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Current levels of acute food insecurity in Sudan mostly driven by conflict

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Sudan
  • October 2013 - March 2014
Current levels of acute food insecurity in Sudan mostly driven by conflict

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Areas of Concern
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • As of October 2013, about 3.3 million people in Sudan face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity, mostly driven by the impacts of conflict. This figure has declined by 20 percent since last month, the peak of the lean season.

    • The 2013/14 harvest is expected to be 15-20 percent below average, due to a late start to the rains, and rainfall deficits during critical points in the season. In the central and eastern surplus-producing areas of Sudan, the harvest is likely to be well below average, roughly 60-70 percent of average.

    • Officials from Sudan and South Sudan reached an agreement in late September to normalize relations and expel rebel groups from the demilitarized zone. Implementation of the agreement would improve trade and labor flows between the countries. However, the unilateral referendum conducted in Abyei in late October by the local community is likely to increase tensions in the area.

    • The Government of Sudan’s decision in September 2013 to lift fuel subsidies has led to a 70 percent increase in fuel prices. In turn, this has prompted moderate to high increases (20-50 percent) in consumer prices of food and non-food items. Due to the below-average harvest, high production and transport costs, and speculative behavior, food prices are expected to be at least 10 percent higher between October 2013 and April 2014 than during the same period last year.

    • Stressed and Crisis levels of food insecurity are likely to persist among IDPs and poor residents in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and among newly displaced persons in Darfur throughout the scenario period. Humanitarian assistance for long-standing IDPs in Darfur and returnees will maintain Stressed levels of food insecurity.


    National Overview
    Current Situation

    As of October 2013, an estimated 3.3 million people in Sudan face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity, mostly driven by the impacts of conflict on access to food. This figure has declined by 20 percent since the peak of the lean season in September. Out of total 2.6 million IDPs in Sudan, there are about 2 million IDPs in Darfur, 300,000 IDPs in South Kordofan, 170,000 IDPs in Blue Nile and about 80,000 IDPs/returnees in Abyei. IDPs represent about 80 percent of the total food insecure population, while the local population represents about 20 percent.

    The 2013/14 harvest is expected to be 15-20 percent below average, due to a late start of the rains, and rainfall deficits during critical times in the season. In the surplus-producing areas of eastern and central Sudan, rainfall totals over the course of the season were 20‐50 percent below average (Figure 2). Due to a late start of the rains and heavy rains in August, most farmers planted at least one month late, in August/September instead of July. Late planted crops are extremely vulnerable to wilting. A rapid mid-season assessment by FEWS NET, FAO, USAID/FFP and the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation (MoA&I) in September found that total area planted was 20–30 percent below the five-year average (2005/6 – 2009/10). In the central and eastern surplus-producing areas of Sudan, the harvest is likely to be well below average, roughly 60-70 percent of average.  However, the traditional rain-fed sector of White Nile, North Kordofan, and Darfur states, and the irrigated sector of central and east Sudan, performed relatively better compared to the semi-mechanized rain-fed sector of central and east Sudan. Since the semi-mechanized sector produces about 50 percent of Sudan’s total cereal production, national cereal production this year is projected to be 15 – 20 percent below average.

    Sudan and South Sudan officials reached an agreement in late September to normalize relations and expel rebel groups from the demilitarized zone along the border to allow cross-border trade and population movements. Discussions are underway as to which specific trade corridors would be opened. Most trade would be conducted by road, though roads will be inaccessible until late November/early December. Cross-border population movements are also critical to both countries. Typically seasonal laborers from Upper Nile state of South Sudan migrate to semi-mechanized farms in White Nile, Blue Nile, and Sinar states.  As of late October, some seasonal agricultural labor migration has already begun.

    In late October, the local Dinka Ngok community conducted a unilateral referendum in Abyei without the support of Sudan, South Sudan, and the African Union. This will continue to threaten bilateral relations and border security. The Messeriya community claims equal rights to vote and are currently mobilizing for a similar referendum to be conducted in Diffra, 28 km north of Abyei town.

    The resumption of oil flows (about 300,000 barrels per day of crude oil at present) since April 2013 has generated much-needed revenues of about US $1 billion for South Sudan and US $300 million to Sudan. However, to reduce the budget deficit, the Government of Sudan (GoS) lifted fuel subsidies in the fourth week of September, leading to a 70 percent increase in fuel prices.  Large-scale protests followed in Khartoum and Wad Madani town in El Gazeira state, with dozens of people killed and hundreds injured. The GoS is considering increases in the minimum wage and safety net measures to cope with the anticipated increase in the cost of living.

