Skip to main content

Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in Karamoja through at least May 2019

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • December 2018 - May 2019
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected in Karamoja through at least May 2019

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
  • Key Messages
    • Poor cumulative October to December rainfall in central, southwestern, and eastern Uganda is expected to result in slightly below-average national first season production in bimodal areas. Most poor households will experience Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through May 2019. In Karamoja, exceptionally dry conditions are causing early declines in livestock production, while rising food prices are expected to drive declines in the terms of trade. The lean season will begin early in February, and reduced food availability and access is expected to result in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in large parts of Karamoja.

    • Although staple food prices have remained below the five-year and 2017 averages across most of Uganda, sorghum is now trading significantly above average in several key reference markets in Karamoja. Surplus first season production, a reduction in net exports, and anticipated second season production had driven down prices nationally. However, scarce local food supply is now beginning to impact Karamoja. In Kotido, the terms of trade for sorghum against firewood, charcoal, and goats are now below the five-year and 2017 average, significantly restricting food access for poor households.

    • Uganda hosts more than 1.15 million verified refugees as of October 31st, who have predominantly fled conflict in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to WFP, humanitarian food assistance is planned, funded, and likely to maintain current rations from December through March, but funding is not guaranteed for in-kind food assistance beginning in April and for cash vouchers beginning late March. Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are likely to be maintained through March but, should ration cuts occur, food security would deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    In bi-modal Uganda, second season rainfall (September – December) has been primarily erratic with poor temporal and spatial distribution, and cumulative rainfall is 70 to 85 percent of average in central, eastern, and southwestern areas according to satellite-derived estimates (Figure 1). Although there has been at least a 70 percent chance of an El Niño forming since October, seasonal rainfall performance is worse than originally forecasted due to a lack of atmospheric response to warming sea surface temperatures, which are important for the enhanced rainfall typically associated with El Niño events. The most affected areas include Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Luwero, Kayunga, Kabale, Kisoro, Ntungamo, Amuria, Kumi, Kaberamaido and Lango districts, where the start of season was 15 to 30 days late and dry spells were more frequent. In other areas, poor rainfall was punctuated by brief, torrential rains. This led to severe flash floods and landslides in several highland areas of eastern Uganda in October, which affected more than 700 people, caused at least 50 deaths, and left hundreds temporarily displaced.

    Overall, area planted and crop development have been slightly below normal. The erratic start of season led farmers to stagger or plant crops late in several parts of southwestern, central, and eastern Uganda. In addition, significantly low farm-gate maize prices, which were driven by a bumper first season harvest that flooded the market with surplus supply, demotivated farmers from cultivating large acreage. Crop growth was then hindered by early season rainfall deficits, though the enhanced mid-November rainfall helped to improve crop and pasture conditions across most bimodal areas. In areas experiencing moisture stress, however, crops are currently stunted and are indicative of reduced yields.

    In areas where planting was delayed and atypically staggered, the main harvest will be delayed by up to nearly a month. As of early December, late-planted maize and other cereals were post-flowering and mostly at the grain formation stages, and harvesting of beans and other pulses in western and central regions is underway. In addition, green maize consumption is already ongoing in several parts of southeastern, central, and western Uganda. According to field observations and key informant reports, Fall Army Worm (FAW) incidence has been significantly low this season compared to same period last year, leading to negligible loss in maize production.

    In bimodal cattle corridor districts, vegetation conditions measured by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly and confirmed by field reports are generally indicative of near-average pasture and water resource levels. As a result, milk production and livestock body conditions are generally within normal levels due to early December rainfall that improved pasture and water conditions in areas vulnerable to overgrazing, including Ntungamo, Kiruhura, Nakasongola, and Isingiro districts, among others. In southern cattle corridor areas, such as Isingiro, the government of Uganda is enforcing a quarantine on livestock in efforts to control spread of zoonotic diseases such as Rift Valley Fever (RVF) and Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). This has led to a slight decrease in livestock sales, which is straining the ability of some households to afford education and health services.

