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Food security stress in Karamoja food increases as bimodal areas begin harvesting

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • June 2013
Food security stress in Karamoja food increases as bimodal areas begin harvesting

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2013
  • Key Messages
    • The onset of the June/August harvest season will increase market availability and household access to staple foods in bimodal areas. Near average first season harvests are expected to bolster food security beginning in June to August, keeping acute food insecurity at the Minimal (IPC Phase 1) levels.

    • Acute food insecurity is increasing among poor and very poor households in agropastoral and pastoral zones in Karamoja during the peak of the lean period. The longer than usual lean season, combined with the residual effects of below average harvests and income levels from the July to October 2012 season continue to drive IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of food insecurity, especially in Napak, Kaabong.

    • The atypical and early cessation of seasonal rains in unimodal Karamoja between April and May may result in below average harvests in October if rainfall in July-August is poorly distributed or insufficient.  Currently, short-term forecasts call for average to below average rainfall for this period. 

    • Relative price stability is expected as the arrival of new stocks on the market in June through August will increase availability of staple foods and household access. Annual inflation rates have reduced food prices slightly compared to April 2013. 

    Current Situation
    • Mixed performance of the March-April-May bimodal rainy season has resulted in an early onset to the dry season. Rainfall has gradually tapered off since April, shortening the crop maturation period and soil water availability for planted crops by a month compared to the normal seasonal calendar.  This is most notable in the South and Southwestern bimodal districts and along the cattle corridor districts. While the first seasonal rains (March-April-May) were received as forecasted in terms of cumulative amounts, they were characterized by uneven spatial and temporal distribution, with heavier than average rainfall in March, slightly below average rainfall in April, and significantly less than normal rainfall totals received in May. Crops that were planted early had a better chance to mature than crops planted in or after April.  However, the expected harvest is likely to be near average across the bimodal areas.
    • Erratic and poorly distributed rainfall in Karamoja to-date has impacted staple crop production.  From March to mid-April, heavy rainfall resulted in waterlogging and seedling damage in lowland areas, particularly in Kaabong, Kotido and Moroto districts. The remainder of April was characterized by erratic rains, followed by a long dry spell during much of May into June that resulted in atypical dry conditions and water stress, more severely in Kaabong district.  Cropped areas in the region are mostly planted with sorghum, which is at different growth stages ranging from stressed near knee high crops to stunted flowering crops, as farmers responded to erratic rainfall with uneven planting. Typically, crops should be past flowering and entering into the grain filling stage just ahead of the  green harvest between late July and August. Rainfall is projected to be depressed through early July and short term forecasts suggest a 45 percent probability of below normal rainfall through August, with potentially negative impacts on crop production, particularly on sorghum, bulrush millet, maize, groundnuts. However, pasture and water availability is sufficient for normal livestock production as evidenced by the above average livestock conditions.   
    • Harvesting underway in bimodal areas: Crop harvesting and post-harvest handling are underway in South, Central South and Southwestern regions, although the impact of uneven rainfall during the last two months has resulted in a variation in crop maturation from zone to zone. In the Central South and Western regions, crops range from 75 percent mature to harvest ready. In the Eastern region, where heavy rains and water logging delayed planting activity, crops are yet to mature.  In some areas, water stress and poor planting levels indicate a likelihood of lower than average staple food production. However, pastoral conditions have benefitted from seasonal rainfall, and although pasture and water availability are starting to decrease, livestock body conditions and milk production are favorable.
    • Stable and enhanced food security in most bimodal areas: Overall, food security remains normal and stable in bimodal areas, with the availability of food from household production and sufficient staple food supplies in the major markets from both 2013 first season and 2012 second season. May retail prices show marginal increases for commodities in some markets (millet in Soroti; maize in Kampala) and continued price decreases in other areas (sorghum in Lira, Soroti, Gulu; cassava chips in Arua and Soroti; millet in Lira; beans in Lira and Gulu). In general, these price variations are consistent with the seasonal trends observed at this time. Poor or urban households dependent on the market for a larger proportion of food source are expected to access sufficient food from the market to meet their basic needs.
    • Continuation of IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of food security in Karamoja: The residual impacts of poor to below average harvests from the 2012 season that resulted in below normal household food stocks, below normal incomes from crop sales and a two month early start to the lean season (continue to drive IPC Phase 2 Stress levels of food insecurity among the extremely vulnerable especially the elderly, malnourished children, and lactating mothers. The normal supply of wild foods has been compromised by unusually below average and erratic rainfall in May. While June should be the peak for milk access and income from livestock sales, poor households are only marginally benefiting from this seasonal food source due to the significant reduction of livestock holdings and the unsustainable sale of their livestock assests since January that have continually eroded their livelihoods.  Poor income levels from the usual sources (crop, livestock and milk sales to below normal levels) have restricted household access to food from the market even when available. The World Food Programme continues to provide food relief since May to extremely vulnerable individuals through general distributions, school feeding programme, already planned food for work programme, therapeutic feeding at health centres and Mother-and-Child Health and Nutrition programme in the community. An estimated 155,000 persons are expected to benefit from this assistance by the end of the lean season. Other food assistance has been delivered by NGOs and the Office of the Prime Minister.

    Updated Assumptions

    While most assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period April to September 2013 remain valid, below average harvests are possible in the Karamoja region following poorly distributed rainfall in the region since April. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the April to September 2013 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through September 2013

    Food security outcomes will remain favorable throughout most parts of the country as prospects for first season harvests from June to August in most bimodal areas are expected to be at least average and will replenish both household and market food stocks to normal levels.  Crop sales will provide additional income for households to meet other non-food needs. IPC Phase 1 Minimal food insecurity (Figure 2) outcomes will prevail in the majority of the country. In Karamoja, food security outcomes will remain unfavorable and deteriorating with more than 20 percent of the households in IPC Phase 2: Stress, having absorbed negative coping strategies for 2-3 additional lean months of increased market dependence despite atypically low income levels. Prospects of a poor seasonal performance threaten to maintain IPC Phase 2 levels of food insecurity rather than ease the situation into IPC Phase 1 Minimal levels in August at the end of the lean season.

    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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