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Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Karamoja expected to intensify until mid-2019

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • February - September 2019
Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes in Karamoja expected to intensify until mid-2019

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Anticipated above-average March to May rainfall in bimodal areas is expected to result in average crop and livestock production and related labor opportunities, though areas prone to flooding and landslides would see localized production shortfalls. Consecutive seasons of near-average bimodal production is expected to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes through September.

    • In Karamoja, household food gaps are expected to widen, particularly in Kotido and Kaabong. Declining wage rates and rising food prices are limiting purchasing power, thereby constraining household food access and increasing the use of negative coping strategies. 2019 production is anticipated to be slightly below-average, driven by reduced area planted as most farmers were unable to save seeds from failed 2018 harvests. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to intensify until July, when availability of the harvests will support recovery to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    • In bimodal Uganda, low staple food prices driven by surplus market supply are enhancing food access. Retail prices of maize, sorghum, and cassava in January were below both the five-year and previous year averages by two to 38 percent, and prices are expected to remain low to near-average throughout the scenario period. However, sorghum prices in northern Karamoja are highly dynamic due to increased household demand and poorer market supply flows. Although prices stabilized in January compared to the five-year average, prices are currently 11 and 50 percent above the five-year average in Nakapiripirit and Kotido markets.

    • In refugee settlements, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to be maintained, driven by humanitarian food assistance and own production. Assistance is planned through September and at least partially funded through May. However, food security outcomes would deteriorate to Crisis! (IPC Phase 3!) in the event of significant ration cuts.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    The dry season is currently underway across Uganda following erratic second season (October-December) rainfall that concluded with mixed cumulative performance. In bi-modal Uganda, rainfall had poor temporal and spatial distribution and cumulative totals ranged from 70 to 130 percent of average, according to CHIRPS satellite-derived estimates. Areas most affected by below-average cumulative rainfall include the entire northern half of Eastern region, far northern and southern parts of Central region, and south-western Uganda, where the start of season was 15 to 30 days late and dry spells were frequent. In January, unseasonal rains supported some improvement in pasture and water sources in the south and southwest. In Karamoja, the dry season began in October and has been drier than normal, with less than 85 percent of normal cumulative rainfall in most districts.

    Commensurate with rainfall performance, second season bimodal crop production was slightly below average nationally, with varying local production levels. In areas where planting was delayed and staggered, such as in Kigezi district in the southwest, the harvest was delayed by up to almost one month. In parts of Teso sub-region where below-average cumulative rainfall was observed, Katakwi, Bukedea, Amuria, and Kumi districts harvested below-average staples, such as cassava, sweet potatoes, and groundnuts. According to field observations and key informant reports, Fall Army Worm incidence was significantly lower than in the same period last year, leading to negligible maize crop losses.

    In bimodal cattle corridor districts, vegetation conditions measured by Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly and confirmed by field reports remain indicative of near-average pasture and water resource levels (Figure 1). Some areas, such as Isingiro, have more vegetation due to enhanced December-January rainfall. As a result, milk production and livestock body conditions remain within normal levels. However, in southern cattle corridor areas, the existing livestock quarantine aimed at controlling the spread of zoonotic diseases continues to limit the ability of some households to afford non-food essentials such as education and health services.

    Despite below-average cumulative rainfall since October, Karamoja received 25-50mm of rainfall in December, equivalent to more than 120 percent of the December long-term average. As a result, vegetation conditions improved to 80 to 130 percent of average (Figure 1) the following month. In January, however, Land Surface Temperatures increased to an average of 4.5 C° above the long-term average. The atypically hot temperatures have once again accelerated seasonal deterioration of pasture and water resources, leading to earlier-than-normal declines in livestock productivity. In addition, livestock migration to traditional dry season grazing areas bordering Teso and Lango sub-regions began in October, one month earlier than normal. This has limited milk availability and consumption for transhumant household members remaining at the homestead.