    In Karamoja sub-region, conditions have been exceptionally dry since the rainy season ended in September. Cumulative rainfall is 55 to 85 percent of normal (Figure 1), and vegetation conditions measured by NDVI anomaly have been significantly below both the long-term and 2017 averages since September. Since NDVI tends to lag rainfall by one month, additional deterioration is anticipated. Land surface temperatures 3 to 7 C° above average are accelerating the seasonal deterioration of pasture and water resources, leading to declines in livestock productivity earlier than usual. Seasonal livestock migration to traditional dry season grazing areas bordering Teso and Lango sub-regions began in October, which is one month earlier than normal. This has minimized milk availability and consumption for transhumant household members remaining at the homestead.

    In most bimodal areas, households still have adequate carryover staple stocks from bumper first season harvests and income from crop sales has been normal. Seasonal agricultural labor opportunities such as weeding, harvesting, herding, and post-harvest handling are at near-average levels and average wage rates, as are other income generating activities including petty trading, brewing, and running small businesses. However, parts of Teso sub-region in Katakwi, Bukedea, Amuria, and Kumi districts harvested below-average first season cassava, sweet potatoes, and groundnut crops due to excess rainfall and waterlogging. In these areas, seasonal household incomes from crop sales were atypically low and household stocks of these staple foods have been depleted earlier than normal. However, own produced vegetables and fruits, such as oranges and mangoes, as well as second season green maize and other cereals, are currently available.

    Unimodal harvests across Karamoja were completed in October. Significantly below-average production was widespread, and FEWS NET estimates that production was 60 to 80 percent below average across the sub-region’s districts. In Kaabong and Kotido districts, specifically, production was significantly below average to failed. By November, most poor households had already depleted their household stocks from the harvest. As a result, they are primarily relying on markets for their food needs, and some households choose to supplement this with wild fish, game, and vegetables where they are available.

    Surplus first season production and reduced cross-border exports have kept retail maize prices atypically low across Uganda since August. In Mubende, Masindi, Tororo, Gulu, low prices declined even further after a government subsidy intended to incentivize traders to purchase maize from farmers at UGX 500/kg was not utilized. Traders declined to participate in the program, and farmers that had stored their stocks in anticipation of the subsidized price increase ultimately released surplus maize into an already flooded market. Sorghum, maize, and cassava prices significantly dropped from September to October, and traded an average 41 percent, 20 percent, and 26 percent below the five-year average, respectively, across eight key reference bimodal markets (Figures 2 and 3). In comparison to October 2017, sorghum, maize, and cassava traded 47 percent, 29 percent, and 43 percent below average, respectively. In contrast, bean prices were comparable to both the five-year average and 2017 prices. In addition, reduced food commodity exports and the anticipation of near-average second season production are driving food prices downward. Although low prices have reduced the income of middle and better-off households, low prices have benefited poor households dependent on market food purchases.

    In Karamoja markets, surplus bimodal supply mitigated staple food commodity price increases through September, but the terms of trade for sorghum generally began to decline in October. Sorghum prices increased to near-average levels compared to October 2017 and the five-year average in most key reference markets; in Kotido, however, prices rose 68 percent above the October 2017 price and 18 percent above the five-year average. Meanwhile, charcoal and firewood prices in October were 31 and 16 percent above the five-year average and 36 and 24 percent above the October 2017 average, respectively. Goat prices traded near average compared to 2017 and the five-year average. Agricultural labor opportunities are seasonally limited, though some households are able to access casual daily labor opportunities such as sand mining, brewing, and stone quarrying. Wage levels were an average 23 percent above October 2017 wages across key reference markets, but performance is mixed. Wages were significantly below the five-year average in Moroto (-32 percent) and Napak  (-50 percent), but above average in Kotido (+51 percent) and Kaabong (+33 percent).

    Uganda’s share of regional trade in East Africa for maize and sorghum grain declined from July to September to 44 and 65 percent below the five-year average, respectively. In comparison with the five-year average, third-quarter maize exports to Kenya and South Sudan were 36 and 15 percent below average, respectively, and sorghum exports to South Sudan, Kenya, and Rwanda were 57, 39, and 75 percent below average, respectively. The decrease in regional grain trade is due to increased national availability of staple food commodities, as a result of self-sufficient national production from the March to June harvests across the region. This has been a significant driver of the current national surplus in Uganda, which has in turn sustained below-average market prices and supported food access for the poor.

