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Weather shocks, desert locust, and COVID-19 economic contraction lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Somalia
  • October 2020 - May 2021
Weather shocks, desert locust, and COVID-19 economic contraction lead to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes

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  • Key Messages
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    Key Messages
    • Acute food insecurity is expected to remain high in Somalia through May 2021, driven by the varying impacts of localized floods and below-average rainfall, a worsening desert locust infestation in central and parts of southern  Somalia, and the economic contraction linked to the COVID-19 pandemic. In late 2020, the population facing food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes is likely to reach 2.1 million. In early to mid-2021, the acutely food insecure population is likely to rise over 2.5 million due to the impact of consecutive, below-average rainfall seasons on crop and livestock production. Sustained humanitarian food assistance is required to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and protect livelihoods.

    • The October to December 2020 deyr rainfall season is performing better than previously forecast in central and parts of southern Somalia, but cumulative rainfall in the North and much of the South is below 55 percent of the 30-year average. The rains will mitigate crop losses in southern agropastoral areas and benefit livestock production in south-central pastoral areas, but the likelihood of a third consecutive season of flooding will erode crop production in riverine areas. In the north, livestock production conditions are still favorable but pasture and water will likely become scarce during the January to March 2021 jilaal dry season.

    • Desert locust hatching and band formation are widespread in central Somalia, and swarms are present in Hiiraan, Bay, Bakool, and Middle and Lower Shabelle regions. There are repors of significant damage to germinating crops in these areas, including Cowpea Belt Agropastoral and Bay Bakool Low Potential livelihood zones. Due to the presence of swarms and reports of breeding in the South at this stage of crop development, as well as the likelihood of erratic rainfall at the end of the deyr season, crop and pasutre losses from desert locust will be higher than last year. On the other hand, aerial control operations in the Northwest are reducing local swarms. Pasture losses in the North remain localized, permitting opportunities for livestock migration.

    • Urban and displaced households across Somalia, as well as pastoral households in East Golis Pastoral livelihood zone who heavily rely on frankincense exports, are most affected by the economic contraction linked to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic led to a temporary decline in staple food imports and livestock and frankincense exports, curtailed remittances to households and small and medium businesses, and increased unemployment in urban areas. According to the latest World Bank economic forecast, Somalia’s economy is expected to rebound in 2021 due to a dollarized economy, low fuel prices, recovery in remittances, and fiscal reforms. However, poor households with limited coping capacity and high vulnerability will likely continue to struggle to meet their minimum food and non-food needs.

    • FEWS NET’s analysis of historical rainfall performance indicates that waning La Niña conditions will most likely result in below-average rainfall during the April to June 2021 gu season. Due to the cumulative impacts of multiple weather shocks and persistent desert locust infestation, coupled with the ongoing recovery from the 2020 economic contraction, food assistance needs are expected to rise through at least May 2021. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in many northern pastoral areas, riverine areas, and several agropastoral areas, as well as in most urban areas and IDP settlements. On the household level, it is likely that some worst-affected households will be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).


    Current Situation

    2020 post-gu summary: Based on the post-gu IPC analysis conducted in September 2020, an estimated 1.7 million people are expected be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and 0.4 million are expected to be in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in late 2020 in the absence of humanitarian food assistance. An additional 3.0 million people are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Food security outcome indicator data collected by FSNAU in June/July among rural, urban, and IDP populations provided evidence of deterioration in food security outcomes compared to the post-deyr results of January 2020. While most rural, urban, and IDP populations exhibited outcomes indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2), the population experiencing food consumption gaps or using negative coping strategies increased (Figure 1). Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) measured by weight-for-height z-score (WHZ) was ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) in 7 out of 37 population groups surveyed.

    The key drivers of acute food insecurity include recent weather shocks, the socio-economic impacts of COVID-19, and pest infestations in the context of protracted conflict, displacement, and recurrent drought. During the April to June 2020 gu rainfall season, severe flooding in riverine areas destroyed off-season and main season crops. Erratic rainfall distribution in agropastoral areas, a bush cricket infestation in the South, and a desert locust infestation in north-central Somalia also led to significant crop losses. Although above-average rainfall from June to September partially offset crop and pasture losses in the Northwest and along the southern coast, total 2020 gu cereal production in southern Somalia was approximately 40 percent below the 1995-2019 average (Figure 2). At the same time, the impact of the pandemic led to a slowdown in economic activity marked by a temporary decline in remittances, a dip in livestock exports, and a short-term spike in imported staple food prices. Finally, conflict has continued to periodically disrupt trade flows, displace households, and interrupt cropping activities. The impact of conflict on cropping activities was highest in Wanlaweyn, Marka, and Qoryoley districts of Lower Shabelle. Despite multiple shocks in 2020, high levels of humanitarian food assistance and government support have played a critical role in preventing worse acute food insecurity outcomes in Somalia.

