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Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely to persist in bimodal areas until June harvest

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • February - September 2017
Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes likely to persist in bimodal areas until June harvest

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • During the February to June lean season, very poor households in Moroto and Napak are expected to face food consumption gaps and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In these areas, poorly distributed rainfall led to below-average production and very poor households depleted food stocks three months earlier than normal. Many are facing increasing difficulty purchasing sufficient food to meet their basic needs, as food prices are 30-40 percent above average. Food security is expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in July with the green harvest. 

    • In Teso, Busoga, and east-central regions of bimodal Uganda, poor households experienced two consecutive seasons of below-average production. Household food stocks were depleted in January, four months earlier than normal. Many are engaged in casual labor opportunities and are selling additional livestock to fund food purchases, but face atypically high food prices. Poor households are able to minimally meet their basic food needs, but lack income to afford some essential non-food needs and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

    • Uganda now hosts over 750,000 South Sudanese refugees, the majority of whom arrived after July 2016, following the outbreak of conflict in Greater Equatoria. Most refugees are heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance and are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). Available funding only guarantees assistance at current levels through March, and in the absence of humanitarian assistance, refugees would likely be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Bimodal areas:

    In bimodal areas of Uganda, which include all regions but Karamoja, the dry season is ongoing and conditions are hotter and drier than usual. This is the result of below-average September to November second season rainfall (Figure 1) and current above-average land surface temperatures (Figure 2). Rainfall was also below average during the March to June 2016 first season, and rainfall deficits were most significant in the north, east, and areas surrounding the Lake Victoria basin during both seasons.

    Two consecutive seasons of below-average rainfall has negatively impacted both pastoral and agricultural areas. Pasture, browse, and water resources are significantly below average in the cattle corridor and livestock are atypically migrating in search of water and pasture. The longer trekking distances and limited resources have negatively impacted livestock body conditions, subsequently lowering milk production below levels that are typical of the dry season.

    Poor rainfall throughout 2016 has also resulted in two consecutive seasons of below-average production in central and eastern bimodal areas. In November, before the completion of the second season harvest, FAO estimated that total cereal production in 2016 would be 3.4 million metric tons. This equates to 4 percent below average, but ground reports indicate production was likely more significantly below normal. No updated production estimate, upon completion of the second season harvest, has been provided. For poor households who rely on rain-fed production and typically cultivate small plot sizes, production losses in 2016 greatly lowered household food stocks. In a normal year, poor households produce enough cereal to meet basic household consumption needs and November-December household stocks typically last until the subsequent harvest in May/June. This year, though, rapid food security assessments conducted by FEWS NET and information from partner reports indicate that many poor households in parts of Teso, Lango, Acholi, and Busoga harvested significantly below-average cereal volumes in 2016 and depleted household food stocks in January.

    Due to below-average domestic supplies, staple food prices have increased in most markets. In Soroti of Teso, the price of cassava chips in January was 1,100 UGX/kg, approximately 10 percent above last year and 14 percent above the three-year average (Figure 3). Maize flour and sweet potato prices in Soroti saw more significant increases, between 15-20 percent above both last year and their three-year averages. A similar trend was observed in Iganga of Busoga, where the January price of sweet potatoes was 717 UGX/kg, approximately 29 percent above last year and 20 percent above the three-year average.  

    Higher than normal cereal prices have driven a decline in household purchasing power, as measured by labor-to-cereal and goat-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT). In Soroti, the labor-to-maize ToT declined 51 percent from December to January, while the labor-to-maize flour ToT declined 20 percent, larger declines than are seasonally normal. The labor-to-maize flour ToT are now 12 percent below the three-year average. Similarly, the goat-to-maize flour ToT in Soroti is 24 percent below the three-year average. Comparable trends were seen in other bimodal areas that experienced below-average production.

    Poor households in most bimodal regions are currently engaged in land preparation and dry planting, as is typical in February. However, in parts of West Nile and northern Uganda, rainfall in January and February was 10-25 mm below average, preventing timely land preparation is some areas.

    Maize exports to Kenya declined atypically in the fourth quarter of 2016. This was a result of both below-average production and the subsequent price increases in Uganda that reduced price differentials with Kenyan markets, lowering traders’ profits. Exports to South Sudan decreased seasonally, but total volumes traded are still higher than the same quarter last year and the three-year fourth quarter average, as high prices in South Sudan continue to incentivize traders to export to the country.

