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Food insecurity expected to accentuate significantly following poor season in the northeast

  • Remote Monitoring Report
  • Tanzania
  • February 2017
Food insecurity expected to accentuate significantly following poor season in the northeast

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Following well below-average Vuli production, poor households in Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Pwani, and Tanga regions are likely to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through May, until the Msimu harvest eases staple food prices. Over half of the maize crop is lost, following marked rainfall deficits through most of the Vuli season. However, with improved food availability in July, following the Msimu and Masika harvests, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected to prevail across the country, except for the refugee population, which is projected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September. 

    • Maize and rice prices rose uncharacteristically in January across markets, while bean prices declined marginally, following harvests in December and January. Poor Vuli production is expected to sustain high staple food prices as households rely on the market even earlier for food purchases until the Msimu harvest begins in May in the southern surplus-producing highlands.

    • According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), as of February 12, Tanzania hosted 290,000 refugees, about 226,000 from Burundi. An average of 600 people arrived daily during February, which was a significant drop from previous months. Funding gaps that persisted during 2016 have been moderated somewhat by additional funding, and a full pipeline break anticipated in March was averted.




    Northeastern, bimodal areas in  Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Pwani, and Tanga regions

    • Well below-average September to December Vuli rains resulted in substantial crop loss, of more than 50 percent.
    • Household food supply is likely to be highly constrained, compounded by higher-than- average food prices and lower incomes. Poor households will have increased difficulty accessing food for an extended period, through May, and could be forgoing non-food expenditures.

    Refugee camps in Kagera and Kigoma regions

    • While the influx of refugees from Burundi continues, camp capacities are constrained and funding gaps of up to 25 percent are unbridged.
    • An anticipated WFP pipeline break has been averted until at least May 2017, after additional funding was obtained. However, improved funding and cash transfers could cause a renewed influx of refugees, putting pressure on limited capacities in the camps.


    The mid-September to December Vuli rains started poorly and remained erratic and substantially below-average throughout the season. Subsequently, huge deficits in cumulative rains emerged (see Figure 1) and caused crops to wilt, with the worst-affected areas in Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Pwani, and Tanga regions. Vegetation conditions were similarly poor, resulting in a marked decline in livestock body conditions, coupled with a reduction in value. Food insecurity for poor households is anticipated to accentuate through the beginning of the Msimu harvest in May. However, the harvest should begin to moderate the upward pressure on food prices. Poor households in the northeast are expected to face difficulty accessing food, as income losses, coupled with reduced labor opportunities, constrain purchasing capacities.

    Staple food prices have risen substantially over the past month, and are also higher than seasonal averages for most commodities in the majority of markets. Maize prices in January were 26 percent above prices in December and 79 percent above the five-year average in Arusha market, with similar trends occurring in most markets. The January price of beans was 13 percent above the December price and 22 percent above-average in Dodoma market. A few markets recorded reduced bean prices during the harvest period in December and January. The rise in rice prices has been less pronounced, although January prices are also higher than average, underlining increased pressure on capacities to access food and maize substitutes, likely through May.

    According to UNHCR, as of February 12, there were about 226,355 Burundi refugees, who had arrived since April 2015, residing in Nyarugusu, Mtendeli, and Nduta camps in Kagera and Kigoma regions in Tanzania, accounting for 57 percent of total Burundi refugees.  While the refugees are able to access farms for small-scale production and also labor opportunities, their food and income sources have been constrained by poor rains in western Tanzania from September through early 2017. However, funding constraints have eased considerably, averting a full pipeline break in March, following improved funding, including a USD 17.3 million provision from USAID’s Food for Peace. Refugees, who arrived after the Vuli planting season are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while the majority are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in the presence of humanitarian assistance, which is reflected in the FEWS NET mapping. With the Masika harvest beginning in July, and also from increased food availability from Msimu harvest surplus-producing areas, the majority of refugees’ food security outcomes are likely to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through September.    

    The prognosis for the March to May Masika rains indicates below-average rains in north and northeastern Tanzania, suggesting that Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity is likely to persist through May. A slow start to the season in unimodal-bimodal transition areas in Geita, Dodoma, Kagera, Kigoma, Morogoro, Mwanza, and Shinyanga is likely to result in reduced production. However, the resurgence of rains experienced since January is expected to moderate some losses in the central and western areas during the extended Msimu season, improving prospects for average total production. Acute food insecurity is likely to ease with the increased supply of food at the start of the May Msimu harvest from the significant surplus-producing regions in southern Tanzania, as well as expected staple food price decreases, which will improve household purchasing power. As a result of this improved food availability with the Msimu and July Masika harvests, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected to prevail across all areas from July onward, except for the refugee population, which is projected to be in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). However, there is the possibility that localized poor households could still face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food security outcomes in the northeast as they recover from consecutive poor seasons.


    Figure 1

    Figure 1. Cumulative rainfall in northeastern Tanzania (Kilimanjaro Region), compared to the long-term mean, through February 10

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS


    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    In remote monitoring, a coordinator typically works from a nearby regional office. Relying on partners for data, the coordinator uses scenario development to conduct analysis and produce monthly reports. As less data may be available, remote monitoring reports may have less detail than those from countries with FEWS NET offices. Learn more about our work here.

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