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Below-average harvest expected in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • August 2016
Below-average harvest expected in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through January 2017
  • Key Messages
    • In Karamoja, the harvest began in August, one month later than usual. Production is estimated to be only 30-40 percent of average in areas impacted by the prolonged dry spell. For poor households in these areas, it is expected they will deplete food stocks in January, two months earlier than normal.

    • Very poor households in Napak, Moroto, and Kaabong are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as atypically high prices and late arrival of the harvest have lowered food access. However, food security is expected to improve in September when the dry harvest increases household and market stocks and seasonally lowers staple food prices. 

    • The June-July first season harvest of maize, sorghum, and millet in northern and eastern regions of Uganda was below average. Many poor households in these areas did not replenish household stocks to normal levels and it is expected they will increasingly rely on the consumption of wild foods and borrowing to meet food needs. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in these areas through October, after which the second season harvest is expected to improve food security to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). 

    Current Situation

    Bimodal areas

    The first season harvest is complete in most bimodal areas of central, southern, and western Uganda. In Eastern and Northern-Acholi regions, approximately 20 percent of households planted late and are expected to harvest their maize, sorghum, and millet crops in September. In parts of Acholi and Teso, cereal production is estimated to be only 20-30 percent of average due to the prolonged May-June dry spell that caused significant crop wilting. Kitgum, Pader, Agago, Lira, Soroti, Serere, and Kumi Districts were the most significantly impacted by the dry spell, and some areas in Kitgum and Pader experienced total crop failure. Land preparation for the second season is ongoing, although delayed harvesting of first season crops in Eastern and Northern-Acholi regions is likely to interfere with land clearing and early second season planting in these areas. 

    As a result of delayed and below-average production, market supplies are below average in several northern and eastern regions, driving above-average prices. Staple food prices usually decrease during this time as the harvest replenishes household and market stocks. However, prices are currently atypically increasing. Sorghum and millet prices have increased between 6 and 35 percent in Arua, Gulu, Soroti, Masindi, Tororo and Mbale. 

    Pasture conditions and water availability are below average in parts of the cattle corridor districts of Lyantonde, Isingiro, Kiruhura, Sembabule, Mubende, Lwengo, and Bukomansimbi. Above-average land surface temperatures of 3-7 degrees Celsius have depleted open water sources faster than usual. This has resulted in slightly below-average livestock body conditions and lower than usual milk production in these areas.

    According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 85,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since renewed fighting broke out in July. The influx of new arrivals has led to the opening of new refugee settlements in Yumbe. However, only 27 percent of funding requirements for humanitarian assistance needs have been realized and funding gaps have resulted in the World Food Programme cutting food rations by 50 percent for refugee households who have been in Uganda at least six months and have access to land for cultivation. Many areas cultivated by refugees are in regions of Uganda that experienced rainfall deficits and it is likely many refugee households will receive a below-average harvest. 

    Unimodal Karamoja:

    Despite above-average cumulative rainfall in Karamoja, erratic spatial and temporal distribution resulted in delayed and below-average production. Harvesting of both green and dry sorghum started in late August and is on-going. Production in Moroto, Napak, and Nakapiripirit is estimated to be about 30-40 percent of average due to both the delayed onset of rains that caused late planting and the atypically long dry spell in May/June that caused severe stunting and wilting. Maize and bean production is significantly below average and the most impacted areas of these districts experienced a near failure of these crops. Typically poor households here obtain 25-40 percent of their food from own production and below-average harvests will lead to increased food insecurity. Despite below-average production, the current harvest is still improving food security compared to July, which was the end of the lean season. 

    Atypically increasing staple prices are driving an unseasonable deterioration in Terms of Trade (TOTs) between June and July. Sorghum prices increased by 15 and 43 percent in Nakapiripirit and Kotido, respectively, while the daily wage was stable or decreased. Consequently, the labor-to-sorghum TOT declined by 13 and 27 percent in Nakapiripirit and Kotido, respectively. 

    Although the current harvest is improving food security in August, some households lost a significant proportion of their sorghum crop to wilting and face atypically high staple food prices. Very poor households in Napak, Moroto, and Kaabong are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while the remaining areas of Karamoja are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). The recently released Food Security and Nutrition report by WFP reported that the prevalence of Global Acute Malnutrition (GAM) by WFP in June was 11 percent for the Karamoja region, an improvement from 14.1 percent in June 2015.  

    Updated Assumptions

    Although most of the assumptions made in FEWS NET’s Uganda Food Security Outlook for June 2016 to January 2017 remain valid, the following assumptions have been updated:

    • It was assumed that first season production in some districts of northwestern and eastern bimodal areas would be 60-70 percent of average. However, in many areas this is being revised to 30-40 percent of average and in the worst-affected areas of Teso and Acholi, to 20-30 percent of average.
    • The reemergence of conflict in South Sudan and continued depreciation of the South Sudanese Pound (SSP) is lowering trade levels between South Sudan and Uganda even further than previously projected.
    • It was assumed that the number of refugees arriving from South Sudan would decrease relative to 2015 given the improvements in security in early 2016. Following renewed fighting, refugee influx is likely to remain at higher levels.

    Projected Outlook through January 2017

    In Karamoja, the below-average harvest is unlikely to replenish household food stocks and it is expected many poor households will deplete their stocks by January. Income from crop sales, which is typically earned from October to December, is expected to be below average. The price of sorghum is likely to seasonally decline, although remain above-average due to both poor production in Karamoja and below-average production in neighboring districts that typically supply Karamoja. Staple food prices are around 15-50 percent above average, as earlier projected. Populations in Moroto, Napak, and Kaabong who currently facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in October and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through January.

    In bimodal areas, parts of eastern and northern Uganda are expected to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through October, as below-average harvests and high staple food prices are restricting normal food access. Poor households in Acholi region of West Nile in northern Uganda and Katakwi, Amuria, Soroti, Serere, and Kumi in eastern Uganda will not replenish their household stocks to normal levels and will likely deplete food stocks in October, two months earlier than normal. Despite the forecast La Niña that will drive below-average rainfall over parts of the Horn of Africa, the October to December second rainy season in Uganda is expected to be near average and support average second season production, improving food security in bimodal areas from November. 

    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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