    Off-season gu and karan crop production: In October, multiple agricultural activities are ongoing including the off-season gu harvest in riverine areas in the South, the start of the karan harvest in northwestern agropastoral areas, and the start of the main deyr cropping season. In riverine areas, off-season gu production is below average due to multiple flood events since July that inundated tens of thousands of hectares (ha) of farmland and displaced tens of thousands of people. Upstream areas of the Shabelle River are worst affected, along with downstream areas of the Juba River in Jamaame and Kismayo of Lower Juba. In August, for example, floods damaged 15,000 to 20,000 ha of sorghum, maize, and sesame in Hiiraan, of which 80 percent was lost in Beletweyne. Floods also inundated 10,000-12,000 ha in Jowhar and Balcad Districts of Middle Shabelle and in Afgoye of Lower Shabelle. As a result, only 3,560 MT of off-season maize has been harvested in Middle and Lower Shabelle regions. Currently, large areas of farmland remain inundated, which is delaying cultivation for the main deyr season. At the end of October, river station data reported by the Somali Water and Land Information Management (SWALIM) system showed a varying risk of flooding along the Shabelle and Juba rivers, including a moderate risk in Jowhar and in Bardheere of Gedo.

    Off-season gu production is performing better in downstream areas of the Shabelle river – specifically in Qoryoley and Kurtunwarrey districts of Lower Shabelle – and in upstream areas of Middle Juba and Gedo. Receding river levels provided improved access to water for irrigation and permitted farmers to plant cash crops, including citrus fruits, and offered poor farmers crop-sharing opportunities and labor income. The harvest began in September, while additional recessional planting, desilting, and canal rehabilitation activities are underway in preparation for the deyr. Poor households in riverine areas as well as in neighboring agropastoral areas are benefitting from an increase in demand for agricultural labor, boosting their income in September and October.

    In northwestern agropastoral areas, prospects for the short-cycle maize and sorghum harvest in November have significantly improved. Earlier this year, planted area was low since farmers were fearful of desert locust. However, cumulative karan rainfall ranged from near average to 200 percent above average from June to September, improving crop yields and encouraging late planting of short-cycle crops. As a result, the sorghum and maize harvest in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone is likely to be higher than previously projections, which predicted a shortfall of 45 percent compared to the 2010-2019 average. However, an updated estimate is currently unavailable. Similarly, rainfall supported ratooning of sorghum and grass in Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone, mainly for livestock fodder.

    2020 deyr rainfall performance: To date, deyr rainfall performance is mixed across the country. Strong La Niña conditions are driving delayed and below-average rainfall in the North and parts of the South, including in the Northeast where previous forecasts had predicted average rainfall. In contrast, rainfall began early and is above average in central Somalia, which is better than previously forecasted and may reflect the influence of the transition from a negative to neutral Indian Ocean Dipole. According to satellite-derived data in late October, deyr rainfall is less than 55 percent of normal across the Northwest, most of the Northeast, and in Gedo and Lower Juba in the South (Figure 3). However, it should be noted that Guban Pastoral livelihood zone does not usually receive deyr rainfall and field reports indicate the area received localized, light precipitation in early October. Meanwhile, deyr rainfall was near average in the rest of the South and ranged from near average to 200 percent above average in central regions. Despite cumulatively average rainfall, field reports indicate the deyr rains were delayed in most southern agropastoral areas with erratic distribution. The key exceptions are Bay and Bakool, parts of Hiiraan, and parts of Shabelle and Gedo, where light to heavy rain is reported.

    Deyr crop production: Despite an erratic start of the deyr rains, land preparation and planting are ongoing across Somalia’s cropping zones.  There are reports of extensive land preparation and wet planting of cereals in most southern and central agropastoral and riverine areas. In agropastoral areas, most farmers completed planting and report adequate seed germination has already occurred, while early planted crops are at the first weeding stage.

    Currently, the risk of desert locust to crop production in southern agropastoral areas is high and rising due to the southward movement of swarms from northern Somalia into Southern through central Somalia. According to FSNAU field analysts and FAO Desert Locust Watch, the desert locust infestation – which was mostly confined in northern and central regions since the beginning of 2020 – has now expanded further to toward the South. Significant damage is reported to early deyr crops in Hiiraan and Middle Shabelle regions, while early germinated cowpea and sorghum at seedling stages have been damaged in Cowpea Belt (Hobyo, Xaradheere, Ceeldheer, Ceel-buur; Aden Yabaal of Middle Shabelle; Maxaas/Beletweyn in Hiraan and Tieglow and Baidoa districts in Bay).

