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Households face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • February 2013
Households face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through June 2013
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, second season harvests of staple food crops have been completed and were average to above-average. This has replenished household and market food stocks and has bolstered food availability and access for poor households. Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity outcomes are expected in bimodal areas through at least June 2013. 

    • In Karamoja, heavy rains last year caused harvests to be below-average. As a result, poor households have depleted their food stocks two to three months earlier than normal. Below-average cash incomes have also restricted the ability of poor households to access food through market purchases. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected through at least June 2013. 

    • At markets across the country, staple food prices remain above both last year's levels (8 to 130 percent) and the five-year average (5 to 122 percent). In the coming months, prices are expected to follow normal seasonal trends, meaning that prices will gradually increase. Despite these increasing prices, households in bimodal areas will be able to access food normally on the market using typical livelihood strategies. 


    Current Situation
    • Recent harvests in bimodal areas: Second season harvests of most staple crops are now complete. Exceptions are the northern districts of Pader, Gulu, Kitgum, and Amuru, and the eastern and central districts of Kamuli, Iganga, Soroti, Pallisa, Katakwi, Kumi, Mukono, Masaka, and Rakai where sweet potatoes and cassava crops will continue to be harvested for the next month or two. Overall, this season's harvests have been average to above-average and have restored market and household food stocks to normal levels.
    • Atypical rains during the dry season: During a normal year, the months of January and February are dry with little to no rainfall. However, unseasonal late rains have occurred in some bimodal areas of the Lake Victoria basin, as well as western and southwestern regions. These rains have helped sustain good water and pasture availability, improving livestock body conditions and milk production. These rains have also benefited perennial crop production (ex. bananas, pineapples, and oranges).
    • Upcoming first rainy season: As farmers finish up second season post-harvest handling activities, land preparation for the upcoming first season is beginning. In eastern, central, and western districts of the bimodal region, the onset of the first rainy season has already occurred. The recent 33rd Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum is forecasting a 45 percent probability of normal rainfall levels, 35 percent probability of above normal levels and 20 percent probability of below normal levels for the March to May 2013 period.
    • Markets and food prices: Good market supply, due to the second season harvests, has caused prices for most staple foods (sorghum, millet, matooke, and cassava chips) to remain stable or decline compared to December in both unimodal and bimodal areas. However compared to last month, beans prices have increased four to 11 percent at the Kampala, Lira, Mbarara and Gulu markets. Likewise, maize prices have seen a seven to 10 percent monthly increase at the Gulu, Kampala and Masindi markets. These price increases are due to increased demand for beans and maize from boarding schools that are reopening after the December break. Demand from traders is also high as traders are stocking food to sell later in the year. At markets across the country, staple food prices remain above both last year's levels (8 to 130 percent) and the five-year average (5 to 122 percent). Despite increasing prices, households in bimodal areas will likely be able to access food on markets using normal livelihood strategies.
    • Recent harvests in Karamoja: The Karamoja region received normal to above-normal rainfall during last year's rainy season. However due to waterlogging conditions and a fungal disease outbreak on sorghum (the main staple crop), harvests were below-average. As a result, very poor and poor households have already depleted their own food stocks, approximately two to three months earlier than normal (in March). In addition, crop sales during the peak crop sales period (October to December) were below-average, reducing the ability of poor households to access food through market purchases.
    • Other income and food sources in Karamoja: Non-crop income and food sources in Karamoja are also currently below-average. While this is the peak period for charcoal and firewood sales, household participation rates in these activities have been unusually high as households attempt to offset the effects of their poor harvests. Likewise, livestock sales have been atypically high for this time of the year. This above-average market supply of charcoal, firewood, and livestock have caused prices to fall, reducing household incomes from these sources. Supplemental food sources (wild foods and milk) are at seasonally normal but low levels due to the ongoing dry season. 

    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation has not affected the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of January to June 2013. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the most recent Food Security Outlook.


    Projected Outlook through June 2013

    Bimodal areas of Uganda are largely expected to face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes from now through June 2013 (Figures 1 and 2). While staple food prices are expected to increase during the next several months, particularly starting in March/April when food stocks are low, this seasonally normal price trend is not expected to negatively impact food security outcomes. Once food stocks are depleted, households will be able to use typical livelihood strategies (ex. agricultural wage labor and livestock/milk sales) to access food normally through market purchases.

    Meanwhile in Karamoja, at least 20 percent of households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity outcomes from now through June 2013. While the upcoming rainy season is expected to create agricultural labor opportunities, increase milk production, and improve wild food availability, these income sources are not expected to be sufficient to offset the effects of last season's below-average harvests. Since households became dependent on market purchases two to three months earlier than normal, many are employing atypical coping strategies, such as selling additional animals or increasing consumption of wild foods, in order to meet both essential food and non-food needs. These atypical coping strategies are expected to continue through at least June 2013. 

    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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