    Food availability and access in most bimodal areas is at typical levels, as households have staple stocks from the second season harvests. However, due to localized production shortfalls, some poor households depleted their staple food stocks in January, which is three months earlier than normal. Seasonal income from crop sales is also below-average. This is most prevalent in some districts of Teso. Nevertheless, seasonal agricultural labor opportunities such as second-season harvesting and post-harvest handling, land preparation for first season planting, and herding are at average levels and average wage rates, allowing households to purchase their minimum food needs. Other income-generating activities available at typical levels include petty trading, brewing, and running small businesses.

    In January, staple food retail prices in the main bi-modal markets were generally seasonally low and stable to below average, due both to the availability of the second season harvest and the release of carryover first season stocks by traders. Below-average food commodity exports – except for beans – in the 3rd and 4th quarters are also a contributing factor. In comparison to the five-year and 2018 averages, sorghum and cassava traded at significantly below- average volumes, maize traded slightly below average, and beans traded near or slightly above average levels in key reference markets due to increased export demand in the 3rd and 4th quarters of 2018 and domestic demand for consumption and for seed. Low prices have improved household purchasing power, to the benefit of poor households dependent on food purchases. However, income from crop sales has fallen among middle and better-off households due to low prices.

    In Karamoja, households continue to rely on market food purchases as a primary source of food, given early exhaustion in November of below-average household stocks. With the availability of bimodal harvests nearby, markets are well supplied in the Karamoja regional trade hub of Moroto, as well as Napak and other southern markets. In Kotido, Kaabong, and Nakapiripirit, prices are rising given tighter supply and increased demand. In December, sorghum traded 83 percent above the 2017 average in Kotido (Figure 3). In Kaabong and Nakapiripirit, prices climbed to 38 and 19 percent, respectively, above the 2017 average. However, prices remained near or below 2017 prices in Moroto and other markets. Compared to the December five-year average, prices in most markets were stable to favorable. In Kotido, sorghum prices were on par with the average, while prices were highest in Kaabong at 22 percent above average. In Moroto and Napak, prices were 35 percent below the five-year average. Most Karamoja households are financing market purchases through typical income-earning activities, including casual daily labor and firewood, charcoal, and goat sales. However, wages are declining in some reference markets. Driven by high food prices and declining wages, the terms of trade for sorghum have declined in Kotido relative to last year.

    After low regional exports in the third quarter of 2018, Uganda’s export volumes returned to normal levels in the fourth quarter. Uganda’s share of regional exports in East Africa for maize and sorghum grain rose from 44 and 65 percent in the third quarter to 57 and 88 percent, respectively, of total regional trade in the fourth quarter of 2018. In comparison with the five-year average, fourth-quarter maize exports to Kenya and South Sudan were 26 percent below and 167 percent above average, respectively, while sorghum exports to Kenya, South Sudan, and Rwanda were 44 below, 110 above, and 33 percent above average, respectively. Current decreased demand from Kenya is driven in part by national production and high imports of cheap maize from Tanzania and Uganda earlier in 2018. On the other hand, increased exports to South Sudan are due to the gradual expansion of staple food businesses in Juba in anticipation of implementation of the 2018 Peace Agreement and a significant reduction in conflict that has encouraged traders to operate. Although total export trade has returned to normal, Uganda still has surplus carryover stock of staples at the national level, which is sustaining below-average market prices and supporting increased food access for the poor.

    As a result of the above factors, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are being sustained in bi-modal areas. Most poor households have two to three months of stocks remaining from the second season’s December harvests and are earning average levels of income. Further, retail food prices continue to remain atypically low and favorable, enhancing food access. However, in Teso’s Katakwi, Bukedea, Amuria, and Kumi districts, an estimated five percent of poor households are experiencing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Depleted stocks, coupled with depressed income levels as a result of reduced crop sales, are moderately constraining food availability and access, though households are accessing wage labor during first season cultivation. Seasonal availability of wild and own-produced fruits in Teso are also available to some households. Consequently, these households are likely smoothing consumption by engaging in stressed consumption and livelihoods coping strategies, such as restricting the portion size of adults to increase intake for children and reducing essential non-food expenditures.

