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Food insecurity will likely worsen due to impacts of below-average rainfall

  • Key Message Update
  • Somalia
  • September 2021
Food insecurity will likely worsen due to impacts of below-average rainfall

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • The impacts of two consecutive below-average rainfall seasons on crop and livestock production amid protracted conflict and displacement continue to drive high food assistance needs in Somalia. Although access constraints persist in much of the South, humanitarian partners reached an average of 1.8 million people with food assistance monthly from June to August, which is equivalent to approximately 70-75 percent of estimated total population that needs food aid. This critical stopgap has likely mitigated the severity of food insecurity for many households by reducing their food consumption gaps and averting the depletion of productive livelihood assets, such as livestock. As a result, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are widespread, while Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are observed in several rural areas and IDP settlements.

    • A forecast of weak La Niña and weakening negative Indian Ocean Dipole conditions means that Somalia will most likely see a third consecutive below-average rainfall season during the October to December 2021 deyr. Since the deyr rains are critical for the January harvest in southern Somalia and livestock production nationally, a third poor season would lead to reductions in household food, income, and productive assets, contribute to rising cereal prices, and increase household debt. If humanitarian food assistance is not funded and sustained, food insecurity is expected to worsen to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in many areas and the population in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) is expected to rise. Areas of highest concern include many pastoral livelihood zones in central and northern Somalia, most agropastoral and riverine livelihood zones, and most IDP settlements.

    • Currently, riverine areas in southern Somalia that typically produce off-season crops are facing multiple challenges. Along the Shabelle River, both cereal and cash crop production have been severely affected by poor rainfall, inadequate and costly irrigation, and episodic river flooding due to unrepaired, open river breakages. In July and August, for example, flooding near Jowhar in Middle Shabelle region damaged an estimated 24,500 hectares of cropland. As a result, off-season cash crops will be inadequate to offset main and off-season cereal crop losses. Flooding along the Juba River has been less significant due to the repair of most river breakages, but poor rainfall, limited access to irrigation, localized conflict and insecurity, and an influx of livestock from surrounding areas (which may graze in or damage cropped fields) have significantly reduced production prospects. Most households had to suspend cultivation altogether or prematurely harvested their maize to sell as fodder, given that water is inadequate for crop maturation.

    • The poor 2021 gu harvest in July and poor off-season harvest has led to below-average household purchasing power among labor-dependent households in various riverine and agropastoral areas. Typically, seasonal demand for agricultural labor starts to rise in September, when land preparation activities for deyr season cultivation and off-season harvest activities are underway. While the labor wage rose seasonally between July and August, high cereal prices have suppressed the labor-to-cereals terms of trade in many markets. The steepest declines are observed in riverine areas (such as Bulo-mareer, Jalalaqsi, Rahole, and Walamoy), where the terms of trade are 22-50 percent below the five-year average. This is expected to prompt many riverine households to travel to neighboring agropastoral areas to seek more consistent labor income, but income will still be inadequate to prevent Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • In Northwestern Agropastoral livelihood zone, where the annual crop harvest concludes in November/ December, crop yield prospects have somewhat improved due to favorable karan rainfall from late July to September. However, chronic pest infestations and the low capacity of farmers to invest in farm inputs has prevented more substantial improvement. As a result, the Somaliland Ministry of Agriculture has revised its gu/karan production estimate from 14,550 MT to a range of 18,000-20,000 MT, which is 55 percent below the 2010-2020 average. Most households are expected to harvest these crops for fodder sales and own animal feed instead of household consumption. Currently, food and income from cattle milk production is seasonally low, but medium goat kidding is expected in October/November. As a result, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes will likely persist until at least the harvest and period of goat kidding.

    • Persistently low livestock holdings, inadequate water and pasture resources, and rising imported rice and wheat flour prices continue to drive food insecurity in northern and central pastoral livelihood zones, where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected through January. Farther trekking distances in search of water and pasture is placing strain on livestock health, and many poor households are facing difficulty covering rising food prices, the high price of trucked water, and migration-related expenses. In August, rice and wheat flour prices ranged from 10-25 percent above August 2020 and 15-30 percent above the five-year average across major markets. The anticipated below-average deyr season is expected to have the worst effect on central Addun Pastoral, central Hawd Pastoral, Coastal Deeh Pastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral of Sanaag livelihood zones, where rangeland conditions are already poor and migration opportunities are limited by local conflict dynamics.

    • In southern pastoral livelihood zones, the severity of food insecurity is generally lower since households have near-to-above normal livestock holdings, owing to the wetter climatology of southern Somalia compared to north-central Somalia. Nevertheless, many southern pastoral households face deterioration to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes during the upcoming deyr rainy season. Pasture and water availability is lower than usual due to poor hagaa rainfall from July to September, and there are reports of atypically high disease incidence (trypanosomiasis and tickborne diseases) among livestock. As a result, livestock body conditions are weakening, there are reports of atypical cattle deaths, and household food and income from livestock production has declined.  

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level 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. Learn more here.

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