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Below-average harvests likely to follow extended lean season in Karamoja

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • July - December 2015
Below-average harvests likely to follow extended lean season in Karamoja

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In Karamoja, green harvests will arrive two to three months later than usual, prolonging the lean season and the associated low quantity and quality diet until September. Intermittent dry spells in May and July slowed crop development. Combined crop production from the first planting in April and second planting in late June may reach 60 to 70 percent of average during the dry harvests from October to December.

    • Poor households in Karamoja will increasing need to use coping strategy to acquire food due to the delayed green harvest. Households will continue to have some purchasing power, as agricultural labor wages and livestock prices remain stable. Income from firewood, charcoal, grass, and pole sales though may decline moderately through September. Households will likely remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) through December.

    • Staple food prices were stable or declined during the ongoing June to August first season harvest, increasing food availability and accessibility across the country. Bimodal areas will restock food supplies to usual levels in both households and markets, and unimodal areas will have increased purchasing power due to lower prices. Seasonal staple food price declines are expected to continue through August. The poor have enough ongoing income, some of it from agricultural labor for the harvest, to support continued food access.

    Current Situation
    • Bimodal areas have been drier than average. Rainfall in July has been up to 25 millimeters (mm) below average, which is 50 percent or more below average in the central and southern areas. In the Northwest, rainfall has been around 80 percent of average
    • Rainfall in northeastern Uganda in July has been 25 percent of average.
    • Temperatures have been average to slightly above average by up to three degrees Celsius in most bimodal areas, since mid-July. In Karamoja, temperatures have been above average since the beginning of July, and increased in the middle of the month to three to seven degrees Celsius above average.
    • First season harvesting and post-harvest activities are ongoing. The harvest started two to three weeks late in June will likely end in late July/August. Farmers are already doing post-harvest processing in the central and southern parts of the country while most northern areas are still harvesting. Some farmers are preparing their land for the second season.
    • Livestock body conditions are good. Although slightly below-average rains fell in July, typical pasture conditions have been maintained by lower than average land surface temperatures through early July in most bimodal areas. As a result, livestock body conditions are good in the cattle corridor, but water availability is slightly below average due to an increase in temperature mid-July and less rainfall than average.
    • Food access and availability have increased since June. First season harvests have lowered staple food prices since May. Food access has significantly increased for poor households since the start of the harvest.
    • Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity continues in bimodal areas. Dry harvesting is ongoing in the central and southern regions, and the northern areas are doing both green and dry harvests. Harvesting will likely end in August. Household and market food stocks are expected to be replenished normally. Regional demand for staple foods is normal. Poor households’ have typical food access with incomes from supplying day labor, crops sales, post-harvest processing, fishing, and petty trade.
    • The delayed green harvest in Karamoja is keeping households Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Typically in Karamoja at this time, green harvest are available, ending the lean season. The crops planted in April though are not mature enough to consume green yet, and late-planted crops in June have not developed on time due to the erratic distribution of the rains. Thus, poor households do not currently have any food from their own production. Households are creating one meal a day, the typical pattern during the lean season. Households are using coping strategies, including sales of firewood, charcoal, grass, and poles for construction, seeking additional agricultural labor, and brewing. Many households are also consuming the spent grain from the brewing process. 

    Between July and December 2015, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions at the national level:

    • The October to December 2015 rains for the second season in bimodal areas are likely to be average to above average in terms of cumulative rainfall with a near normal start.
    • Seasonal harvests from the first agricultural season from June to August in bimodal areas are expected to be average and will provide households with the normal two to three months of food stocks.
    • First season production of maize, beans, and other staples at the national level is expected to meet the regional export demand to neighboring countries, primarily Rwanda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and Kenya. Local supply will likely remain adequate for domestic use.
    • With increased supplies for most staple foods in July/August, prices are expected to seasonally decline and stay low through October, when they will increase before the arrival of second season crops in November/December.
    • Poor households in bimodal areas are likely to earn at least average incomes through typical livelihoods activities, including crop sales, casual agricultural labor, petty trade, and fishing, to enable them access both food and non-food needs.
    • Pasture and water resources in pastoral areas will likely be slightly below average from August to September before the establishment of steady second season rains in September/October. Average pasture and water availability is expected from October through December in both unimodal and bimodal areas. Livestock body conditions are likely to be good, and milk production is likely to be near average from August to December.
    • In Karamoja, green harvests are expected to begin two to three months later than normal in September/October and will likely extend the lean season through September/October.
    • Interannual assistance to extremely vulnerable households and conditional cash and food transfers through the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF II) will continue, although with reduced frequency. Participants in food-for-work (FFW) programs and young mothers will receive cash or the equivalent of six kilograms of sorghum or maize per month for one additional cycle in December. Funding this year for the extremely vulnerable household will allow only three of the usual five cycles of distributions. Timing for the distributions was adjusted to occur during the period of highest food needs in December.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The ongoing, near average harvest in bimodal areas is expected to replenish household and market stocks. Food stocks will meet household food needs through October/November. Households will likely have adequate incomes from labor, crop sales, and other sources of income. Staple food prices will be at their post-harvest lows through October, enabling food access for the poor. Good livestock body conditions and average milk production are anticipated from October through December. Food availability and access are expected to be stable, resulting in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) in a majority of bimodal areas through December.

    Delayed harvests in Karamoja will keep poor households Stressed (IPC Phase 2). At least one in five households have intensified their use of coping strategies like sales of firewood and charcoal due to the additional two months delay in the green harvests. Typically, household level food production is a major food source from July through March of the following year, due to consumption smoothing. However, household will likely continue to purchase food through August because of delayed crop development. Abnormal dry spells in August/September, as have occurred earlier in the season in May and July, may lead to harvests that are only 60 to 70 percent of average due to poor grain filling and abnormally low growth. Terms of trade for charcoal, firewood, and livestock to sorghum, maize, and beans are expected to be near average as the price of these staple foods seasonally declines, following the first season -harvest in the bimodal districts surrounding Karamoja. 




    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Projected food security outcomes, July to September 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Projected food security outcomes, October to December 2015

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 1. Rainfall anomalies in millimeters(mm), July 1-10, 2015

    Source: US. Geological Survey (USGS)/FEWS NET

    Figure 1


    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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