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In most southern riverine livelihood zones of Hiraan, Gedo, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and Lower and Middle Juba, poor households lost many crops due to flooding and lost months of income as agricultural activities were limited. Recession cultivation started in June, providing some labor opportunities; however, poor households will still have far fewer food and income sources overall through September and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected. Poor households will harvest crops in September, at which time food consumption will improve significantly. Households will access income from labor through late January 2019, primarily from recession cultivation, supporting food purchases. Although January harvests are likely to be below average, food stocks from above-average off-season Gu harvests, supplemented by average fish and wild foods, are expected to support Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes between October and January. The majority of IDPs across the country will remain in need of emergency humanitarian assistance.

    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.

    Figures The map depicts current food secuirty outcomes across Somalia. Most areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) with northern and centra

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, June 2018

    Source: FEWS NET and FSNAU

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

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    The chart shows rainfall in terms of millimeters every ten days between march 1 and June 20 in Bay, in 2018 and the 2001-2017

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. Rainfall in millimeters during 10-day periods (dekad) in Bay, March 1 to June 20, 2018, compared to the 2001-2017 mean, CHIRPS

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    The map depicts rainfall compared to average. Rainfall was 110-190 percent of avrage in most of the country. Slight deficits,

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Rainfall as a percentage of normal, March 1 to March 30, 2018 compared to the 1981-2010 mean, CHIRPS

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    Figure 5

    Figure 3. River water levels in the Shabelle River at Belet Weyne, Hiraan

    Source: SWALIM data

    Figure 6

    Figure 4. Flooded Maize Farm in Tatety Village, Buale, Middle Juba

    Source: FSNAU

    Figure 7

    Figure 5. Percentage of the population reached by emergency humanitarian food/cash-voucher assistance compared to the estimated population in need

    Source: FSNAU, FEWS NET, Somalia FSC

    Figure 6. Retail price of a kilogram of sorghum in Baidoa, Bay, observed and projected

    Figure 8

    Figure 6. Retail price of a kilogram of sorghum in Baidoa, Bay, observed and projected

    Source: FSNAU data; FEWS NET projection

    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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