Food Security Outlook Update

Despite increased food and nutrition assistance to Karamoja, population in need exceeds reach

August 2022

August - September 2022

October 2022 - January 2023

IPC v3.1 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Concentration of displaced people
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.1 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Concentration of displaced people
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC v3.1 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
Concentration of displaced people
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC v3.1 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
National Parks/Reserves
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

Key Messages

  • In bimodal areas, erratic early rainfall since late July has prompted ploughing and early planting for the second season. However, cumulative rainfall during the dry period in July and August remains below average overall across most of the country and, following poor rainfall in the first rainy season from March to June, ground water resources remain stressed. Meanwhile, in eastern and parts of northern Uganda that received localized heavy rainfall, over 12,000 people have been affected by landslides and flash floods. Available forecasts for the September to November 2022 second rainy season indicate that cumulative rainfall will most likely be near average. However, below-average rainfall remains possible, and this could result in a fourth consecutive below-average crop production season.

  • In greater northern Uganda, recent first season harvests have increased households’ access to food and income. Despite this, many poor households are likely unable to meet all their food and essential non-food needs due to poor first season crop production, atypically high food prices, and below-average income earning. Area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through at least the start of the second season harvest in November/December. In other bimodal areas, area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period, though a growing number of poor households are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in areas affected by poor crop production.

  • In Karamoja, cumulative rainfall in the April to September rainy season is now expected to be below average despite above-average rainfall forecast from mid-August to early September. Though crop production is still expected to be below average due to reduced area planted and damage from earlier dry spells, late season rainfall will be beneficial for replenishment of pasture and water resources. Harvests in most areas temporarily improved food consumption for some households. However, given below average crop production, above-average prices, and below-average income-earning, many households will likely continue to face food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes even in the post-harvest period. Area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to persist through at least January 2022, with worst-affected households in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Levels of acute malnutrition remain atypically high in many areas.

  • Refugees living in settlements continue to struggle to meet their needs and invest in livelihoods due to above-average prices. Among those who grow food, stocks from below-average harvests were depleted earlier than usual, and many are struggling to access seeds for the ongoing second season. With most refugees highly dependent on humanitarian assistance, those who receive cash transfers are experiencing declining value of support due to inflation. Though Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected at the area level given significant humanitarian food assistance, many worst-affected households are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and worsening nutrition status.

CURRENT SITUATION

In bimodal areas, below-average rainfall in the March to June first rainy season led to delayed planting, delayed harvesting, and significantly below-average crop production expected to be around 30 to 50 percent of a normal harvest at the national level. The Northern, Central, and Eastern regions were worst affected, with some localized areas experiencing cereal and legume crop failure. In less-affected bimodal regions, crop production was slightly below average overall, though with localized areas of worse crop production. Harvests were also delayed in many areas; though harvesting has now largely concluded, first season crops remain in the fields in some parts of northern Uganda at a time when land preparation and planting for the second season is normally occurring. Following this third consecutive below-average crop production season, household and market stocks are below normal.

Typically, August is part of the dry season, coinciding with the end of the first season harvest and the beginning of land preparation for the second season. However, after dry conditions during June and most of July, the country received atypically early rains in late July and August. According to satellite estimates, rainfall surpluses of 25-100 mm were received in the period from July 23 to August 21. Despite this, cumulative rainfall totals since the beginning of the first rainy season in March—and more recently since June—remain below average throughout much of Uganda (Figure 1). Cumulative precipitation from March to August reached a 40-year low in the greater northern Uganda, including parts of western Karamoja.

In central, eastern, and parts of southwestern Uganda, rainfall since late July has triggered land preparation and early planting activities for some farmers. This rainfall has also driven vegetation regrowth. As of the end of July, before the rains had an impact, satellite-measured vegetation greenness was less than 60 percent of the 2012-2021 average in some localized areas of the southwest cattle corridor (Figure 2), driven by significant rainfall deficits and above-average temperatures in the first season. However, ongoing rainfall is improving vegetation conditions, increasing the availability of pastures. This is in turn improving livestock body conditions and productivity, including restoring normal levels of milk production.

