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Below average rainfall in Karamoja likely to worsen Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • April - September 2015
Below average rainfall in Karamoja likely to worsen Crisis (IPC Phase 3) food insecurity

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Despite delayed onset and below average rainfall since early April, germination and early vegetative growth occurred in both bimodal areas and unimodal Karamoja. With likely continued below-average rainfall, crop growth may be retarded, delaying and reducing green harvests to July and reducing potential yields for the dry harvests in Karamoja. Continued rainfall in bimodal areas will likely result in a near-average harvest.

    • In Karamoja, below average incomes for poor households will likely constrain food access. Households have increased their use of coping strategies since January, but are unable to meet their minimum food needs. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected in April, and will likely become more acute until the harvest occurs, as late as August, four months longer than usual.

    • In bimodal areas, staple food prices increased between March and February, as anticipated with increased demand from Kenya and South Sudan for maize, beans, and sorghum. In Karamoja, the livestock terms of trade with respect to sorghum are favorable while firewood, charcoal, or daily wages to sorghum have worsened. Low household purchasing power will constrain food access through July, minimal green harvest may relieve some of the household needs.

    Current Situation
    • Land preparation and planting activities are almost complete in bimodal areas despite below-average rainfall performance. Seasonal rains began 10 to 14 days later than normal and early rains were below-average. Soil moisture levels are minimally adequate for crop development, but cumulative rainfall remains below average and erratic in distribution, particularly in eastern, central, and southwestern districts as well as northeastern Uganda. Despite below-average rainfall performance, land preparation and planting continue in April and are nearly complete. Early planted crops have reached the vegetative stage. In Karamoja, area planted has declined by an estimated 25 percent compared to normal due to a combination of reduced access to seed purchase for poor households and a poor seasonal outlook.
    • Livestock body conditions are improving due to pasture regeneration. Rainfall in April improved pasture availability and grazing conditions, although water resources are not yet fully replenished. Livestock are steadily recovering from the impact of atypical dryness and poor pasture availability in recent months, especially in corridor districts where conditions were driest.
    • Staple food prices increased in March due to increased local and regional demand. Grain exports, particularly maize  increased significantly in the first quarter of this year due to increased demand from Kenya and South Sudan. Wholesale prices for cooking bananas, cassava chips, sorghum, bean, and maize prices have generally increased as stocks from the previous season begin to decline.    
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity continues in bimodal areas.  Households and market food stocks are supplied to their usual levels. While there is increasing regional demand, food availability and access for the poor is still favorable throughout the country. The onset of the first season will enable farmers to grow quick maturing crops and vegetables that can be used as food and income sources. With the normal progress of seasonal activities supplying day labor, poor households have been able to meet their minimum food requirements.
    • Food security deteriorated to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Karamoja.  Food availability and access continued to decline in Karamaja since the lean season began in January, four months earlier than normal. Household purchasing power, already very low, declined further in recent months due to irncreased reliance on markets for food. The combination of last year’s extended lean season and poor 2014 production have eroded coping capacity among the poor and many households are unable to meet minimum food needs. 

    Between April and September 2015, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    • Average rainfall is expected in bimodal areas from April to July. Despite a late start of season and erratic rainfall distribution in April, cumulative seasonal rainfall totals are expected to be near normal.  
    • Harvests are expected to be near-average in bimodal areas. Increased rainfall from May to July will likely compensate for the early season deficits enabling normal crop development. Erratic rains at the beginning of the season during flowering and grain filling stages may cause small production deficts of up to 10 percent. Main harvests will likely begin on-time in July/August.
    • Livestock body conditions are expected to remain average in both bimodal and unimodal rainfall areas. As a result, average milk production is also likely.
    • Staple food prices will follow seasonal trends, but remain above average in many markets. Prices of cooking bananas, beans, and maize will increase from April to May and decline in June as harvests become available. Prices will remain above average, but are not expected to exceed 2014 levels.  
    • Trade with Kenya, South Sudan, Rwanda, and the Democratic Republic of Congo are likely to follow seasonal trends. Exports to South Sudan will remain well below average, but higher than last year.
    • Conditional cash and food transfers for 44,000 people will continue through June through the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF II). Participants will receive cash for work, the equivalent of six kgs of sorghum or maize per month for three cycles. The total assisted number is lower than 2013, but equivalent to last year. The World Food Programme will target 155,000 people in poor and vulnerable households with half rations available throughout the lean season. 
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food availability and access will decline over the next two months as the lean season progresses, but households in bimodal areas will be able to meet minimum food and non-food needs without engaging in irreversible coping strategies. Food availability will begin to improve in June/July as green harvests become available. Main harvests in July/August will enable households to replenish food stocks. and accGreen harvesting in July/August will improve food availability and access for the poor  during the lean season in June/July, and will boost household food intake before the main harvest in July/August. Average livestock conditions and milk production are likely with average pasture availability through September. Prices are expected to increase seasonally through May. In June,  the new harvest will likely be available on the market. Most households will be able to meet both their food and non-food needs without engaging in coping strategies. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected through September 2015.

    In Karamoja region, poor households will likely not meet their household food needs due to insufficient income through July. Below-average harvests are likely if below average rainfall continues through June, as anticipated. Consumption gaps and malnutrition levels will likely be most acute during the peak of the lean season in May/June. With poor food intake, malnutrition levels are expected to increase among children five years and under through June/July. Some green harvest in July and subsequent dry harvest in August and September could provide food stocks for four or five months, depending on the seasonal performance. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) is expected in most of Karamoja through August, while Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is expected in the western mixed farming zone through September for the most likely scenario. 


    For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern, please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.


    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, April 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Current food security outcomes, April to June 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Projected food security outcomes, July to September 2015

    Figure 4

    Projected food security outcomes, July to September 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 5

    Rainfall anomaly for ten day period between 11-20th April (2nd dekad)

    Source: USGS/EROS

    Figure 6

    Historical GAM prevalence in Karamoja from Dec 2009 to Dec 2014

    Source: WFP, UNICEF

    Figure 4


    To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

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