    Tribal clashes and banditry in Central Darfur have continued to cause displacements, disrupt trade and humanitarian assistance flows, and significantly reduce area planted. Despite a reconciliation accord between the Messeriya and Salamat tribes in the second week of September, fighting between the two tribes continued through September in Central Darfur state. Recent fighting between the two tribes in Muraya and Sowarwaga villages (near Um Dokhon town) resulted in dozens of deaths, looting of cattle and other assets, and burning of villages. An estimated 20,000 – 30,000 people from both tribes have been displaced to Um Dokhon town, and 35,000 people crossed the border into Chad. In late October, deadly fighting between the two tribes was reported in Mukjar locality of Central Darfur state.

    In East Darfur, tribal fighting continued between the Ma’aliya and Rezeighat, and fighting between Sudanese Arm Forces (SAF) and Darfur armed groups. About 150,000 people have been displaced to Adila, Abu Karinka, Ed Daein, Muhajeria, Assalaya, Labado, and Yasin. Most of these IDPs have not received humanitarian assistance due to insecurity and GoS restrictions on movement based on security grounds.

    Prices of groundnut (an important cash crop) have remained low in 2013 due to last year’s bumper harvest and lack of exports. Consequently, terms of trade between groundnut and sorghum have continued to deteriorate (Figure 3). This in turn has reduced the purchasing power of groundnut producers. In contrast to groundnut, livestock prices remained high through the course of 2013, especially during August and September due to high demand for export to Saudi Arabia and high demand for local consumption during the pilgrimage period. Consequently the terms of trade between livestock and cereal have remained high in favor of livestock in 2013 (Figure 4).  

    National Assumptions

    From October 2013 to March 2014, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions at the national level:

    Food availability

    • At a national level, the harvest is expected to be at least 15-20 percent below average.  In the central and eastern surplus-producing areas of Sudan, the harvest is likely to be well below average, roughly 60-70 percent of average.  In other parts of the country (the traditional rain-fed and the irrigated sectors of central and western Sudan), the harvest is likely to be better, but still below average. 
    • With less sorghum available for export, the GoS could ban formal exports of sorghum to Eritrea, Ethiopia and Saudi Arabia in 2014. Eritrea depends largely on sorghum export from Sudan.
    • Moderate levels of grain stocks from last year’s good harvest are held by the Agricultural Bank of Sudan, grain traders, and large farmers in central and east Sudan. Most of these stocks are likely to be available for the domestic market supply and for trade with South Sudan, though northern and eastern parts of South Sudan will be impacted by the reduced production.

    Prices

    • FEWS NET assumes that the lifting of fuel subsidies in September 2013, which has increased fuel prices by 70 percent, will increase transport costs of food commodities by 30-50 percent. This is likely to place upward pressure on prices. Remote and/or conflict-affected areas of Darfur, West Kordofan, North Kordofan, and South Kordofan states, will be most affected.
    • Despite foreign currency earnings from oil exports, improvements in macroeconomic conditions (i.e., foreign currency reserves, inflation, employment, and exchange rates) are expected to be marginal during the scenario period. Therefore, cereal and non-cereal commodity prices will begin to steadily increase in the coming months compared to their respective five-year average prices, rather than decline as they typically would during the harvest and post-harvest period.
    • Prices are expected to be higher by at least 10 percent in the retail (consumption) markets of Sudan, between October 2013 and April 2014 when compared to the same period in 2012/2013. This is attributed to:
      • Comparatively low supply due to the below average harvest, along with high demand.
      • High production costs due to high inflation, and high labor and fuel costs.
      • A relatively high level of speculative behavior by traders who will likely hold on to stocks in expectation of better future prices between March and July.
    • Wholesale sorghum prices in the source markets of Gadaref, Jazirah, Kassala, Blue Nile Sennar and White Nile, are expected to trend upwards by at least 10 percent between October 2013 and March 2014 due to the factors noted above as well as:
      • A relatively high level of speculation by farmers who will likely hold on to stocks in expectation of high seasonal prices between March and July.
    • Conflict may exacerbate volatility in some markets in South Kordofan, Blue Nile and Darfur due to trade disruption.
    • To keep pace with rising food prices, labor wages will increase by 25 – 30 percent compared to the same period last year.  The higher cost of production will also put upward pressure on staple food prices. 