Meanwhile, moderate to localized heavy rainfall since late July caused floods and mudslides in the mountainous eastern districts of Mbale, Bududa, Bulambuli, Namisindwa, Kapchorwa, Sironko, and Manafwa, as well as in areas of Bukedea district in the Teso subregion and in Adjumani district in the north. Over 12,000 people have been affected by damage to homes and public infrastructure—such as schools, health centers, roads, and bridges—and losses of assets, including of maize that was drying in the fields in some areas.

In Karamoja, area cultivated for the 2022 season was significantly below average. This was primarily due to households’ inability to afford sufficient inputs and erratic rainfall early in the April to September main rainfall season, though ongoing insecurity and, in Karenga district, crop destruction by wild animals also contributed. Following a delayed start to the rainy season, cumulative rainfall to date has been below average and erratic, with atypically long dry spells recorded between May and July. Though unevenly distributed, rainfall resumed in July/August, supporting crop development and, for some farmers, enabling replanting or even planting for the first time. Consequently, seasonal labor demand for on-farm activities has slightly improved from below-normal levels. However, recent rainfall has not made up for significant crop losses due to the impacts of earlier dry spells, with crop production expected to be significantly below average given this and reduced planted area. In the central districts of Kotido, Napak, Moroto, and Abim where the largest rainfall deficits have been recorded, crops other than drought-resistant sorghum have been mostly destroyed due to moisture stress. Across Karamoja, remaining crops are in varying stages of growth ranging from flowering to grain filling. As of late July, harvesting for green consumption had started in localized areas of Amudat, Abim, and Nakapiripirit, depending on the timing of planting and rainfall performance.

Recent rains in Karamoja have been more beneficial for gradually replenishing pasture and water resources. However, livestock grazing patterns and movement continue to be disrupted by insecurity. Despite recent improvements, localized incidents of cattle raids and goat theft persist, especially in parts of Abim, along the Kotido-Moroto road, and in parts of Kaabong, Karenga, Kotido, and Moroto. This has resulted in losses of assets and of food and income sources for households who have had their livestock stolen. Additionally, many households are no longer able to access markets to sell livestock due to the insecurity and are reportedly receiving lower prices as a result. The re-emergence of protected kraals (livestock holding areas) has also resulted in lost herding labor opportunities and overcrowding in the kraals has increased livestock deaths due to the easy spread of diseases and limited veterinary care.

Across the country, prices of food and essential non-food commodities continue to increase, further straining household purchasing power. The annual inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Uganda increased to 7.9 percent in July 2022, up from 6.8 percent in June 2022. Rising prices are in part being driven by rising fuel prices due to high transportation costs. Between June and July 2022, petrol and diesel prices increased by 7.6 and 4.8 percent, respectively. The annual inflation rate for diesel in June 2022 was 65.4 percent compared to 71.5 percent in July, while annual inflation of petrol similarly increased from 45.9 percent in June 2022 to 56.1 percent in July. Meanwhile, the annual food inflation rate increased from 14.5 percent in June to 16.4 percent in July, driven by above-average demand (both local and regional) and below-average supply alongside rising fuel prices. Currently, households are purchasing an atypically large share of their food from markets due to below-average stocks. Meanwhile, supply deficits in Kenya have resulted in atypically high regional demand for Ugandan staples.  