    In Karamoja, most households are facing low food availability and reduced food access. 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 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, households are consuming wild vegetables, fruits, and herbs, wild game and rodents, and local brew dregs, though the availability of wild foods has declined significantly earlier than usual given increased competition for these resources and the impact of high temperatures. An estimated 20 percent of the population, primarily concentrated in Kotido and Kaabong, are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), while 45 percent of the population is Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In response, the Office of the Prime Minister is working to distribute emergency food relief. 300 MT of food has arrived in Moroto and efforts are underway to dispatch it to the districts; information on the planned number of beneficiaries is currently unavailable.

    According to UNHCR, Uganda hosted a total of 1,205,913 refugees and asylum seekers at the end of January, of whom 27 percent are from the DRC and 66 percent are from South Sudan. Since September, the rate of arrival of new refugees has been declining, driven primarily by a decrease in political violence since the signing of South Sudan’s peace deal in September. The signs of stability have also encouraged some refugees to voluntarily return to South Sudan. On the other hand, armed conflict and its impact on socio-economic conditions in eastern DRC continues to drive displacement to Uganda.  For all refugees, the key sources of food and income remain humanitarian food assistance, minimal levels of own-produced food, petty trade, and remittances. In December 2018, WFP distributed food assistance to 82 percent of the population, of which 215,185 refugees received unconditional cash transfers and 764,688 refugees received in-kind food assistance. In January, food assistance continued at planned levels, maintaining Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. 


    Between February and September 2019, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key national-level assumptions:

    • The CPC/IRI probabilistic forecast indicates the presence of weak El Niño conditions and a neutral Indian Ocean Dipole through May. However, impacts are likely to be weaker compared to other El Niño events. Therefore, the March to June 2019 first rainy season in bimodal Uganda is forecast to be above average in terms of cumulative rainfall. The start of the August to November 2019 second rainy season is forecast to be average; however, there remains a wide range of possible outcomes due to the long-term nature of this forecast.
    • Based on the rainfall forecast, first season bimodal production is most likely to be average, though excess rainfall could lead to shortfalls in bean production. Green harvests are expected in May and main harvests in July. Cultivation and harvest agricultural labor opportunities at usual wage rates are expected to seasonally increase from March to May and from June to July.
    • According to the NOAA/CPC and ICPAC forecasts, the April to September 2019 main rainy season in unimodal Karamoja is most likely to be average. However, changing El Niño to ENSO neutral conditions could result in localized above-average or below-average amounts. Based on an average rainfall forecast, unimodal production and associated labor demand is likely to be slightly below-average, given poor availability of seeds and access to inputs after failed 2018 production.
    • Fall Army Worm incidence during the 2019 first season is expected at levels comparable to the 2018 first season. However, the limited tendency of FAW to spread amidst above-average rainfall, coupled with some prevention efforts by the local government and farmers, could result in a significant decrease in levels of infestation and damage.
    • Based on current vegetation conditions and the rainfall forecast, pasture and water resources in western and southern cattle corridor districts are expected to remain average to above average through September. In Karamoja and areas surrounding Lake Kyoga, rangeland resources are likely to deteriorate until the start of the unimodal rainy season in April. As a result, livestock body conditions and milk productivity are expected to remain near-average in most bimodal areas through September, but will deteriorate in Karamoja and Lake Kyoga’s surrounding areas (Luwero, Nakasongola, Lango and Teso sub-regions) until seasonal improvements occur in April.  
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections in Mubende and Soroti key reference markets, maize and sorghum retail prices in bimodal Uganda will likely follow seasonal trends but remain below both the 2017 and five-year averages through September. In other retail markets, seasonal price increases from March to May are likely to be near-average.
    • Domestic trade from surplus to deficit producing areas is likely to be normal. Due to slightly above-average 2018 long-rains production in the north-rift maize belt of Kenya, cereal exports to Kenya are anticipated to continue but at a declining rate. Maize exports to South Sudan are expected to remain below pre-crisis levels but at slightly higher export volumes than 2018, driven by improved market and trade conditions after the peace agreement; however, sorghum exports are likely to decline due to increasing domestic demand for alcohol production.
    • According to the 2019/2020 Uganda Refugee Response Plan (RRP), more than 155,000 new refugee and asylees are expected to arrive in Uganda in 2019, including an estimated 50,000 South Sudanese, 100,000 Congolese, and 5,000 Burundians. However, the implementation of the South Sudanese peace agreement could encourage some refugees to voluntarily return home from Uganda.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In most bimodal areas, household stocks are likely to be sufficient through April or May. As stocks become depleted, poor households will turn to market food purchases, utilizing income earned from crop sales, casual labor, and agricultural labor during the February to May first season cultivation period and benefitting from favorable terms of trade. However, poor households in cattle corridor districts will have less livestock milk available for sale and consumption until the end of the dry season in March, while continued quarantine enforcement will reduce livestock sales, which may constrain their access to food. Expected near-average maize and sorghum prices in most bimodal markets will maintain normal purchasing power as household food stocks get depleted and market dependence significantly increases until May. Beginning May/June, household stocks are expected to be replenished by average first season harvests and to last through August. Residual Fall Army Worm prevalence in localized areas is expected to cause some maize losses, but not significantly enough to impact total production. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are likely to be sustained through September, as most poor households are expected to have sufficient food and income sources to meet their minimum food needs.

