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Green harvest expected to temporarily mitigate acute food insecurity in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • August 2013
Green harvest expected to temporarily mitigate acute food insecurity in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Poor seasonal performance in the Karamoja region is expected to result in delayed and below average harvests.  While food access will improve temporarily post-harvest, household food stocks and revenues are not expected to recover to normal levels.  IPC Phase 2 Stress will continue to be prevalent throughout the region, peaking to pre-harvest acute food insecurity levels by December.

    • In bimodal areas, land preparation and dry planting activities for the second season are underway in anticipation of the onset of seasonal rains in early September.  Currently, normal to above average rainfall is expected for this season according to regional forecasts (GHACOF 35). Generally good staple food availability and price stability should promote normal household food access in bimodal areas, where Minimal acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) will continue through December.  

    • Staple food prices, with the exception of beans, are generally lower than average and 2012 price levels, even in Karamoja.  Bean prices are generally higher than both 2011 and 2012 levels due to production shortfalls and poor seasonal performance. Overall, purchasing power, rather than staple food price levels, is the primary access constraint for staple foods in unimodal districts under Stress (IPC Phase 2).

    Current Situation
    • Land preparation, planting and post-harvest activities are ongoing in bimodal areas in anticipation of onset of the second season rains, expected to start in early September. In advance of the formal start of season, some farmers have already completed dry planting to take advantage of intermittent rainfall. Harvesting activities are winding down in the northern and northwestern regions.
    • Staple food harvests are enhancing household and market supply of key foods, promoting minimal food insecurity in most bimodal areas. In most harvested areas, early reports suggest generally average harvests of key staples, including cassava, maize, millet, sorghum, sweet potatoes. Traders have also released stocks, especially maize, held over from the previous season, which increased market supply and helped to maintain moderately low prices in the post-harvest period.
    • Localized, below average harvests have been reported in some bimodal areas.  Production has been affected by adverse rainfall, hailstorms, flooding and where dry spells have been recorded, particularly in the Kasese maize growing belt, southeastern Lango region, Teso region, Busoga region and Sebei districts, and Bududa district.
    • Lower than average retail prices for most staples (sorghum, maize) are observed in markets country-wide, even in unimodal areas where production has been compromised. In late July, prices continued to be lower than the monthly average, ranging from two-52 percent lower than normal. Most staples also remained below 2012 prices with the exception of beans, which are 7-30 percent above 2012 levels in Lira, Mbarara and Gulu and 13-46 percent above the 5 year average due to tightening supply in the wake of below average production this year. 
    • The green harvest is alleviating short term food needs in more productive areas across unimodal Karamoja.  The green harvest (primarily sorghum and maize), which normally signals the end of the lean season in late July, has been delayed by more than a month across much of the region. Some households have started consuming early harvests in areas less affected by the May to July dry spells, particularly: western Kaabong, Amudat (maize) and parts of Kotido, Moroto and Napak (sorghum). The green harvest is generally below average as a result of poor crop performance and smaller planted areas compared to normal.
    • Below average crop performance is still likely in Karamoja.  While near average rains  resumed as expected in late July and August, stunted sorghum and other cereal crops (beans, maize) have not  been able to fully recover especially in parts of Nakapiripirit, Napak, Kotido districts and most areas of Moroto, while much more favorable crop outcomes are reported for southern Karamoja. Significant proportions of the early March/April first planting was destroyed or lost, further reducing crop acreage and exacerbated by reluctance of farmers to do a second planting because of the rainfall uncertainty. Inconsistent performance of crops replanted in May/June/July will result in both a delayed harvest period spanning October/November, as well as varied harvest prospects across the region.
    • Pastoral conditions in Karamoja are currently more favorable than in bimodal areas where intermittent rainfall in advance of the second rainy season is starting to regenerate overgrazed pasture. Available pasture and water resources continue to sustain average body conditions, with little to no significant livestock migration noted this year.
    • IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of acute food insecurity are continuing in Karamoja. Livelihoods for poor households continue to be negatively impacted by the unusually extended lean season, with households engaging in destructive coping strategies to maintain minimal purchasing power.   Seasonal incomes from crops, casual labor, firewood and charcoal sales remain below average. Poor households who have livestock have engaged in unsustainable animal sales to increase market access and meet food needs.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current and projected situation in both bimodal and unimodal areas and assumptions made in developing FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of July to December 2013 remain valid. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the July to December 2013 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through December 2013

    Near average first seasonal harvests in bimodal areas are expected to maintain IPC Phase 1 Minimal food insecurity (Figure 2) outcomes through December, as normal seasonal income activities resume and food supply at the household level is replenished to typical levels. The timely onset of second season rains in September/October will provide the normal casual labor opportunities and ensure early green harvests to relieve relative production shortfalls and market dependence for some localized areas that had below average harvest in the first season.

    The poor seasonal performance in Karamoja is expected to provide harvests enough to temporarily alleviate household food access constraints, but overall, IPC Phase 2 levels of food insecurity outcomes are expected to prevail through December. A significant proportion of harvest will be consumed green leaving lower than usual quantities to dry and replenish adequately for the lean season which is expected to start 2-3 months earlier the normal. While the main and green harvests will provide momentary relief in the form of household food supply for up to four months (compared to seven months in a normal year), food security outcomes are expected to return to the pre-harvest acute levels by January/February, as seasonal income earned through crop sales and other activities is expected to be below average. Poor and very poor households are expected to continue to face IPC Phase 2 Stress outcomes through December despite some ease in access in the immediate post-harvest period.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    This Food Security Outlook Update provides an 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 over the next six months. Learn more here.

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