    Relations with South Sudan

    • The recent agreement between Sudan and South Sudan to expel rebel groups from border areas and allow cross border trade and population movements will have the following consequences:
    • FEWS NET expects the agreement to increase trade to about 50 to 60 percent of pre-separation levels.  Discussions between the two countries have indicated potential trade of more than 170 commodities, and will likely include sorghum, the most important food commodity.  A full resumption of trade between Sudan and South Sudan would involve river transport from Kosti to Malakal and Juba, but this is unlikely during the scenario period due to safety issues and high/multiple taxes imposed in South Sudan. The potential road corridors for active cross border trade are the corridors between White Nile to Upper Nile, from West Kordofan state to Unity state and from East Darfur state to Bahr el Ghazal states.  Increased trade would be more beneficial to South Sudan, as the northern states of South Sudan are highly dependent on food supplies from Sudan. 
    • FEWS NET assumes that laborers from Upper Nile state will migrate for seasonal agricultural labor to White Nile and Sinar states during the harvest period (October – December).
    • Seasonal livestock migration from East Darfur, West Kordofan, White Nile and Sinar states in Sudan to summer grazing areas in Northern Bahr el Ghazal, Unity, Warap and Upper Nile states of South Sudan will begin normally in December, assuming no major, extended border conflict.
    • FEWS NET assumes that at least current levels of revenues from oil export will be maintained during the scenario period.

    Abyei

    • In late October, a unilateral referendum was conducted in Abyei by the local community without the support of the governments of Sudan and South Sudan and the African Union.  The results of the referendum are not likely to be recognized by the two governments and the international community. FEWS NET assumes that economic cooperation related to oil exports and cross-border trade between the two countries is likely to be maintained during the scenario period. However, the unilateral referendum conducted by the local community is likely to heighten tensions between the Messeriya cattle herders of West Kordofan and the Dinka Ngok of Abyei. If the referendum conducted by the Ngok community claims that Abyei belongs to South Sudan, this could trigger conflict and lead to displacement of returnees from Abyei to Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap in South Sudan. The Messeriya cattle herders are expected to begin their dry-seasonal movement for grazing in Abyei area in November.   

    Civil insecurity

    • Civil insecurity in Darfur is likely to remain high throughout the scenario period due to the intensification of tribal conflict, seasonal conflict between pastoralists and farmers during the harvest, and the increasing trend of outlaws attacking commercial conveys, markets, and civilians. Ongoing tribal conflict will continue to force many farmers who cultivated this year to abandon their farms and seek refuge in safe areas.
    • Fighting is expected to continue among Darfur rebel factions, between Darfur rebels and SAF, and between various tribal groups (e.g., the Messeriya and Salamat tribes).
    • Fighting between the SPLM-N and SAF in South Kordofan and Blue Nile states is likely to increase with the start of the dry season in October.  
    • Due to lack of direct peace talks between GoS and SPLM-N about modalities of humanitarian assistance in SPLM-N-controlled areas, restrictions on humanitarian assistance in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states will continue.
    • The unilateral referendum in Abyei could lead to localized conflict in Abyei area and displacement of the Abyei returnees to Bahr el Ghazal and Warrap states in South Sudan.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes—National Summary

    Despite the expected below-average harvest, food security is likely to improve with the green harvest in October. During the harvest period (October-December), most households in relatively secure rural areas will have access to sufficient food from their own harvest and/or via market purchase funded through income from the sale of cash crops, livestock, artisanal gold mining, or seasonal agricultural labor. A gradual deterioration in food security is likely to begin when poor households exhaust stocks and increase dependence on market purchases starting in January 2014. The lean season is likely to begin earlier than usual in March/April, compared to May/June in a typical year.  

    Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity will persist among at least 30 percent of IDPs in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan state and the new IDPs in East, Central and South Darfur states due to displacement, loss of assets and livelihood strategies (e.g. lack of access to cultivation, limited seasonal agricultural labor opportunities), and lack of access to humanitarian assistance. Improved access to wild foods is likely during the harvest period, but access in conflict-affected areas will be limited. In addition, at least 20 percent of existing IDPs in Darfur, poor residents in SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile, and IDPs in GoS-controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) during the scenario period, with expected levels of humanitarian assistance.

    The expected increase in staple food prices expected during the scenario period is likely to reduce the ability of poor households to access food from the market and build stocks for next year. This is likely to have the greatest impact on areas that typically produce a deficit, including parts of Red Sea, Kassala, North Kordofan, South Darfur and North Darfur states. Poor households (over 40 percent of population) in these areas are likely to face food consumption gap earlier than usual, and will be at Stressed levels of food insecurity in March/April next year.  


