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March to June first season rains started on time in bimodal areas

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • March 2014
March to June first season rains started on time in bimodal areas

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  • Key Messages
  • Current situation
  • Updated assumptions
  • Projected outlook through June 2014
  • Key Messages
    • The first season rains started in mid-March, a near normal time. With the start, land preparation, planting, and weeding of perennial crops commenced in bimodal areas. With normal timing of the season, bimodal areas are expected to remain at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through at least June 2014.
    • Poor households in Karamoja are employing some coping strategies to access food. The onset of rain in unimodal Karamoja region is expected in early April, but Karamoja is likely to remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) but only due to the presence of ongoing humanitarian assistance until at least June.
    • Prices for sorghum, cassava, and millet remain predominantly stable. While moderate stocks remain on markets, gradual price increases are expected by April as an increasing number of households source food from markets.

    Current situation
    Bimodal areas
    • Uganda had a dry season from December to March characterized by higher than usual land surface temperatures, drier vegetation conditions than normal, and lower than average rainfall, especially in the cattle-corridor districts of Lwengo, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Lyantonde, Rakai, Isingiro, Kiruhura, and Nakasongola. The dry season effectively ended in mid-March with the start of the rains in bimodal areas, but a few areas had moderate to heavy rains in the first 10 days of March.  While the early season was below average in place,  rainfall in the second and third weeks of March generally brought cumulative, seasonal rainfall closer to average. Central to southern along with northwestern districts have generally already recovered from the severe moisture stress during the dry season. Vegetation is growing normally again in these areas. Some farmers who dry planted are already seeing crop growth from the early rains.
    • Heavy winds and hail storms accompanied the arrival of early rains in some localized areas in Luwero and Lira Districts.  These destroyed property, but likely will not affect crop production by the end of the season.
    • Normal progression of seasonal, agricultural activities: The near-normal rainfall since the start of March has encouraged agricultural labor for land preparation, planting, and weeding. Poor households are obtaining food through market purchases funded by casual labor.
    • Start of rangeland recovery, vegetation regeneration, and water resource replenishment: Following the atypical dryness and high land surface temperatures from December to February then near-normal rainfall in early March vegetation and water resources are beginning to recover in Lwengo, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Lyantonde, and Rakai Districts in the central and southern parts of the cattle corridor.
    • Staple food prices were generally stable between January and February, except for beans. Despite the longer than usual dry season from December to early March, millet, sorghum, and cassava chip prices have remained stable with minimal fluctuation since December. The near average November to January second season harvests have met both local and regional demand, keeping February prices generally comparable to January. Banana supplies from Mbarara caused a slight price decrease in both Mbarara and Kampala along seasonal trends. However bean prices increased atypically by 5 to 14 percent in Kampala, Lira, Mbarara, and Gulu.
    • Refugees continued to arrive from South Sudan in February and March. Over 86,000 refugees have entered Uganda since mid-December 2013. While refugees are receiving some assistance, acute malnutrition remains high. The prevalence of global acute malnutrition (GAM) among South Sudanese refugees in Adjumani, Arua, and Kirandongo Districts in Uganda is at critical levels, defined as GAM prevalence between 15 and 20 percent. A March 2014 survey by Makere University, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that among children 6 to 59 months of age in these three districts the prevalence of GAM, defined using a weight-for-height Z-score of less than -2, was 19.6 percent (95 percent confidence interval (CI) 17.0 to 22.4 percent ). Severe acute malnutrition (SAM), defined using a weight-for-height Z-scores of less than -3, was 4.1% percent (CI 3.0 to 5.7 percent). The proportion of children under five years old suffering from malaria or fevers, diarrhea, and acute respiratory infections (ARI) or severe coughs in the two weeks prior to the survey was 69.9 percent, 50.9 percent, and 78.1 percent, respectively. Over half of the mothers between 15 and 49 years old were underweight, defined as a body mass index (BMI) less than  18.5. Nearly one-third were severely underweight with a BMI of less than 16.5.
    Unimodal areas in Karamoja Region
    • Nakapiripirit received heavy rains in late February/early March, but the rest of Karamoja only had light rainfall. February to mid-March rainfall totals were below the 2000 to 2013 average in most areas, though rainfall in February/March tends not to be very heavy. However, they were more normal in Nakapiripirit. Vegetation remains predominantly dry, but there is still sufficient amounts of dry pasture for livestock, which are maintaining their average body conditions. Dry planting for some farmers and land preparation are progressing with normal timing.
    • Most areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) but stable in Karamoja. Food stocks were sparingly consumed to stretch through the lean season, but they are now exhausted. Demand for food from the market has increased. The supply of wild foods has significantly declined since February as dry season wild foods were consumed. Normal availability of casual, agricultural labor opportunities are allowing households to seek some income for food purchases. Some coping strategies are being used such as receiving food loans, sharing assistance and other food, begging for food, and abnormally high reliance in firewood and charcoal sales at this time.
    • The World Food Program (WFP) started interventions a month earlier than usual in February due to the early start of the lean season. An additional 20 percent of the population are receiving assistance through the cash-for-work (CFW) and food-for-work (FFW) programs. This is provided in addition to WFP’s assistance to extremely vulnerable households.

    Updated assumptions

    The current situation has not changed the assumptions used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of February to June 2014. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the February to June 2014 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected outlook through June 2014

    In bimodal areas, near-normal first season rainfall from March to June is expected throughout the country, according to the Meteorological Department of Uganda in line with other forecasts. Some, southwestern areas in Uganda may have a higher risk of below average rainfall. It is anticipated that the peak of the rainy season will occur around mid-April to early May. A normal end is expected in early June. With normal seasonal progress expected, households are consuming their household food stocks, which are still available at a moderate level. Despite likely seasonal rises in food prices as household demand increases between now and June, food prices while rising will likely note prevent poor households from accessing food, maintaining Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most areas.. As a result of the on-going conflict in South Sudan, trade volumes are lower. This reduced demand for commodities by South Sudan will help moderate price rises in Uganda despite more normal trade patterns with Kenya for maize and beans.

    In Karamoja, the forecast is for a mostly normal start of the rainy season in early April with a somewhat early start being likely in a few pockets. Following a below average harvest from October to December for the second consecutive year, households have already exhausted their food stocks, for the most part. While in February, households were consuming many wild foods, these will be less available until the start of the rains. Households are buying sorghum from the market, which is likely to limit funds available to purchase agricultural for the coming season. Limited access to inputs may reduce  planted area. By April households may need to sell livestock, conduct additional labor, or rely on assistance in order to have regular access to food. Without food assistance, some households would likely enter Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Through June, households are likely to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) (Figure 2) but only due to the presence of humanitarian assistance.

    Figures Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal calendar for a typical year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4


    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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