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Average to above-average harvests expected in bimodal Uganda

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • December 2015
Average to above-average harvests expected in bimodal Uganda

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook Through March 2016
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, harvesting of second season crops has begun. Above-average rainfall from October to December, driven in part by El Niño, has supported average to above-average crop production. Food stocks are likely to last through March, and the expected seasonal decline in staple prices should further improve poor households’ access to food. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected through March 2016.

    • The majority of poor households in Karamoja continue to face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) acute food insecurity, while Moroto and Kaabong Districts are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) due to the early depletion of food stocks. However, atypically heavy rainfall from November to December has regenerated pasture and water availability, improving livestock body conditions and allowing some households to harvest vegetables, increasing food access. 

    • El Niño is likely to remain moderately strong through mid-2016. While threats from flooding and water logging remain in bimodal areas, there is a reduced likelihood of atypical, erratic rainfall from January to March. As a result, large-scale flooding is no longer expected. 

    Current Situation

    Bimodal areas:

    • Above-average rainfall, driven in part by El Niño, has resulted in favorable second season crop production and improved pasture. Rainfall in excess of 200 percent of normal was received in most bimodal areas from October to December. The districts of Kisoro, Kabale, Ntungamo, Kanungu and Rukungiri in the southwest received slightly less rainfall, although sufficient amounts for average maize production.
    • Many staple crops are in maturation, while beans and maize are currently being harvested green. The start of second season harvests have increased food stocks and market supplies. Retail staple prices for sorghum, millet, beans, and maize were stable or began to seasonally decline in November. Poor households have adequate access to food and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity is expected through March. 

    Unimodal Karamoja:

    • Pasture and water resources have continued to improve following atypical, above-average rainfall. Vegetation (Figure 1) and pasture conditions have been trending toward above average since November and, as a result, livestock conditions have improved. Given the availability of pasture and water resources near homesteads, livestock have not been migrated to dry season grazing areas, as is typical at this time of year. With herds near homesteads, households owning livestock are able to access more milk than in a typical dry season. While the food security of some households is improving due to the enhanced pasture condtions, poor households are less significantly impacted as they own few livestock.    
    • Many poor households are experiencing an atypical lean season. A recent field visit indicated that food stocks from the previous, below-average harvest were exhausted in early December. Typically, food stocks from own production are not exhausted until March. With the depletion of food stocks, some households in Moroto, Napak, Kaabong, Nakapriripirit, and Kotido District have moved from Stressed (IPC Phase 2) to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in December. Over 20 percent of the of the populations in Moroto and Kaabong are now in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
    • Following the depletion of food stocks, poor households are increasing their use of coping mechanisms to access food. Poor households are engaging in stone quarrying, sand mining, brewing, collection of firewood, and migration to nearby towns in search of casual labor. These activities are being pursued at higher rates than is typical of this time of year when most households would still have food stocks. Above-average rainfall is also allowing for the planting of vegetables, increased wild food production, and rudimentary gold mining in Moroto and Kaabong, increasing incomes and food access. However, the slight improvement in food security through coping mechanisms and atypically heavy rainfall is not expected to fully make up for the deterioration in food security from the exhaustion of food stocks.
    • Normal, inter-annual food assistance is on-going in Karamoja. Food assistance is provided by World Food Programme (WFP) to over 347,000 beneficiaries of food insecure households. Moroto, Kaabong and Napak Districts have the highest proportion of beneficiaries. The Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition (RWANU) project under ACDI-VOCA is also providing monthly food rations to about 16,000 people in Amudat, Moroto, Napak, and Nakapiripirit. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected most of the assumptions in FEWS NET’s most likely scenario for October 2015 to March 2016. However, the following assumption has been updated:

    • In the October outlook, it was assumed that above-average rainfall, associated with the ongoing El Niño, was likely to cause local crop losses and displace households in flood-prone lowland areas due to water logging, increased incidence of pests and disease, and soil erosion. On-going seasonal rains are forecast to continue into January; however, their intensity will decrease. This reduces the flood risks in most parts of Uganda, apart from the Mt. Elgon and surrounding flood prone areas that are forecast to have moderate to heavy rains through December.

    Projected Outlook Through March 2016
    • Most households in Karamoja will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through March 2016, while Moroto and Kaabong Districts are expected to stay in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). With the exhaustion of food stocks in early Decmember, an increasing number of households in Moroto, Napak, Kaabong, Nakapiripirit, and Kotido Districts will likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) acute food insecurity from January to March. While the increased use of coping strategies is improving food security slightly, it is possible poor households will begin selling sheep/goats and poultry to further cope, depleting livelihood assets. It is expected that income from agricultural labor will become available beginning in February/March, increasing the incomes and purchasing power of poor households.
    • In bimodal areas, average to above-average harvests are expected to increase food availability and maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through March 2016. Staple food prices are expected to further seasonally decline in January as market supplies increase. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be available in February and incomes are expected to be near average, providing income-earning opportunities to poor households. Households will be able to invest in typical livelihood activities, including purchasing inputs and providing veterinary care for livestock. Seasonal rains are forecast to continue into January, but with decreased intensity, subsequently reducing the risk of flooding and crop loss in most bimodal areas.

    Figure 1

    Noramlized Difference Vegetation Index in Kotido District, between January and December 2015

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 2


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3


    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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