    Livestock production: According to field reports, dry pasture and water availability is broadly sufficient to support healthy livestock body conditions as of late October. However, vegetation conditions are mixed across the country and field information suggests an increasing number of mature desert locust swarms are depleting pasture and browse resources across all livelihood zones (Figure 4). On the one hand, the impact of the above-average gu and karan rains is still visible in the North, where the satellite-derived eMODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) reflects broadly above-normal vegetation (Figure 5). Yet localized deficits are visible in parts of eastern Sool and Sanaag, Qardho and Iskushuban of Bari, and parts of northern Mudug and Galgaduud, where desert locust is accelerating pasture losses. On the other hand, vegetation conditions in central Somalia reflect the mixed impact of the recent deyr rains, preceding xagaa dry season and expanding desert locust swarms. Finally, vegetation deficits are visible in the South according to both satellite imagery and field reports, reflecting the impact of the dry season and delayed start of the deyr rains, as well as localized but significant pasture loss from desert locust in Aden Yabaal district of Middle Shabelle and Maxaas sub settlement of Beletweyne. In Bay, Bakool, Hiiraan, and Middle Shabelle, which received rain in late October, there is a time lag between rainfall onset and pasture regeneration.

    Given the availability of dry pasture, livestock body conditions range from near to above average. Key exceptions are localized areas in the Northeast, including in Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug, due to the seasonal decline of pasture during the dry season, poor deyr rains, and desert locust. In these areas, livestock body conditions range from near average. Another exception is in Gedo and Middle Juba, where body conditions of small ruminants are average to below average due to below average or dry rangeland conditions. To cope, livestock in these areas have opportunistically migrated to riverine areas to access pasture and water.

    At this point in the season, livestock births and milk production are seasonally rising but have yet to reach their peak. In the Northwest, milk production is below average to average due to medium kidding and calving, except Guban Pastoral zone where births are low. In the Northeast and central Somalia, due to the below-average camel calving in the last two seasons, milk production is below average in all livelihood zones. In the South, milk production is average in most livelihood zones except in Gedo, where milk production is below average due to below-average 2020 gu and start of 2020 deyr rainfall as well as low cattle and camel calving during the 2020 gu.

    Labor wage rate: Despite the below-average gu harvest and delayed start of the deyr, the agricultural labor wage is trending above average in key reference markets in the South. On the one hand, labor demand is higher than normal due to locally average gu harvests in some high potential areas, the timing of the delayed off-season gu harvest in riverine areas, and seasonal demand for deyr land preparation and planting. Additionally, an increase in conflict incidents in 2020 has affected labor movements in parts of the South, especially in Bay and Lower Shabelle. As a result, the daily agricultural labor wage rate reached 102,500 SOS/day in Bulo-Mareer rural market in Qoryoley of Lower Shabelle in September, which is the third-highest wage recorded in the past 22 years, 14 percent above September 2019, and 44 percent above the five-year average. In Burhakaba market of Bay, the daily agricultural labor wage rate rose to 80,000 SOS/day in September, which is 14 percent above the five-year average.

    Livestock prices: Livestock prices are high across the country, reflecting persistently low supply in north-central Somalia, a recovery in export demand and sustained local demand since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and generally healthy livestock body conditions (Figure 6). Additionally, the increase in conflict events in 2020 contributes to above-average prices in the South as it disrupts supply and marketing operations, even though overall livestock supply in the South is normal to above normal levels. Livestock prices have exhibited a rising trend since April 2020, staying resilient despite prior concerns regarding the impact of the pandemic on hajj-related livestock exports. Goat prices in most regions are similar or higher than both last year and the five-year average. For example, In September 2020, the price of one local quality goat in Dhusamareb of Galgadud was SOS 887,500 (or US$ 44.4), which is similar near last and year and the five-year average. In Burao of Togdheer, the average price of SOS 485,000 (or US$ 57.1) is 8 percent and 23 percent higher than last year and the five-year average, respectively.