    Areas of Concern

    New IDPs in East Darfur State

    Current Situation

    Late rains and high levels of conflict and insecurity due to tribal conflict are driving increased food insecurity in many parts of East Darfur state.  Harvests are expected to be below average in seven out of nine localities in East Darfur, particularly for millet, the main staple food. 

    Tribal conflict between the Ma’alia and Rezeighat erupted in August 2013 due to competition over land resources. The Ma’alia mostly engage in cultivation of millet and groundnut, while the Rezeighat tribe practice cattle herding. The conflict-affected area in Adila, Abu Karinka and Ed Daein localities mostly includes the western cattle dominant agro-pastoral livelihood zone (inhabited mostly by the Rezeighat tribe) and the western agro-pastoral millet and groundnut zone (inhabited mostly by the Ma’alia tribe).

    Conflict broke out at a critical point in the year, during cultivation and the seasonal return of Rezeighat cattle herders from dry season grazing areas in South Sudan to wet season grazing areas in the northern parts of east Darfur state.  Conflict caused the displacement of 150,000 people from rural areas of Adila, Abu Karinka, and Ed Daein localities. Of these people, only 35,000 IDPs in Abu Karinka area received a one-time food distribution.  Humanitarian assistance was not provided to other IDPs due to insecurity and restrictions on movements imposed by the GoS. Most of the new IDPs moved to areas populated by their own tribe, and are likely receiving food from community members.

    Adila locality is the most affected by the tribal conflict, particularly El Garadaiya, Abu Gabra, Kalek, Bakheet and Dar Alsalam areas, representing about 30-50 percent of Adila locality. Most IDPs were unable to plant and/or were unable to cultivate or weed this year. Area planted for millet in Adila locality is about 20-30 percent of normal.

    Abu Karinka and Ed Deain localities were also affected by the recent tribal conflict, though over 70 percent of households managed to plant. Insecurity and restrictions on movement have reduced access to farms for weeding. Groundnuts (the main cash crop) are performing well, although area planted this year for both millet and groundnut was only 50 percent of average.

    Groundnut prices in the main market of Ed Daein are mostly at pre-conflict levels, with a seasonal pre-harvest rise of 12 percent increase in September compared to the previous month. Groundnut prices have generally remained low in most parts of Sudan this year due to good production last year and lack of exports. Groundnut to cereal terms of trade on Ed Daein market have remained stable over the past few months as prices of both commodities remained relatively stable.

    Wage of seasonal agricultural labor, an important source of income during the scenario period, remained stable during the cultivation season, instead of increasing as they typically would, due to reduced area planted this year. Thus, satisfactory terms of trade between wage labor and millet are maintained in east Darfur.

    Livestock prices have been steadily increasing at a greater pace than cereal prices, thus livestock/cereal terms of trade have been steadily increasing in favor of livestock owners, as typically occur at this time of the year. Livestock prices tend to increase before the pilgrimage period due to high demand locally and for export to Saudi Arabia.

    Due to insecurity, the majority of new IPDs have lost typical sources of food and income, and have limited access to food assistance. IDPs in these areas face Crisis levels of food insecurity.

    Assumptions for East Darfur

    In addition to the national-level assumptions noted above, FEWS NET makes the following assumptions for East Darfur:

    • Despite repeated reconciliation conferences, sporadic tribal clashes between the Ma’alia and Rezeighat tribes are likely to continue through the scenario period. IDPs are likely to remain displaced, without access to household assets.  
    • A below-average harvest of cereal and cash crops is likely this year.  In the areas most affected by conflict, the harvest is likely to be 20-30 percent of normal.  In relatively secure areas, the millet and groundnut harvests are likely to be 50 and 60 percent of average, respectively.
    • Access to seasonal agricultural labor will be considerably reduced due to insecurity.  In a typical year, cropping of groundnut and weeding and harvesting of millet generate over 40 percent of annual income for poor households in the western agro-pastoral millet and groundnut livelihood zone of East Darfur.
    • Access to milk during the scenario period is likely to be 50 percent of normal, given loss of livestock holdings by IDPs due to looting or selling to avoid looting.  Sale of livestock as a source of income during the scenario period is also likely to be below average and less available as a coping strategy.
    • Insecurity will continue to hinder humanitarian operations in East Darfur, though some intermittent humanitarian assistance is likely.
    • Conflict between cattle herders and farmers is likely to increase during the harvest period (October – December), refueling tribal conflict between the Ma’alia and Rezeighat. By the beginning of October, Rezeighat cattle herders will begin their seasonal movement from the wet season grazing areas in the northern parts of east Darfur to seasonal summer grazing areas in the southern parts of the state, and will later cross the border into Bahr el Ghazal in South Sudan. Migration through the arable land of the Ma’alia could encourage additional conflict.
    • Host community support to IDPs is likely to increase during the harvest period, when people usually distribute zakat.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes in East Darfur

    Food security is likely to improve with the start of the harvest in relatively secure areas, but conditions will not significantly improve for IDPs.  With significantly reduced access to typical food and income sources, such as own production and access to livestock, IDPs have very low purchasing power and ability to access food on markets.  Increased transport costs and above-average food prices will further restrict food access.