    As a result of the above factors, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes prevail in bi-modal areas except in parts of Teso sub-region. Most poor households have less than a months’ carryover stocks from the first season harvest or are earning adequate income from agricultural labor, petty trade, and brewing to access market food purchases at below-average prices. These households are consuming at least two meals per day. Access to clean water is normal and within WHO recommendations. In Teso’s Katakwi, Bukedea, Amuria and Kumi districts, a low proportion (<20 percent) of poor households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes as their household stocks have been depleted. Low income levels as a result of reduced crop sales are also constraining their ability to access food via market purchases. Consequently, these households are only able to access their minimum food needs by engaging in stressed and crisis consumption and livelihoods coping strategies, such as restricting portion size by adults to increase intake for children, reducing meals to two per day, selling more poultry than usual, borrowing money to purchase food or buying food on credit, and reducing essential non-food expenditures. However, reliance on these strategies is now beginning to decline given the availability of seasonal vegetables and fruits and green maize.

    In Karamoja, most households are facing low food availability and reduced food access due to declining terms of trade. As a result, they are only able to meet their minimum food needs by relying on consumption and livelihoods coping strategies. Poor households in Kotido and Kaabong districts are the worst off, where strategies such as buying and/or borrowing food on credit and/or from friends and relatives, reducing food portion size, and restricting the number of meals for adults to preserve enough food for children are widespread. In addition to inadequate food purchases, wild or hunted foodstuffs such as vegetables, fruits, rodents and other herbs are being consumed. In these areas, 40 percent of the population is Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but in localized hotspots, such as in Kotido and Kaabong, an estimated 10 to 13 percent are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).

    UNHCR/OPM completed the refugee verification exercise in October, which confirmed the presence of 1,154,352 refugees and asylum seekers in Uganda. Refugees from South Sudan and the DRC comprise 68 and 25 percent of the total population, respectively; the remaining 7 percent are from Burundi, Somalia, Rwanda, and other countries. The September Revitalized Agreement for the Resolution of Conflict in South Sudan has ushered in new prospects for restoration of peace in South Sudan and is expected to contribute to a reduction in displacement of South Sudanese to Uganda. On the other hand, continued armed conflict and its impact on socio-economic conditions in eastern DRC continue to drive displacement to Uganda. According to UNHCR, the rate of arrival of Congolese refugees is greater than 100 per day at the southern entry points of Kisoro and less than 100 refugees per day at other active entry points along the Uganda-DRC border. Ugandan and DRC authorities are coordinating to increase cross-border surveillance to minimize the risk of cross-border transmission of Ebola Virus Disease from DRC, where the total cases stand at 549 of which 501 are confirmed and 48 are probable as of 18th December.  For all refugees, key sources of food and income remain humanitarian food assistance, minimal levels of own crop production, petty trade, and some remittances. In November, refugees living in settlements received food assistance and met their minimum food needs, enabling Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes.


    Between December 2018 and May 2019, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key national-level assumptions:

    • In bimodal areas, the remainder of the October to December second season rains are most likely to be average. However, total cumulative seasonal rainfall is most likely to be below average in eastern and northern Uganda due to early season deficits. The latest IRI/CPC probability forecast indicates an 90 percent likelihood of El Niño conditions from December to March and a 60 percent likelihood through May 2019, combined with a neutral Indian Ocean Dipole. The March to May 2019 first season rains in bimodal areas are likely to be average; however, there remains a wide range of possible outcomes due to the forecast uncertainty associated with El Niño.
    • In most bimodal areas, reduced area planted and poor rainfall performance is expected to result in slightly below-average production for maize and all other crops. In parts of southwestern and eastern Uganda, moderate production shortfalls are expected. The harvest is expected to be delayed by up to 30 days in parts of central, southwestern, and mid-eastern Uganda due to the delayed start of season and staggered planting from August to October.  Harvest activities are expected to peak in December and will be completed in January 2019.
    • FAW incidence during 2019 first season production is expected to impact maize at a level comparable to the 2018 second season. However, the propensity of FAW to spread amidst average rainfall performance, limited prevention plans by the local government, and high pesticide prices that are inaccessible for most farmers could encourage a surge in infestation.
    • In bimodal areas, agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be seasonally low through January. Based on the current forecast, area planted for first season production is likely to be average. During the first season cultivation period, labor demand is likely to return to typical levels at usual wage rates from February to May.
    • Based on current vegetation conditions and the rainfall forecast, pasture and water resources in the cattle corridor districts of Central region and Karamoja sub-region are expected to deteriorate during the December to February dry season. Livestock body conditions and milk productivity are likely to gradually decline to below-average levels until the start of first season and unimodal season rainfall in March and April, respectively.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price analysis, wholesale maize grain prices are expected to remain below the five-year average. Due to the average long-rains production in the north-rift maize belt of Kenya, cereal exports to Kenya are anticipated to continue but at a declining rate. Exports to South Sudan are expected to remain below pre-crisis levels but are likely to be slightly higher than export volumes in 2018, driven by improved market and trade conditions as a result of the recent peace agreement.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in Arua, Mubende, and Soroti, staple food prices will likely remain below the five-year average through December. From January to May, prices are expected to seasonally increase more quickly than usual due to near to below-averag second season production, but prices are still likely to remain below the five-year average and below 2017 prices.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas where near-average first season production is expected in December/January, food availability is likely to be sufficient through April. In addition to surplus stocks from the previous season, most households are expected to harvest approximately two to three months of cereals, resulting in food sufficient for at least three to four months. As stocks deplete, households will use income earned from crop sales, casual labor, and agricultural labor during the February to May cultivation period to access food through market purchases. Given that staple food prices are expected to be below average, favorable terms of trade will facilitate this. However, poor households in cattle corridor districts will have less livestock milk available for sale and consumption until March, due to decline in milk production. Overall, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are most likely to be sustained, given that the majority of poor households are expected to have sufficient food and income sources to meet their minimum food needs through May 2019.

    In Teso and parts of southwestern Uganda, food availability and access is expected to improve with the second season harvest in December/January. Slight to moderate production shortfalls in cereals, pulses, and bananas are expected, and most poor households will harvest 1 to 2 months of food stocks and will supplement own production with market purchases and wild foods. Crop sales are likely to be below-average, as the bulk of own production will be reserved for consumption. However, agricultural labor opportunities will be available beginning in February and households will earn income from the sale of poultry and small ruminants. Staple food prices are expected to seasonally increase during the December holiday season, but prices will remain below the five-year average through May as food commodity flows from surplus to deficit areas are expected at typical levels. Poor households that are more reliant on market purchases will benefit from favorable labor-to-cereals terms of trade. These seasonal food and income sources are expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through May, though five to eight percent of households will likely be unable to afford non-food expenditures and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In Karamoja, food security is expected to continue to deteriorate through May. An increasing number of poor households will be unable to earn sufficient income from the expansion of normal livelihood options such as firewood/charcoal collection and brewing to meet their minimum food needs through market purchases. Agricultural labor opportunities will remain seasonally low until crop cultivation begins at typical levels in February/March, but income from this source will only partly meet households’ minimum food needs as staple food prices are expected to increase during the extended February to June lean season, impacting household purchasing power. As a result, a steady decline in food security is expected through March, and the decline will accelerate through the peak of the lean season in May as more households become unable to meet their minimum food requirements. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected among 18 to 20 percent of poor households, concentrated in Kotido and Kaabong, from February to May, while more than 50 percent will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    According to WFP, humanitarian food assistance for refugees from December through at least March is planned and funded. As a result, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to be sustained through March. However, shortfalls in guaranteed funding beginning in April would likely require ration cuts, significantly restricting refugees’ primary food source. For refugees with access to small plots of arable land, first season stocks harvested in December would only provide one to two months of food and would have already been consumed by February. Should partial funding be secured so that refugees receive half or quarter rations, worse outcomes would be prevented but deterioration to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) would be expected by May. In the absence of food assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) would be expected by April. 

    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.
    Figures In bimodal areas, first season planting begins March and harvest begins June. Second season planting begins Sep and second se

    Figure 1


    Rainfall was below average in large parts of central and eastern Uganda and all of Karamoja. Rainfall is average to above ave

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Sorghum, maize, and cassava prices significantly dropped from September to October across all key reference markets. Bean pri

    Figure 3

    Source: Farmgain/WFP

    Sorghum, maize, and cassava prices traded an average 41 percent, 20 percent, and 26 percent below the five-year average, resp

    Figure 4

    Source: Farmgain/WFP

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top