    Staple food prices: In September, sorghum and maize prices ranged from below average to slightly above average in most key reference markets. Although the 2020 gu harvest is below the long-term average, cereal production performed much better than during the 2019 gu and has replenished market supply, driving a seasonal decrease in prices. Significant humanitarian food assistance through the lean season and post-harvest periods has likely also contributed to stabilizing prices. In Hargeisa in the Northwest, the price of sorghum is 31 and 20 percent lower than September 2019 and the previous five-year average, respectively. In Galkayo, a market representative of northeastern and central Somalia, the price of sorghum is 21,000 SOS/kg, which is 5 and 7 percent above the September 2019 and five-year average, respectively. The maize price is 13,000 SOS/kg, which is near last year and the five-year average. In high potential areas of the South, including Qoryoley of Lower Shabelle and Baidoa of Bay, the price was 23-30 percent below last year and 2-9 percent below the five-year average. In contrast, however, are flood- and conflict-affected areas. These areas had poor local production, flood-affected farms and conflict-related disruptions to trade movements, driving prices to significantly above-average levels. Maize and sorghum prices in September in Beletweyne of Hiiraan reached SOS 11,000/kg and SOS 14,250/kg, respectively, which is 18-21 percent higher than the 5-year average. Similarly, September prices of sorghum and maize in Wajid of Bakool and Sakow of Middle Juba were SOS 12,000/kg and SOS 13,125/kg, respectively, reaching 38-70 percent above the five-year average.

    In September, the price of imported foods such as vegetable oil, wheat flour, and rice were stable compared to August in most of the South and near the September 2019 and five-year averages. This is due to steady supplies from Mogadishu and Kismayo ports and low fuel prices. In the North, however, imported food prices have been elevated since March 2020 due to supply disruptions associated with COVID-19 and the rehabilitation of Bossasso port, coupled with the lingering effect of the depreciating Shilling in the Northeast. In Bossasso port, for example, total cereal imports in March-September 2020 were estimated at 103,696 MT, a decline of 13 percent since September 2019 and 55 percent below the five-year average. Although import flows are starting to recover, the prices of these items are 10-20 percent above last year and the five-year average.

    Household purchasing power: Terms of trade (ToT) were generally favorable in key markets in September, reflecting the high labor wage and high livestock prices.  In Baidoa of Bay, for example, the daily labor rate could purchase 18 kg of red sorghum, compared to 9 kg in 2019 and the five-year average of 17 kg. In Bardheere of Gedo, the daily labor wage bought 20 kg of red sorghum compared to 15 kg in 2019 and the five-year average of 16 kg. Similar trends exist in Hiiraan, Middle Shabelle, Lower Shabelle, and Gedo, as well as central and northern Somalia. However, there are some exceptions, such as in Bakool region, which is detailed on pages 11-12.

    Income from livestock sales in rural areas have also either remained stable or increased over the past year. The goat-to- cereal ToT in most pastoral areas in the central and northern regions were similar to September 2019, but close to their five-year averages. In September in Burao market of Togdheer, the sale of local quality goat bought 92 kg of rice, up from 90 and 79 kg in September 2019 and the five-year average. Similarly, in Galkayo, the sale of a goat bought 114 kg of rice, up from 100 kg and 79 kg from last year and the five-year average. A few exceptions are observed in parts of the South in Juba and Gedo, where a significant decline in purchasing power is attributed to high cereal prices and stable or declining livestock prices. In Jilib of Middle Juba and Bardera of Gedo, the ToT declined by 10-45 percent compared to the five-year average.

    Conflict: Conflict in southern and central regions has increased from last year. According to data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED), the number of Al Shabaab-directed remote violence from January to July 2020 increased by 49 percent when compared with the first seven months of 2019. ACLED also records a 28 percent increase in the number of battles involving Al Shabaab. FSNAU evaluates interclan conflict related to resources or retaliation as low to medium risk in Sanaag (Elafweyn and Erigabo), Galgaduud (Cabudwak and Cadaado), Hiiraan (Defow north of Beletweyne) and Lower Shabelle (Wanlaweyne), where conflict has caused the loss of lives and assets and disrupted socio-economic activities, trade, and population movements. From January to September, UNHCR’s Protection and Return Monitoring Network recorded 193,000 people displaced by conflict, with the highest displacement of 75,000 and 42,000 people occurring in Lower Shabelle and Bay regions, respectively.

    Humanitarian food assistance: According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster (FSC), an average of 1.6 million beneficiaries per month received cash/voucher or in-kind assistance between August and October (Figure 7). The monthly number of beneficiaries peaked in May, when more than 2.3 million beneficiaries received assistance. Recent distribution reports suggest that deliveries in September/October were approximately 75 percent of the monthly target, with the shortfall in delivery driven by humanitarian access constraints in Bakool, Lower Shabelle, and Middle Juba as well as inadequate funding. During the 2020 post-gu assessment in July/August, field enumerators also observed most food assistance was delivered to IDP settlements in south/central, rather than rural areas, due to insecurity.