In bimodal areas, prices of key staples remained significantly above average in July (Figure 3). In most monitored markets, retail prices of beans and cassava chips continued to increase farther above prices recorded last year and five-year-average levels. Following significantly below-average harvests, limited supplies of beans from Mubende, Kakumiro, Kamwenge, and Isingiro were met with high demand both locally and across the border, with prices increasing by 8-23 percent from June to July across monitored markets. Meanwhile, prices of cassava chips increased by 9-43 percent from June to July to reach levels more than double those recorded in July 2021. The price of maize grain, however, decreased by 8-22 percent from June to July in select markets of Masindi, Tororo, and Mubende alongside recent harvesting. In Kampala and Tororo markets, maize grain from Tanzania via the Mutukula border boosted local supply, supporting price stability or moderate increases from June to July. In all monitored markets, however, maize grain prices in July were significantly above the five-year average.

In Karamoja, prices of sorghum remained generally stable or even declined (by 10-14 percent in Napak and Kotido) from June to July across monitored markets (Figure 4), diverging from the trend of rising prices recorded in previous months. This is likely due to improved supply from ongoing harvesting and a temporary reduction in market demand following increased emergency assistance—including by the government—in Napak, Kotido, Kaabong, Moroto, Karenga, and Nabilatuk in June. Meagre green harvests in the wetter belts of the Karamoja region and limited inflows of beans and maize from neighboring parts of Amudat and Namalu sub-county have also likely boosted supply, easing pressure on markets.

In Karamoja, income-earning remains below-average for most households due to the below-normal crop production season, ongoing insecurity, and rising inflation, all of which are constraining typical livelihood activities and reducing purchasing power among those who hire labor. To fill income gaps during the lean season, poor households in Karamoja typically sell grass, charcoal, and firewood. However, firewood collection and charcoal production has been constrained in some areas due to insecurity, and prices of charcoal and firewood are below average in many markets, further constraining income-earning. Even in markets like Kotido where firewood and charcoal prices are significantly above average, purchasing power as measured by the terms of trade is below average due to significantly above-average food prices (Figure 5). To earn additional income, many households are engaged in rudimentary gold mining and marble stone quarrying as casual laborers.

In July, the Office of the Prime Minister distributed food rations to some households in Karamoja. However, the number of beneficiaries reached is not yet known and is expected to have been limited given that the activity was quickly halted due to lack of funding. As such, beneficiaries were forced to share rations to avoid confrontations by non-beneficiaries. Other humanitarian agencies, religious organizations/churches, and various other organizations and well-wishers are responding with food assistance. World Vision, with funding from FAO, is rolling out a three-month cash voucher program to vulnerable households, though the number and location of beneficiaries is not yet publicly known. Meanwhile, Mercy Corps has opened community markets where cash vouchers will be used for food, with the aim of keeping the cash within the communities. Andre Foods International (AFI), in conjunction with WFP, is distributing therapeutic foods and food rations to the households of severely and moderately malnourished children. However, these efforts remain inadequate to meet the needs of the population. 

In bimodal areas, many households are experiencing temporary improvement in access to food and income from own crop production and labor opportunities associated with the recent first season harvest. However, due to poor first season crop production in widespread areas as a result of below-average rainfall and, in some areas, floods and landslides that destroyed crops, stocks are below average and some households were not able to harvest anything. As such, many households are dependent on markets for an atypically large share of their food in the post-harvest period. Seasonal incomes from crop sales are also below average due to reduced production quantities, despite high prices for food commodities. Income from weeding and harvesting labor opportunities from May to July was similarly below average and, currently, agricultural labor opportunities are at seasonally low levels during the agricultural off-season. This season’s poor production and below-average income-earning follows two consecutive below-average harvests in 2021 and, as such, poor households’ coping capacity is likely reduced. Given this and significantly above-average prices, widespread Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the greater north, the Teso sub-region, and parts of central and eastern Uganda, with some worst-affected poor households experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Though area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected in other bimodal areas, a rapidly growing number of households are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in localized areas affected by poor crop production, especially in central Uganda.

