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Below average harvests temporarily mitigate acute food insecurity in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook Update
  • Uganda
  • September 2013
Below average harvests temporarily mitigate acute food insecurity in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Current Situation
  • Updated Assumptions
  • Projected Outlook through December 2013
  • Key Messages
    • Delayed and below-average harvests in Karamoja are nevertheless easing household food availability.  Increased access to food through household stocks will provide temporary, short-term relief post-harvest.  IPC Phase 2 food security stress is expected to continue across the region, regressing to pre-harvest acute levels by January.

    • Near average to above average rainfall is expected  in bimodal areas this season according to the meteorological department, and land preparation and planting activities are ramping up with the onset of more steady rainfall.  Despite limited market supply, subsequent on-farm income earning will generally enable normal household food access in bimodal areas, sustaining Minimal food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) through December.  

    • Seasonably lower market supply coupled with high local and regional food demand is expected to drive food prices higher. Due to poor production prospects and high demand, particularly from poorer households, retail bean prices increased by 14-35 percent compared to the 5-year average between July and August.  Prices still remain lower than 2012 overall.

    Current Situation
    • The Meteorological department of Uganda forecast is calling for an increased likelihood of normal to above normal accumulation in most of the country for the September- December bimodal second season. While steady rainfall typically starts in mid-September, most bimodal areas received some rains punctuated by occasional dry spells that have had a positive impact on normal preparation and planting. With the exception of western central districts where rain has been steady since August, the majority of bimodal areas have yet to observe the formal onset of seasonal rainfall. Peak rains are forecasted for mid-October onwards.
    • Acute food insecurity is minimal (IPC Phase 1) in most bimodal areas despite increasing staple food prices.  Market supply normally offloaded from the first growing season has been below average despite near average harvests across bimodal areas as households retain their stocks for consumption.  Staple food prices have increased atypically by nearly 16 percent in August while final harvesting activities come to a close.  This increase represents the highest monthly change since March 2011. Price increases are generally attributed to shortages of staples affected by inconsistent rainfall and dry spells, which resulted in below average supplies of foods like cooking banana, vegetables, and pulses. Markets in Kampala, Masaka and Mbarara are particularly affected by supply shortages and increasing prices. Though the supply for bananas has reduced due to the perennial nature of the crop, retail prices in the supply market Mbarara increased by 24 percent compared to July levels, but remain below 20-40 percent below 2012 and the 2-year average at the same time in Kampala. Sorghum prices remained below the 5-year average but have slightly been increasing in Gulu, Soroti and Lira for the second consecutive month. Cassava prices increased by 5 and 12 percent in Arua and Soroti compared to last year perhaps attributed to the poor drying conditions created by the rains. Generally, prices for these commodities are similar to 2012 levels during the same period. Bean prices have increased atypically and significantly, with 14-35 percent increase over the five year average between July and August in Kampala, Lira and Gulu markets. High bean prices are attributed to low seasonal supply, as beans were among the crops the most negatively impacted by poor and sporadic rainfall during the first growing season, compounded by high demand for consumption and planting for the bimodal second season. Poor crop performance in Rwanda, particularly for millet, is also a contributing factor to shorter market supply than normal.  The relative high prices are not expected to hinder poor households from accessing food from the market, because households will be consuming primarily their own production for the next 2-3 months.

    The green harvest, though late and below average, is alleviating short term food needs in more productive areas across unimodal Karamoja.  More households are consuming food from own production with the increasing availability of early maize, cowpeas, green grams despite the 1-2 month delay. Mature sorghum and millet have also been harvested to a great extent in Kotido and Moroto and will be sufficient for sales and consumption in the coming weeks as harvesting continues.  Green harvesting has considerably reduced market dependence following an atypically long lean period that has lasted almost 8 months. Timing and availability of harvests from household production remains varied across different areas of the region and in some areas, harvests are not yet underway. Significant crop losses and reduced harvest are more pronounced in Napak, Kaabong, parts of Moroto and Kotido while delayed harvest but relatively better harvests are more apparent in Nakapiripirit and Amudat districts.

    • Pastoral conditions in Karamoja remain favorable despite a seasonal decline in water and pasture resources. Sufficient pasture and water resources continue to sustain average body conditions, although quantities are declining with the reduced rainfall amounts typically received during this time of the year.
    • IPC Phase 2: Stress levels of acute food insecurity are continuing in Karamoja. Livelihoods for poor households continue to be negatively impacted by the unusually extended lean season, with households continuing to engage in destructive coping strategies to maintain minimal purchasing power. Seasonal incomes from crops, casual labor, firewood and charcoal sales remain below average but are alleviating some food access issues in the short term. Poor households with livestock have engaged in unsustainable animal sales to meet food needs through market purchase.  

    Updated Assumptions

    The current and projected situation in both bimodal and unimodal areas and assumptions made in developing FEWS NET's most likely scenario for the period of July to December 2013 remain valid. A full discussion of the scenario is available in the July to December 2013 Food Security Outlook.

    Projected Outlook through December 2013

    While the on-going harvests in the Karamoja region are temporarily mitigating IPC Phase 2 levels of food insecurity outcomes that have been prevalent since January, food insecurity it is not expected to improve significantly to a lower phase through December. Poor to below average harvest for the regions’ staple crop sorghum will not replenish food stocks to normal levels to sustain poor households through the lean season of the next consumption year. Seasonal incomes from crop sales will remain below average with fewer than usual number of households selling any surplus. The delayed and varied availability of green consumption and eventual dry harvest over the region as a result of the poor seasonal performance is not expected to uniformly provide this source of food. Ongoing food assistance is still necessary to cushion the vulnerable households that either incurred near 100 percent crop loss or will have insufficient food access with evidence of malnutrition. In bimodal areas, the forecast for near normal to above normal rainfall is expected to assure normal seasonal income activities for poor households. Increased market dependence and regional demand for maize, beans, millet, sorghum, and cassava is expected to cause retail prices to trend upwards faster than usual in the next 2 months, but households are expected to remain in IPC Phase 1: Minimal food insecurity through December and the next harvest season. 

    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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