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Below average rainfall likely to delay and reduce harvests in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • May 2015
Below average rainfall likely to delay and reduce harvests in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through September 2015
  • Key Messages
    • Below average rainfall in bimodal areas since March is likely to result in delayed below-average harvests in June/July. National production is likely to be near average except for local areas in the central and east where cumulative moisture deficits have been experienced. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September is expected. 

    • In Karamoja, cumulative below average rainfall in April/May is likely to slow crop development and delay arrival of green harvests. Below average harvests in July through September onwards may temporarily improve food access, but acute food insecurity is likely to worsen in June before most households return to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in September.

    • Below average harvests are expected in July/August, but low reserves from the second season in 2014 and high demand for beans and maize both locally and regionally, especially from Kenya, will likely cause prices to increase atypically countrywide. 


    Current Situation
    Bimodal areas:

    Crops are slowly progressing with the below average rainfall. Since April, cumulative rainfall has been below average with atypical dry spells lasting five to 12 days between showers in some areas. Moisture requirements for sustained crop growth appear to be satisfactory except in the central and eastern areas, where cumulative moisture deficits have reduced vigor of maize and bean crops.

    Bimodal areas are expecting an average harvest. Most crops are halfway through the crop cycle, mainly at flowering stage. Farmers are weeding. Below average rainfall could have already impacted grain filling for some of the early planted crops. Green harvests are expected in July rather than June due to the slower crop growth and impacts of moisture stress.

    Average body conditions for livestock have resumed in central Uganda cattle corridor districts of Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Kaliro, Sembabule and Lyantonde. The available rainfall, though below average, has regenerated pasture to near normal conditions. Milk production has increased seasonably country-wide. 

    Unimodal Karamoja:

    Cumulative below average rainfall is resulting in mixed crop performance. The start of rain was delayed by two to three weeks until the first week of April. The few farmers who dry planted in March/early April were able to benefit from the first rains are now weeding. Most crops are in their vegetative stage. However most farmers delayed planting until after the first rains were sustained, in mid-April. A few farmers in the southern “water belt” areas are planting crops during May, which is atypical. Overall, crops are receiving the minimal amount of moisture required for normal growth due to the five to seven days interval rains, because when it rains it is heavy.

    Households planted less than normal due to poor rainfall outlook. Households were reluctant to prepare their fields due to extreme dryness. Households have had three consecutive below average harvests, leaving them hesitant to invest in crop agriculture. Up to 20 percent of households did not plant due to lack of seed, in addition to uncertainity about the season. Households are likely planting 20 to 30 percent less than normal. Overall, the combined late start and below average rainfall will likely delay the availability and reduce the amount of green harvests in July and subsequent dry harvests in September/October.

    Despite below-average rainfall, pasture availability and livestock conditions have greatly improved. Pasture regeneration and recovery from intense dryness has led to an improvement in livestock body conditions and milk production. Kotido, Abim, and Nakapiripirit districts have slight above average pasture/vegetation while Moroto and Kaabong still have below average pasture, although it is sufficient for average livestock body size and milk production. Milk production is now near normal. Water resources remain below average in the region due to the low and infrequent rainfall, however, pasture throughout the region will likely remain average unless temperatures are above average during the June/July dry spell.

    Below average agricultural labor incomes further constrain access to food. Households planted less and are therefore requiring less labor. Typically, labor income contributes 20-38 percent of the annual income. The early season activities like bush clearing, ploughing, planting, and weeding make up the majority of activities during this period. Household  income is likely lower than normal by 15-20 percent during this season. As a result, the purchasing power of the poor households is low.

    Karamoja Region remains in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Incomes earned through increased coping strategies use remain inadequate. Food intake has been poor since December/January. Coping strategies like food loans, sharing food, begging, and additional sales of firewood and charcoal are on the rise, but food access remains low. Availability and abundance of vegetables (both wild and domestic) is below average due to poor rainfall. Food security outcomes are likely more acute than usual for this time of the year. Some poor households, with low assets from the recurrent poor production seasons, may be selling their remaining livestock completely to purchase some food. Poor households without livestock, estimated at 40 percent of the poor wealth group are the most vulnerable to acute food insecurity. Most poor households consume one meal a day for both adults and children.


    Updated Assumptions

    The current situation in both bimodal and unimodal areas will continue to be monitored for changes in the agro-climatic conditions. The assumptions that were used to develop FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of April to September 2015 remain valid. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the April to September 2015 Food Security Outlook.


    Projected Outlook through September 2015

    The majority of the green and dry harvests will likely be below average and delayed to late July/August. This seasons’ outcome will depend on the extent of moisture stress caused by the frequent dry spells, how long the dry spell in June/July will be, and whether the resumption of rains in July/August will be sufficient to bring the crops to maturity. The pattern of frequent dry spell intervals throughout April/May, suggests that the June/July dryspell will likely be longer than usual, and timed across the flowering and grain filling stages. Harvests therefore may be reduced to 35 to 40 percent of normal. In the wetter areas, better outcomes are expected, at up to 70 percent of normal. Cassava will also be available in these areas. In August, due to the extended period of low food access, some households may consume their green harvest fully, leaving no dry harvests. Further, the households who borrowed food, money, or have food loans will likely repay with their harvests, leaving little to eat or store. Most poor households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) before the arrival of some green harvests in July/August. However, more than 20 percent of the poor households, who are already in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) will likely experience more acute food insecurity before some temporal relief in August with their harvest. Households will likely continue using coping strategies, but will likely continue to consume less than the minimal kilocalorie requirement.

    Central and eastern bimodal areas will likely have below average harvests. Nationwide, most crops are progressing slowly and green harvests will likely be delayed by up to three weeks, but near average. Pasture availability and livestock body condition are expected to be normal through September. The central and eastern areas are expecting below average harvests for their main production of maize and beans. Staple prices are expected to continue increasing normally, but remain slightly higher than last year. Most households will maintain adequate food access without engaging in any atypical coping strategies. Traders will likely release their remaining reserves when harvests are assured to be normal around June/July, thereby reducing prices. Most poor households will continue with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity through September.

     

    Figures

    Figure 1

    SEASONAL CALENDAR FOR A TYPICAL YEAR

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Source:

    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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