In Karamoja, the intermittent start of harvesting is providing households with limited food from own production. However, due to significantly above-average food prices and below-average income-earning in the context of a third consecutive below-average production season, both poor and better-off households are facing reduced purchasing power and constrained access to food from market purchases. Most households are relying on less preferred, cheaper foods and on the collection of wild fruits and vegetables. With the lean season still underway, many poor households are skipping meals or otherwise consuming reduced food quantities, and the nutritional value of diets is poor. For many, limited wages and proceeds from selling charcoal and firewood are exchanged for local brew residues on which the household survives for some days. Households whose livestock are in protected kraals are facing reduced access to nutritious livestock products like milk and blood. Lactating mothers reportedly lack the breast milk necessary to breastfeed due inadequate dietary intake. As a result of these factors, already high levels of acute malnutrition are expected to have increased in several areas, and media and key informants are reporting an increase in hunger-related deaths among vulnerable groups (children under five, lactating mothers, the elderly, and adults with underlying conditions of HIV/AIDS or tuberculosis). Given the overall insufficient emergency response, many poor households likely continue to face food consumption gaps. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected at the area level, with worst-affected households likely facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

In urban areas, food security among poor households continues to be increasingly strained by rising prices of food and non-food commodities. Though the economy continues to recover slowly from the impacts of COVID-19, growth has been slower than anticipated and income-earning in urban centers is expected to remain below-average. As such, most poor households are likely facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes and are unable to afford essential non-food items.

Refugees living in settlements continue to struggle to meet their needs and invest in livelihoods due to above-average prices. Most refugees have limited livelihood options and are highly dependent on humanitarian assistance. However, those who receive cash transfers are experiencing reduced purchasing power of their assistance benefits. Among those who grow food, stocks from below-average harvests were depleted earlier than usual, especially in northwestern settlements where rainfall was below average. Many are now struggling to access seeds for the ongoing second season. Though Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected at the area level given significant humanitarian food assistance, many worst-affected households are likely facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes and worsening nutrition status.

UPDATED ASSUMPTIONS

Revisions to the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for the Uganda Food Security Outlook for June 2022 to January 2023 include:

  • Given seasonal rainfall to date and the latest international forecasts through September, cumulative rainfall in the April to September 2022 unimodal rainfall season in Karamoja is now expected to be below average—with erratic rainfall distribution—despite above-average rainfall forecast from mid-August to early September. Despite late-season rainfall, crop production is still expected to be below average due to reduced area planted and damage from earlier dry spells.
  • Cumulative rainfall in the September to November 2022 second bimodal rainy season is now expected to be near average. Given the revised rainfall forecast, second season crop production is now expected to be near average.  However, uncertainty exists, as international forecasts diverge. Below-average rainfall during this season remains possible, and could result in a fourth consecutive below-average crop production season.
  • Given recent efforts to scale up the response, some ad hoc humanitarian food assistance is expected throughout the projection period in Karamoja. However, needs are expected to continue to significantly exceed levels of assistance provision given inadequate government resources and challenges in targeting. Nutrition assistance is expected to continue at recently increased levels.

PROJECTED OUTLOOK THROUGH JANUARY 2023

In bimodal areas, most households are likely to exhaust remaining food stocks from the first season harvest earlier than usual, by September/October. Through the next harvest in November/December, dependence on markets for food will increase and, given above-average prices, many poor households will continue to struggle to meet all their food and essential non-food needs. During this time, poor households in areas worst affected by poor crop production will likely consume less preferred foods and may not be able to meet their essential non-food needs, including for seeds for the second production season. At the area level, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely to persist through November/December in the greater northern Uganda districts, Teso sub-region and parts of central and eastern Uganda, before the start of the next harvest season increases access to food and income and improves outcomes to Minimal (IPC Phase 1). However, worst-affected households will likely remain in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) given the impacts of three consecutive below-average production seasons, and a fourth consecutive season of below-average crop production remains possible (see “events that might change the outlook” table below). In other bimodal areas, area-level Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to persist throughout the projection period, though an increasing number of households in areas affected by poor crop production are likely to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes before the next harvest in November/December. Given the above average staple prices, general inflation, and limited income earning opportunities due to the slow economic recovery, many urban households will likely continue experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes at least through December when seasonal harvests are expected to increase market supplies and drive reduced food prices.