    Current outcomes

    Pastoral areas: Pastoral areas in central Somalia, Hawd Pastoral and West Golis Pastoral livelihood zones in the Northwest, and Southern Inland Pastoral livelihood zone of Gedo are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), due to either below-normal herd sizes in central Somalia or due to reduced livestock productivity in rainfall-deficit areas. Typically, the consumption of livestock products improves in October with the onset of goat births; however, below-average rainfall in the North and in Gedo is causing milk production to be atypically low. In Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing of Northeast, East Golis Pastoral, and Guban Pastoral livelihood zones, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely due to low livestock holdings resulting from prior droughts, which limit their number of saleable animals to fund food and water purchases. Conversely, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely in southern pastoral areas, where households’ livestock holdings are near-to-above baseline levels and milk production for consumption and sale is seasonally normal.

    Agropastoral and riverine areas: In Riverine Gravity Irrigation livelihood zone of Middle Shabelle and Lower Juba regions and Riverine Pump Irrigation livelihood zone of Hiiraan, poor households have limited maize stocks from a below-average gu main harvest and low off-season harvest. In addition, since many fields remain inundated, households are also earning less income from agricultural labor. Most households have difficulty purchasing adequate food and are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Food insecurity is similarly high in Bay Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral livelihood zone, where most poor households have significantly below-average cereal stocks from the gu harvest and few livestock or other assets to help them cope. In the Northwest, Togdheer Agropastoral livelihood zone is in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to poor fodder and crop production and low livestock holdings after several consecutive poor rainfall seasons. Poor deyr rainfall in October and limited flash floods from the Golis Mountains impeded the development of the ratoons of sorghum and grass. As a result, household income from crop and fodder sales is below normal. Since household income from livestock and crop sales is also low, many households in agropastoral areas are facing difficulty purchasing adequate food from markets.

    In most other southern and central agropastoral areas, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely. Even though the gu harvests were relatively better – but still below-average – in these areas, poor households have limited cereal stocks. Seasonal labor income from deyr cultivation, seasonal milk production, and income from livestock and milk sales are preventing worse outcomes. In the remaining southern agropastoral areas, above-average livestock holdings, average pasture and water availability, and more favorable gu harvests are driving Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes.

    Urban areas and internally displaced person (IDP) settlements: Many poor urban and IDP households continue to struggle to meet their minimum food and non-food needs, according to the results of the 2020 post-gu household survey conducted by FSNAU and partners among urban and IDP households in July/August. On average, 21 percent of surveyed households reported a Household Hunger Score (HHS) indicative of moderate hunger (HHS 2-3) and three percent reported an HHS indicative of severe hunger (HHS 4-6). Most poor households typically spend a high proportion of their income on food expenditures, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on their ability to purchase food. Many households reported a decline in remittances, increased food prices, and a decline in employment and other income-earning opportunities. Among 11 assessed areas, up to 15 percent of urban and IDP households said they received external remittances between April and June, with the exception of urban households in Hargeisa (28 percent) and Beletweyne (18 percent). During this period, urban households were more likely to receive remittances and to receive higher amounts than IDP households, with totals ranging from USD 75-379 among urban households compared to only USD 0-200 among IDP households. Overall, urban and IDP households reported a 10-30 percent decline in the amount that they typically receive.

    IDPs, a majority of whom are poor and live in urban areas with limited livelihood assets and employment options due to limited skills, have a greater reliance on external humanitarian assistance. While food assistance plays a significant role in preventing worse outcomes for many households, a significant proportion of IDPs continue to face moderate to large food consumption gaps. Of the estimated 2.6 million IDPs in Somalia, approximately 24 percent are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and an additional eight percent are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Acute malnutrition levels ranged from ‘Critical’ (GAM WHZ 15-29.9 percent) to ‘Serious’ (GAM WHZ 10-14.9 percent) in 10 of the largest IDP settlements where FSNAU and partners collected GAM WHZ measurements. Meanwhile, most urban areas are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), though an estimated 10-18 percent of the urban population has food consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse, including some households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4).