    South Sudanese refugees: 

    Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese have sought refuge in Uganda, the majority of whom cross the northwestern border or transit through the Democratic Republic of Congo. The current influx of refugees from South Sudan started in mid-2016 after an outbreak of violence in Juba spread to Greater Equatoria, which borders Uganda. In the first two months of 2017, over 116,000 refugees have arrived, at a rate around 2,000 a day. The newly-opened Palorinya settlement in Moyo District is already at capacity and a new settlement, Imvempi in Arua, was opened in February. All newly arrived refugees are receiving full rations through in-kind or cash/voucher assistance through the World Food Programme (WFP) and are also provided a small plot of land by the Ugandan Government. UNHCR reports that as of February 21, it has received only 10 percent of the humanitarian funds requested for the Uganda response plan, leaving a gap of 267 million USD. Due to funding constraints, refugees who arrived prior to July 2015 are now receiving half rations.

    Karamoja region:

    Karamoja has one rainy season annually, which occurs from April to September. The 2016 rainy season was average to above average, although an atypically long dry period in July negatively impacted crop development. August-November 2016 production was higher than last year in all districts, but below the five-year average in all districts but Kotido, where production was average. The greatest production losses took place in Napak, Abim, and Nakapiripirit, where it is estimated that very poor households harvested between 10-50 percent of normal production. Many depleted household food stocks in December or January, two to three months earlier than normal. As a result, the lean season, which typically runs from March to June, started in January/February this year.

    Rangeland conditions in Karamoja were near normal following the rainy season, although atypically high land surface temperatures and heavy inward migration of pastoralists from South Sudan and Kenya led to faster than normal depletion of pasture and water resources. With increased competition for rangeland in Karamoja, many Karamojong pastoralists have migrated livestock to neighboring Teso, Lango, and Acholi Districts.

    Similar to bimodal areas, cereal prices in Karamoja are above average, driven by below-average production in Karamoja and below-average production in neighboring bimodal regions that typically source markets in Karamoja. The retail price of sorghum is between 38 and 77 percent above the three-year average across markets (Figure 4). Charcoal prices have remained largely stable compared to average in all districts but Moroto, where the retail price of a bag of charcoal is roughly 30 percent below average. However, above-average staple cereal prices have lowered household purchasing capacity. Charcoal-to-sorghum terms of trade have decreased by 15-30 percent in most markets.

    Food security outcomes

    In Teso, Busoga, and east-central regions of bimodal Uganda, poor households experienced two consecutive seasons of below-average production. Household food stocks were depleted four months earlier than normal and households remain atypically dependent on markets to access food. Most poor households are borrowing or seeking additional labor opportunities in nearby urban centers to earn income to purchase food. However, staple cereal prices are above average, driving lower than normal labor-to-cereal and goat-to-cereal ToT. Many households are eating cheaper, less preferred foods. Some households have reported being unable to pay school fees and others have increased the sale of livestock for additional income. Although most poor households are able to meet their basic food needs, many are unable to support normal livelihood activities and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In some areas of Isingiro and Teso, it is likely some poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and are facing food consumption gaps or are only meeting basic food needs through the sale of land and other productive assets.

    Most newly arrived refugees are heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance to meet their basic food needs. Although refugees are given plots for cultivation, those who came in the most recent wave arrived after planting for second season production. The majority left behind assets in South Sudan and lack typical access to income-earning opportunities now that they reside in the refugee settlements. It is likely most have minimally adequate food consumption with ongoing assistance, but are unable to afford essential non-food expenditures and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!).

    In Karamoja, where the lean season is ongoing, many very poor households depleted their food stocks in January and are dependent on markets to access food. Most are able to meet their basic food needs and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but lack income for basic non-food expenditures as higher prices are forcing them to spend more income on food. In Napak and Moroto, where production was well below average and staple food prices have increased significantly, very poor households are experiencing food consumption gaps and are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In these districts most very poor households are consuming one meal a day consisting mostly of cereals and wild vegetables. In Rupa and Nadunget sub-counties of Moroto, there are reports of some household members skipping daily meals and households placing children in different schools where feeding programs are offered. 