In Karamoja, the progression of harvesting through December/January will continue to minimally boost household and market stocks. However, crop production in the 2022 harvest is expected to be below average, likely estimated at 30-50 percent of the usual harvest. As such, many poor households will experience significantly below-average food and income from crop production and labor opportunities, and the harvest will only provide limited and temporary support to food consumption. Meanwhile, income-earning from other sources will likely remain below average throughout the projection period due to localized insecurity and slower-than-anticipated economic growth. For many poor households, below-average income-earning and significantly above-average prices—expected to continue rising until second season harvests arrive—will continue increasingly constraining access to food from market purchases, with many unable to compensate for reductions in food from other sources. With the beginning of the new school term in September, the resumption of WFP’s school feeding program is expected to reduce the number of severely malnourished children. However, rates of acute malnutrition are expected to remain elevated given that the food distributed to malnourished children is usually shared by the whole household. Overall, more than 20 percent of poor households are likely to continue facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes during the projection period given declining purchasing power and coping capacity, with worst-affected households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

Among refugee households living in settlements in the northwest and southwest of the country, below-average income-earning and above-average and rising prices are expected to continue driving declining purchasing power throughout the projection period. In November/December, the second season harvest will increase food availability among households who cultivate, though many farming households are expected to face difficulty in accessing seeds for planting. Throughout the projection period, humanitarian food assistance rations are expected to continue supporting 40-70 percent of most refugee households’ energy needs, while new arrivals will receive full rations for three months. Despite the assistance, an increasing number of refugee households will likely be unable to meet all food and essential non-food needs throughout the projection period as prices remain elevated. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes expected to persist throughout the projection period, supported by significant assistance. However, an increasing number of households will likely be facing consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes, especially in settlements where assistance rations cover only 40-60 percent of households’ total energy needs.

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Possible events over the next five months that could change the most-likely scenario:

Area

Event

Impact on food security outcomes

National, bimodal areas

Above-average, well-distributed second season rainfall between September and December

Crop and livestock production would likely be better than anticipated. This would exert downward pressure on staple food prices due to increased supply. The number of poor households experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes in the greater northern Uganda and other affected bimodal areas would likely decline significantly with the harvest in November/December.

National, bimodal areas

Below-average second-season crop production

Seasonal improvements in availability of food and income from own crop production and labor opportunities would be less than anticipated. Fewer households would experience improvement from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to None (IPC Phase 1) outcomes around November/December.

National

Higher than anticipated global energy and commodity prices

Prices of food and non-food commodities would increase beyond what is projected, further restricting purchasing power of poor households. Income-earning opportunities would also likely decline due to reduced economic activity. This would most likely increase the number of poor urban households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes and increase the number of rural households facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes.

Karamoja

Substantial food assistance provided by the Office of the Prime Minister, WFP, and partners

This would likely temporarily enable households to access some food, mitigating food consumption gaps and reducing the number of households facing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse outcomes. However, given that even substantial assistance is unlikely to meet needs, area-level Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food security outcomes would likely persist overall.

 

About this Update

This monthly report covers current conditions as well as changes to the projected outlook for food insecurity in this country. It updates FEWS NET’s quarterly Food Security Outlook. Learn more about our work here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on approximately 30 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, USGS, and CHC-UCSB, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica.
Learn more About Us.

Link to United States Agency for International Development (USAID)Link to the United States Geological Survey's (USGS) FEWS NET Data PortalLink to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Link to National Aeronautics and Space Administration's (NASA) Earth ObservatoryLink to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) National Weather Service, Climage Prediction CenterLink to the Climate Hazards Center - UC Santa BarbaraLink to KimetricaLink to Chemonics