    In parts of Teso and of southwestern Uganda, which experienced moderate second season harvest shortfalls of cereals, roots, tubers and pulses, poor households that still have food stocks are likely to smooth consumption with market purchases and wild foods. Most will deplete their stocks by March, except for some households who have already depleted their stocks. Crop sales are expected to be below-average, with the bulk of own production reserved for consumption and seed for first season planting. However, agricultural labor opportunities will be available beginning in February and households will also earn income from the sale of poultry and small ruminants. In Soroti, a basin market for Teso, below-average sorghum grain retail prices are expected to enhance purchasing power, and poor households will benefit from favorable labor-to-cereals terms of trade. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected to be maintained through May, though about five percent of households in parts of Teso and Kigezi will likely be unable to afford non-food expenditures and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). From June to September, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) will be sustained with the availability of average first season harvests, but some households in flood- and landslide-prone areas may be Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    In Karamoja, food security is expected to continue to deteriorate through June. An increasing number of poor households will not be able to earn sufficient income from normal livelihood options such as firewood/charcoal collection and brewing to meet their minimum food needs. Agricultural labor opportunities are expected to seasonally increase in February/March, but income from this source will only partly meet households’ food needs due to rising food prices as the current lean season progresses. Further, labor demand is likely to be below average as households will have limited ability to purchase seeds, impacting area planted and therefore expected 2019 production. A steady decline in food security is expected through March, and food gaps will widen as more households become unable to meet their minimum food requirements through the peak of the lean season in June. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to be sustained through June, with households experiencing food gaps primarily concentrated in Kotido and Kaabong. However, food availability and access will begin to improve with expected green consumption starting in July and dry harvests in August. Consequently, households are anticipated to recover to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in Moroto, Kotido, Kaabong and Napak and to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in Abim and Amudat.

    According to WFP, humanitarian food assistance for refugees is planned through September, with full funding guaranteed through March and partial funding expected through May. Consequently, rations are likely to remain sufficient to sustain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes through May. At this time, WFP does not anticipate ration cuts in the June to September period, but there is uncertainty given the risk of funding shortfalls. Refugees who are allocated a small plot of arable land by March are expected to harvest first season production in July to supplement humanitarian food assistance, but this would not be sufficient to compensate for a significant reduction in rations. Continued food assistance coupled with July harvests is expected to continue to sustain Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes 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

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS / FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Source: Farmgain and WFP data

    Figure 4

    Source: Farmgain and WFP data

    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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