    • Between February and September 2017, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:
    • March to May first season rainfall is expected to begin on time and be near average in bimodal Uganda, with a few areas of slightly below normal rainfall in northeastern Uganda.
    • Current above-average land surface temperatures are expected to return to normal with the onset of rains in March and remain average through September.
    • June-August first season production is expected to be average and replenish household and market stocks to normal levels through September.
    • Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be available at typical wage rates from February through April.
    • Pasture conditions and water resources in the cattle corridor are expected to remain below average through March due to above-average land surface temperatures. Conditions are likely to improve to near normal levels in April, alongside average seasonal rainfall. Conditions will then seasonally decline from June through September. Livestock body conditions and milk productivity are expected to follow the same trend.
    • Livestock prices are expected to follow seasonal trends.  
    • Forecasts for the August to November second rainy season in bimodal Uganda and the April to September rainy season in Karamoja indicate rainfall is likely to be average. The February CPC/IRI consensus forecast indicates a higher than normal likelihood of El Niño in the third quarter of 2017, although there is currently significant uncertainty in the ENSO forecast. As El Niño is generally associated with a suppression of seasonal rainfall in these area areas, and there is increased likelihood the rainy seasons could be at least slightly below average. FEWS NET will continue to monitor the situation and will update its assumptions accordingly.
    • Staple food prices in key markets in bimodal areas of Uganda are expected to increase seasonally through April and remain 30-40 percent above average. From May/June, when the first season harvest enters markets, prices are expected to seasonally decrease through September, but remain at least slightly above the five-year average.
    • In Karamoja, staple food prices are likely to seasonally decline in July with the arrival of the green harvest in Karamoja and dry harvest in bimodal areas. Prices through September will remain slightly above average.
    • In the first half of 2017, exports of maize and dry beans to Kenya, South Sudan, and Rwanda are expected to be below the same time last year and the four-year average, due to higher than normal export parity prices.
    • No major outbreaks of livestock diseases that would necessitate longer quarantine periods or the closure of livestock markets are anticipated.
    • Due to ongoing conflict and severe levels of acute food insecurity in South Sudan, refuge flows to Uganda are likely to continue at or above current levels of 2,000 per day. The World Food Programme’s plan to provide assistance through July 2017, of full rations to all refugees who arrived after July 2015 and half rations to all who arrived before July 2015, is currently 51 percent funded. Current funding levels guarantee a continuation of assistance at these levels through March. It is not yet known if funding will be available for assistance beyond March.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, poor households in Teso, Busoga, and east-central regions are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through May. Although most poor households lack food stocks, many have begun engaging in agricultural labor at normal wage rates and have income to purchase food from the markets. However, most poor households need to purchase more cereal from markets than is typical during this time and face above-average market prices. Poor households are likely to forego some typical livelihood activities or sell additional livestock in order to fund cereal purchases. Food security will improve slightly in late April/early May when households harvest some vegetables and livestock body conditions improve, increasing milk production for household consumption. In June, with the beginning of the dry harvest, household stocks and market supplies are likely to improve to normal levels, increasing household cereal consumption and supporting a decline of staple food prices. Given expected average production of both cereals and legumes and perennial crops such as tea, coffee, sugarcane, and bananas, poor households are also expected to earn near normal incomes.  Although staple food prices are still likely to remain slightly higher than average through September, access to own production and normal levels of income will increase household food availability and access. These areas are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in June and remain in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through September.

    South Sudanese refugees are expected to remain heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance throughout the outlook period. Own production complements food assistance but only provides 2-4 months of cereal. The majority of refugees are also likely to seek labor opportunities in host communities and some will earn income through these means. Among these, agricultural labor opportunities will be available in March. However, given the high number of refugees who will be seeking labor opportunities, it is expected that only a small percentage will be able to obtain work. which is insufficient to meet households’ basic food needs. Therefore, sources of food and income outside of assistance are unlikely to meet households basic food needs. Current funding levels only guarantee continued assistance through March. It is therefore assumed that refugees will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) in February and March. From April through September, refugees are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of humanitarian assistance.

    From February through the peak of the lean season in June, very poor households are expected to engage in agricultural and casual labor opportunities at normal levels, earning income to fund cereal purchases. However, total cereal purchased will still be insufficient to meet minimal food requirements. Most very poor households will complement this consumption with wild foods and milk. Others will access additional food through borrowing. Most households will remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), but some households in Morto and Napak are expected to face food consumption gaps during the February to June lean season and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). This is due to relatively higher food prices in these districts and the longer time spend coping, given that they exhausted food stocks earlier than in other areas. Expected average production in July will replenish household stocks, increasing cereal consumption and improving food security. The arrival of the harvest is also expected to lead to price decreases among staple commodities, increasing food access. Poor households will be able to minimally meet their basic food needs during this time and are expected to improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from July through September.

    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

    Current food security outcomes, February 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    CHIRPS-estimated rainfall anomaly, percent of normal, Sept. 1 – Dec. 31, 2016

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Land surface temperature compared to 1981-2010 average, November-January

    Source: USGS

    Figure 5

    Change in staple cereal prices compared to last year and the three-year average, Soroti and Iganga

    Source: Farmgain

    Figure 6

    Change in retail price of sorghum compared to last year and the three-year average in districts of Karamoja

    Source: Farmgain

    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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