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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely to persist in Karamoja given expectations of another poor harvest

  • Alert
  • Uganda
  • August 29, 2014
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) likely to persist in Karamoja given expectations of another poor harvest

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  • Summary
  • Situation

  • Summary

    A third consecutive year of well below-average harvests is likely in northern and central Karamoja, especially in Moroto and Kaabong Districts. In addition, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease has prompted a quarantine, restricting livestock trade, an important source of income throughout Karamoja. Most other sources of income, including agricultural wage labor and petty trade, are also less available than usual. Poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and their ability to access food is unlikely to increase significantly before the green harvest in July of 2015. Increased, well-targeted, humanitarian assistance is needed to prevent the continuation of food consumption gaps for up to 300,000 people.


    Because of below-average rains at the start of the season in April, less area was cultivated than average in the region. Many households that planted on time in April lost their crops, and those who had seed replanted in June (see area in Figure 1). Typically, households would have a green harvest in July and dry-harvested crops by August, but with the replanting, the harvest will be delayed until at least November. Many households in Kaabong and Moroto Districts will likely not have any crops, as they did not replant after the initial planting wilted. Despite some improved regularity in rainfall in July and August, crop conditions remain poor, and the harvest will still be significantly below-average, marking the third consecutive poor year for some areas. Staple food stocks that normally last until March are likely to be exhausted in January. Having already exhausted their food stocks, in February households will face an early start to the lean season for the second year in a row.

    While markets are sufficiently supplied with sorghum and other cereals, cereal prices continue to increase at moderate rates, with the price for sorghum in Kaabong in July 15 percent above the three-year average for July. With less land under cultivation, demand for agricultural labor has been limited, reducing the number of days worked for many laborers. Many households are depending more on firewood and charcoal sales for cash income, but given rising prices the cash they earn buys less sorghum (the major staple food in the area).

    In addition to poor rainfall, an outbreak of foot and mouth disease, which began in May, prompted a quarantine that closed cattle markets in Amudat, Kaabong, Nakapiripirit, and Kotido to traders from outside the region. The temporary ban on livestock exports is expected to have reduced trade to about one third of typical levels as exports from the region are lost. Though cattle prices have not yet decreased significantly compared to average, if the outbreak is not quickly controlled and the quarantine continues, larger price decreases are expected in January when households begin selling more livestock. While the poor own very few livestock, reduced trade diminishes the ability of the better-off to sell their livestock, reducing their income to spend on purchases from the poor of agricultural labor, firewood, construction supplies, and other goods.

    In the absence of household stocks from own production and reduced income, households will experience an early and particularly difficult lean season again in 2015, beginning in February. This could eventually affect roughly 300,000 people. While the poorest, chronically food-insecure households do receive some food assistance in most years, this assistance is insufficient to offset expected food deficits. Additional, well-targeted humanitarian assistance is needed to prevent continued food consumption gaps for poor households, between now and November 2014, and from February to July 2015, primarily in Moroto and Kaabong Districts.

    Figures Figure 1. Areas of northern Uganda affected by livestock quarentine and erratic rainfall

    Figure 1

    Figure 1.

    Source: U.S. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    FEWS NET will publish an Alert to highlight a current or anticipated shock expected to drive a sharp deterioration in food security, such that a humanitarian food assistance response is imminently needed.

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