    The most likely scenario from October 2020 to May 2021 is based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Although the Somalia Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management anticipates official COVID-19 daily case incidence will spike in the near term, movement restrictions are expected to remain minimal based on current directives.
    • The economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is expected to wane over the medium term, supported by recovery in remittances and livestock exports, new social protection measures such as the Baxnaano program, and anticipated fiscal reforms. According to the latest World Bank forecast, economic growth is expected to rebound in the last quarter of 2020 and grow by 2.9 percent in 2021. Remittances are projected to recover to normal levels, contributing 30 percent of Gross Domestic Product, while low fuel prices are likely to offset household expenditures.
    • Based on rainfall accumulated to date and the NOAA and ECMWF probabilistic forecast models, cumulative deyr rainfall from October to December will most likely be below average in the northern and far southern regions of Somalia. In contrast, cumulative rainfall will likely be average to above average in central and south-central Somalia; however, there is a likelihood of poor distribution of rainfall in November and December.
    • According to the NOAA/CPC NMME precipitation anomaly forecast, the December to January xays rains in East Golis Pastoral and Guban Pastoral livelihood zones will most likely be below average.
    • In areas that accumulate below-average deyr rainfall in the North and far south, the January to March jilaal dry season will most likely be hotter and drier than normal. However, conditions will likely be near normal in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, which received near-average karan rainfall in 2020.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s analysis of rainfall performance in years with waning La Niña conditions, the transition from La Niña to ENSO neutral conditions in early 2021 (with a 65 percent likelihood of La Niña from March to May 2021) is most likely to result in below-average gu rains from April to June.
    • Desert locust will continue to cause crop and pasture losses, especially in central and south-central Somalia. Breeding and swarm development in central Somalia and southward winds during the deyr render these areas most vulnerable to damage. Hatching and band formation from the Northeast to parts of the South are expected to lead to substantial swarm formation from early December onwards, coinciding with the maturity and harvest periods of deyr season crops in the South. However, aerial control operations will likely reduce desert locust populations in the Northwest. During the 2021 gu, the northward shift of the winds and the coastal Somali jet stream will lower the risk in the South.
    • Given average to above-average karan rains and improved crop performance to date, the karan harvest in Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone in November is expected to be moderately below average. Revised estimates will be available following FSNAU’s post­-deyr assessment in November 2020.
    • Based on the deyr rainfall forecast and anticipated crop losses from desert locust swarms, the main deyr cereal harvest in agropastoral areas in January/February will most likely be below average. Although agricultural labor demand is near normal for planting, demand will likely decline to below-normal levels during the weeding and harvesting periods. Some farmers may shift to cash crop planting to offset losses, though the cash crop harvest is also likely to be below average.
    • The main deyr harvest in riverine areas is also most likely to be below average, but this will be driven by anticipated flooding resulting from average to above-average deyr rainfall in the Shabelle and Juba river catchments in southern Somalia and the Ethiopia highlands. However, a moderate deyr off-season harvest is expected in March/April 2021, since earlier river flooding will permit recessional cultivation during the 2021 jilaal (January-March) dry season.
    • Initially, the impact of below-average rainfall in northern Somalia and expanding desert locust swarms in central Somalia on pasture and water resources will be mitigated by dry pasture availability in the North and above-average deyr rainfall in central Somalia, respectively. From December to May, however, the increase in desert locust swarms combined with below-average 2021 gu rainfall will likely lead to atypical depletion of rangeland in the Northeast, central Somalia, and parts of the South. In the Northwest, aerial control operations will continue to combat desert locust impacts.
    • Reflecting anticipated pasture and water availability, livestock body conditions in much of the North and in the far South are expected to deteriorate during the jilaal and remain below normal during the gu. In parts of the Northwest, central Somalia, and south-central Somalia, livestock body conditions are expected to remain normal.
    • Based on observed and projected herd dynamics from the 2020 gu through the 2021 gu, low camel and medium cattle calving rates are expected in the 2021 deyr and medium camel and cattle calving is expected in the 2021 gu. Goat and sheep kidding/lambing rates will range from medium to low across the country in the deyr and the gu.
    • Based on anticipated livestock births and pasture availability, milk production is generally expected to be seasonally high and near average through January. From February to May, milk availability will likely be lower, with the highest levels available in central and south-central pastoral livelihood zones. Overall, milk production is projected to provide sufficient supply to maintain slightly below-average prices throughout the outlook period, with variation in seasonal trends.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections for sorghum and maize in Qoryoley and Baidoa reference markets, local cereal prices are expected to seasonally rise during the November to January lean season in southern markets and will remain above-average in 2021. Rising food prices are expected due to consecutive seasons of below-average cereal production, including the 2020 gu and 2021 deyr.
    • In the Northwest, local cereal prices will most likely remain near the five-year average through May 2021, facilitated by the karan harvest in November and near-average staple food imports from Ethiopia. Informal cross-border sorghum and maize imports from Eastern Ethiopia are projected to total approximately 15,000 MT from January to June 2021, supplying central and northern markets.
    • Based on recovering foreign exchange flows and economic growth forecast, the Somali Shilling (SOS) is projected to appreciate slightly against major foreign currencies. The Somaliland Shilling (SLS) is projected to be stable, with slight fluctuations around the rates of SLS 8,000 to 8,500 against one United States dollar. 
    • Based on anticipated, continued recovery in import flows, the stable SLS and appreciating SOS, and favorable global supply outlook, imported staple food commodity prices in Somalia – including rice, wheat flour, vegetable oil, and sugar – are expected to be near average through at least January 2021.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections for a local quality goat in Burao and Ceerigabo reference markets, livestock prices in northern and central Somalia are expected to remain above average due to low supply, but will decline as body conditions decline from January to May. In Burao, for example, the local goat price is projected to be 10-25 percent above average. In the South, livestock prices are likely to remain near average due to relatively normal supply.
    • Household purchasing power measured by the goats-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT) are expected to be near average, driven by near- to above-average livestock prices and near- to above-average cereal prices. The labor-to-cereal ToT are expected to drop beginning by mid-November, reflecting declining labor demand resulting from erratic or below-average rainfall and rising cereal prices during the deyr and subsequent gu.
    • According to the Somalia Food Security Cluster, humanitarian partners plan to reach at least 2.2 million people per month through December. However, district-level targeting information and plans for 2021 are not yet available. Without district targets and out of concern for an underfunded response, this scenario does not incorporate planned food assistance from November 2020 to May 2021.
    • Conflict between government forces supported by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and Al Shabaab insurgents are likely to continue to cause population displacement and loss of life and assets, impede trade flows and humanitarian access in the South, and periodically disrupt agricultural activities. Tensions associated with upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2020 and early 2021 are anticipated to primarily affect Mogadishu. Unpredictable clan conflict over resources is also likely to rise during the jilaal season.  