    IDPs will be largely dependent on in-kind food (zakat) support by host communities, an average level of remittances, and intermittent humanitarian assistance. These households are likely to remain at Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of food insecurity throughout the scenario period, as they face difficulty fulfilling the minimum food requirements for survival.

    South Kordofan

    In South Kordofan State, area planted during the past two years has been 45 – 50 percent below average and 60 – 70 percent below the five-year average, for the traditional rain-fed and semi-mechanized rain-fed sectors, respectively. By mid-September this year, only 60-70 percent of the areas was planted compared to the last two years, due to late rains. Most of the SPLM-N controlled areas are in the traditional rain-fed sector.  This year’s harvest is likely to be 30 percent of the pre-conflict average in the traditional rain-fed sector (compared to average production of 281,000 tons) and 70 percent of the pre-conflict average in the semi-mechanized rainfed sector (compared to average production of 165,000 tons).

    A reduced harvest will have numerous impacts.  Access to seasonal agricultural labor will be below the already low levels of the last two years, particularly in conflict-affected areas.  Supplies of local grain available for market purchase will be minimal, and will increase dependence on an influx of supplies from outside the area. However, the high levels of insecurity, restrictions on trade and movement, and increased transport costs will limit trade flows into the area. Nonetheless, food security will slightly improve with the modest harvest and improved access to wild foods during the scenario period.  In SPLM-N controlled areas, food security will improve from Emergency (IPC Phase 4) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season in September 2013 to Crisis and Stressed levels during the entire scenario period.  

    Blue Nile

    In Blue Nile state, the bulk (over 80 percent) of cereal production is produced in the semi-mechanized rain-fed sector, while conflict has mainly affected the traditional rain-fed sector. Thus, area planted and crop production have been close to average over the last two years. However, by the first week of September this year, about 60 percent of the typical area was planted in the semi-mechanized sector of Blue Nile state. This figure is likely to increase, but the harvest is still expected to be below average given late planting. 

    The semi-mechanized sector of Blue Nile state is an important destination for seasonal agricultural labor from within state, Upper Nile state of South Sudan, and for laborers from North Kordofan and other neighboring areas. The below average harvest in Blue Nile state is likely to reduce the income of seasonal laborers, and to reduce the volume of grain available for marketing in other parts of Sudan and for export to South Sudan.

    Despite the below average harvest, food security conditions of IDPs and poor households of host community are likely to improve from Crisis to Stressed levels due to improved access to food from the harvest, increased access to wild foods, and payment in kind and cash income from seasonal agricultural labor on nearby farms. This improvement is likely to be maintained through the scenario period.


    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Area

    Event

    Impact on food security outcomes

    New IDPs in East Darfur

    Improved access by humanitarian agencies to deliver humanitarian assistance to newly displaced people in East Darfur.

    Improve food security classification of newly displaced people in East Darfur from Crisis (IPC Phase 3) to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Trade flow from Sudan to South Sudan

    Involvement of river and railway transport of commodities between Sudan and South Sudan

    Trade between Sudan and South likely to be boosted by usage of river and railway transport as both are cheap means of transport.

    SPLM-N controlled areas of South Kordofan and Blue Nile states

    Improved access for traders and/or humanitarian agencies

    Improved availability and lower prices will improve access to food and other basic needs. The Phase classification will likely fall by at least one phase from Emergency to Crisis or from Crisis to Stressed.

    Figures seasonal calendar for sudan

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    Cumulative rainfall (percent of average) as of September 10, 2013

    Figure 2

    Cumulative rainfall (percent of average) as of September 10, 2013

    Source: Sudan Meteorological Authority (SMA)

    Figure 3. Terms of trade, sorghum to sheep, Gadarif

    Figure 3

    Figure 3. Terms of trade, sorghum to sheep, Gadarif

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4. Terms of Trade, millet to groundnut, Nyala

    Figure 4

    Figure 4. Terms of Trade, millet to groundnut, Nyala

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Source:

    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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