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Pastoral areas:  Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist in central and northern pastoral areas of Somalia through May 2021. In central Somalia, gains in livestock holdings due to favorable rainfall in the 2020 gu and 2020 deyr will likely help poor households withstand the impact of the anticipated, below-average 2021 gu rains. Conversely, outcomes are likely to be more severe in Guban Pastoral, East Golis Pastoral, Northern Inland Pastoral, and parts of northeastern Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing livelihood zones, where 2020 deyr rainfall is poor. In the absence of food assistance, Emergency (IPC Phase 4) will be possible among some of the most vulnerable households. In contrast, a mix of higher livestock holdings, anticipated cattle milk production, lower presence of desert locust, and better rainfall performance is expected to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes in southern pastoral areas.

    In the areas facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3), poor households are still struggling to recover their livestock holdings to sustainable levels since the devastating drought of 2016/17. Communities in East Golis and Coastal Deeh are also facing shortfalls in annual income from fishing and frankincense sales due to the fall in demand during the pandemic. Although livestock births and favorable livestock-to-cereals terms of trade are expected to prevent worse outcomes, a significant proportion of poor households will be unable to both meet their minimum food needs and protect the health and sustainability of their herds during the consecutive, below-average 2020 deyr and 2021 gu rains. Livestock born in the Northeast during the 2021 gu will be the most vulnerable to the cumulative effects of below-average rainfall, with implications for household food and income.

    Agropastoral and riverine areas: The anticipated, below-average 2020 deyr harvest and the likelihood of below-average agricultural labor demand during the 2021 gu season are expected to drive Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes across agropastoral and riverine areas through May 2021. Poorly distributed rainfall – resulting in dry conditions in some agropastoral areas and flooding in some riverine areas – combined with damage from desert locust will be the main factors resulting in below-average 2020 deyr crop production. With limited household food stocks and reduced household income from agricultural labor, coupled with a projected decline in the labor-to-cereals terms of trade, poor households will have inadequate food and income sources to meet both their food and non-food needs. On average, poor farming households also have below-baseline livestock herd sizes with few mature saleable animals, which will limit the number of possible livestock sales and the production of milk for consumption and sale.

    Outcomes will be most severe in Bay and Bakool Low Potential Agropastoral, Togdheer Agropastoral, Riverine Pump Irrigation of Hiiraan, and Riverine Gravity Irrigation of Middle Shabelle and Lower Juba livelihood zones, where Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected from October 2020 to May 2021. Households in these areas have eroded coping capacity from multiple seasons of below-average crop production, and household income from labor and sales of fodder, livestock, or milk will be inadequate to alleviate food consumption gaps. Further, several of these areas face additional challenges related to the periodic impact of conflict on livelihood activities and trade. Other livelihood zones that will likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the February-May 2021 period include Cowpea Belt Agropastoral of central Somalia and Southern Agropastoral of Hiiraan livelihood zones, where deyr crop losses from desert locust are expected to be significant.

    Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are most likely in areas where local rainfall performance is anticipated to be more favorable, desert locust presence is lower, and the local flood risk is expected to remain low to moderate. In Riverine Pump Irrigation of Gedo and Riverine Gravity Irrigation of Lower Shabelle and Middle Juba, recessional cultivation opportunities have driven up the agricultural labor wage and the harvest of recessional crops will provide food stocks from December to March. Farmers have also increased the cultivation of high-value cash crops, boosting their income and food sources. However, poor households will be expected to pay down debt accrued from crop failure in prior seasons. In Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, the below-average karan harvest will provide several months of cereal stocks for consumption, while crop residue will be sold as fodder to livestock exporters during the 2021 jilaal dry season or used for their own livestock feed.

    Urban areas and IDP settlements: Despite the improved economic growth forecast in 2021 as the Somali economy begins to recover from the impact of the pandemic, many poor urban and IDP households have limited income sources, spend a high share of their income on food, and will remain at risk of food insecurity. Given consecutive seasons of below-average domestic cereal production from early 2020 to early 2021, local cereal prices in the South are projected to be above-average by 2021, which will place pressure on household purchasing power. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in most IDP settlements through May 2021, and most poor urban households are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    Acute malnutrition outcomes: From October to January, the seasonal increase in milk access during the deyr season is likely to play a role in maintaining Alert (GAM WHZ 5.0-9.9 percent) levels of acute malnutrition across most of northern Somalia and Serious (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) levels across most of southern and central Somalia and parts of the Northwest. More severe, Critical (GAM WHZ 15.0-29.9 percent) levels are expected in East Golis Pastoral, Hiiraan region, and most riverine areas due to reduced food intake and dietary diversity as well as the increased prevalence of waterborne diseases in flood-affected areas. From February to May, the prevalence of GAM is expected to deteriorate due to reduced milk consumption during the jilaal and due to reduced food intake associated with below-average crop and livestock production. Based on historical trends, Critical (GAM WHZ 15.0-29.9 percent) levels are likely across southern, northeastern, and central Somalia, while Serious (GAM WHZ 10.0-14.9 percent) levels are expected in the Northwest. According to the analysis of nutrition data collected in June-August 2020 by FSNAU and partners, an estimated 849,900 children under five years of age (the total acute malnutrition burden) are likely to be acutely malnourished through June 2021. This includes 143,400 who are likely to be severely malnourished. The areas of greatest concern include East Golis Pastoral, Shabelle riverine areas, Beletweyne, and Baidoa, Bossasso, Galkacyo, Garowe, and Mogadishu IDP settlements. Underlying factors include a high incidence of disease, poor child vaccination and Vitamin A supplementation, and poor child feeding practices.




    Impact on food security outcomes

    Southern agropastoral and riverine areas

    Significantly below-average deyr rainfall in November-December

    In agropastoral areas, poor rainfall in November-December would lead to crop moisture stress during the reproductive or maturation stages of crop development, leading to significant crop losses or, in a worst-case scenario, widespread crop failure. More widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes and an increase in the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) would be likely. Conversely, the risk of flooding would decline in riverine areas, permitting farmers to resume recessional cultivation and boosting agriculture labor demand. Access to fish and wild foods would also improve. Improvement to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in February-May would be likely.


    Intensification of desert locust upsurge within Somalia

    In the event that vegetation and wind conditions create an even worse-than-anticipated desert locust infestation across Somalia, more widespread crop and pasture losses would be likely. On the one hand, below-average rainfall is expected to be less favorable for breeding. On the other hand, below-average rainfall could permit more widespread migration while offering little opportunity for crop recovery or pasture regeneration. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) could become more widespread in the February-May period, especially in agropastoral areas.

    Urban areas and IDP settlements

    Resumed global or regional COVID-19 lockdowns

    Given the ongoing second wave of COVID-19 in the United States and Europe, the widespread reinstatement of lockdowns or strict movement restrictions in countries with close economic ties to Somalia would likely slow down or reverse Somalia’s economic recovery. A decline in remittance flows to Somali households and other foreign exchange earnings and an increase in unemployment would be likely. Urban and IDP households would be worst affected, leading to an even higher increase in the population facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or Emergency (IPC Phase 4).

    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 Map of Somalia showing current food security outcomes in October 2020

    Figure 1

    Current food security outcomes, October 2020

    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

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Graph showing the severity of food insecurity among rural households in Somalia as of July 2020 according to food consumption

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET and FSNAU

    Graph showing annual gu cereal production totals from 1995 to 2020

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: FSNAU

    Map showing rainfall accumulation in Somalia in October

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET

    Map showing the location of desert locust swarms, groups, and bands in Somalia in late October

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: FAO Desert Locust Watch

    Map showing vegetation conditions in Somalia in late October

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    Source: FEWS NET

    Graph showing the number of live animals exported from Bossasso and Berbera ports in 2020 compared to 2019 and 2018

    Figure 8

    Figure 6

    Source: Bossasso and Berbera port authority data

    Chart showing the monthly trends in the number of beneficiaries who received food assistance from January to October 2020

    Figure 9

    Figure 7

    Source: Somalia Food Security Cluster

    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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