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Extended lean season likely in Karamoja, though Minimal (IPC Phase 1) expected in post-harvest period

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • June 2018 - January 2019
Extended lean season likely in Karamoja, though Minimal (IPC Phase 1) expected in post-harvest period

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Rainfall was well above average during the March to May first season in bimodal areas and the first half of the April to September main season in Karamoja. In many areas, this has been the wettest March to May period on record. Heavy rainfall led to localized floods, landslides, and water logging, which in turn caused an unconfirmed number of deaths, displaced households, and damaged infrastructure and crops. These incidents are highly concerning, though not widespread. In general, the heavy and evenly-distributed rainfall has been beneficial for crop development, and above-average first season production is expected.

    • In bimodal areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected throughout the projection period as poor households meet their basic food and non-food needs with above-average harvests and market purchases at below-average prices. In Karamoja, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely through July, an extended lean season. However, improvement to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) is expected after August when households harvest around four months of cereal and can purchase food at below-average prices.

    • Due to continued conflict in South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, additional refugees from both countries are expected during the projection period. Ongoing humanitarian assistance remains the key food source among refugees and it is expected that most are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), but would be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of assistance.


    Current Situation

    June marks the start of the first season harvest across bimodal areas of Uganda, which was preceded by the March to May rainy season. In Karamoja, the April to September main rainy season is ongoing, and the lean season is ongoing in June. In both areas rainfall started earlier than normal and totals have been well above average: between 170 and 210 percent of normal in Karamoja and the far southwest, and between 110 and 150 percent of normal in most other regions of the country (Figure 1). In many areas of Uganda, this has been the wettest March to May period on record. 

    Heavy rainfall has led to localized floods, landslides, and water logging, which have caused an unconfirmed number of deaths, displaced households, damaged infrastructure and crops, and caused a higher incidence of water-borne illness. In most areas, though, the above-average and evenly-distributed rainfall has been beneficial, supporting normal crop development and replenishing pasture and water resources.  

    In Karamoja, crops are developing normally in higher-elevation areas, though in lowland areas persistent flooding and subsequent waterlogging has caused crop damage, primarily to sorghum crops, and prevented the planting of some fields. In bimodal areas, the first season harvest is ongoing for pulses and tubers. Staple cereals, including maize, sorghum, and millet, are still in the grain-filling and early maturation stages, though the green harvest of these crops started in June. With the exception of bush beans in Kigezi, which were reportedly destroyed by heavy rainfall, crop development has been normal. Country-wide estimates are not yet available, though based on key informant reports and FEWS NET’s field assessments it is expected ongoing first season production is above average.

    The proceeding (November/December 2017) second season harvest was also above average and resulted in a decline in staple food prices. Low prices drove high volumes of exports to neighboring countries, and Uganda exported 87,283 metric tons (MT) of maize to Kenya in the first quarter of 2018, 234 percent higher than the same quarter of 2017 and 32 percent above the four-year first-quarter average. Conversely, Ugandan maize exports to South Sudan in the first quarter of 2018 declined to 7,123 MT, 24 percent below the same quarter in 2017 and 7 percent below the four-year average. This is attributed to continued insecurity-related trade disruptions and reduced effective demand among South Sudanese.

    The incidence of Fall Army Worm (FAW) across Uganda has been minimal, and it is expected that the damage to maize crops due to FAW will be significantly lower during the first season of 2018 than that reported at the same time last year. This is based on field observations made during FEWS NET’s rapid field assessments and key informant interviews. Also according to these sources, the highest incidence of FAW is likely in eastern Uganda.

    Above-average rainfall has also led to above-average vegetation conditions and water availability (Figure 2). FEWS NET’s rapid assessments also indicate livestock body conditions are better than normal across the country and milk production is higher than usual and higher than last year. In addition, key informants report livestock conception rates are high. The above average rainfall has also supported normal growth of wild vegetables, a typical food source for poor households.  

    Staple food supply at the household level and on markets is seasonally increasing with the first season harvest and as traders continue to release food stocks from previous seasons. Overall, supplies are above normal and staple food prices are around 30 to 50 percent below last year’s (Figure 3) and roughly 5 to 15 percent below the five-year average (Figure 4). Prices are also low across markets in Karamoja, where the retail price of sorghum is roughly 60 percent below last year and 30 percent lower than the five-year average. The exception to this is Arua in the northwest, where the retail price of sorghum in May was 11 percent above the same time last year and 34 percent above the five-year average, attributed to high demand brought about by the high number of refugees also purchasing from this market.

    Income-earning opportunities in bimodal areas, including agricultural and casual labor, are available at normal levels, and price data suggest wage rates are also average. Given this and below-average staple food prices, terms of trade (ToT) are favorable. In Karamoja, agricultural labor opportunities are atypically low in June as heavy rainfall has prevented planting and weeding from occurring at normal levels. Very poor households sell firewood and charcoal as another key source of income, and the prices of these resources are above average. With this and below-average food prices, charcoal/firewood-to-cereal ToT are above normal. However, given consistent degradation of natural resources and persistent heavy rainfall this year, it is expected that many poor households are selling fewer bundles/bags of firewood/charcoal than in previous years.

    In bimodal areas, food availability and access are seasonally increasing and remain average or above average. Poor households are currently consuming harvests of pulses, tubers, and some cereals, and are able to purchase higher-than-normal levels of food given above-average purchasing power. Most are consuming adequate quantities of food and have sufficient income to meet their basic non-food needs and face None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity. 

    In Karamoja, the lean season is ongoing in June and very poor households are heavily reliant on market purchases to access food. Relative to a typical lean season in Karamoja, very poor households have greater food access, though access is still insufficient to meet all basic needs. Most are consuming wild vegetables, some milk earned in-kind, and cereals purchased from markets. Although ToT are favorable, income from the sale of firewood/charcoal and agricultural labor is likely below-average. It is expected most very poor households have sufficient income to meet their basic food needs, but are Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and relying on less expensive and less preferred foods and limiting expenses on essential non-food items.

    Uganda currently hosts nearly 1,500,000 refugees and asylum seekers, the majority of whom are from South Sudan and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Other refugees are from Burundi, Somalia, and other countries within the region. Among the estimated 285,000 DRC refugees, between 70,000 and 90,000 have arrived since mid-December 2017, when renewed armed conflict in North Kivu and Ituri provinces forced many to flee the country. Over a similar time period, roughly 24,000 South Sudanese refugees have arrived, driven by conflict and food insecurity. Although the influx of refugees from South Sudan continues, the number of people entering Uganda in early 2018 is significantly lower than the number who arrived in early 2017. According to the May UNICEF Situation Report, approximately 245 people arrived from South Sudan each day in May, while an UNHCR Inter-Agency Operational Update in early June observed that the weekly DRC refugee arrival rate is around 1,300 refugees. For both DRC and South Sudanese refugees, key sources of food and income include regular humanitarian food assistance, small levels of crop production, and petty trade; remittances provide an additional source of income among some South Sudanese. As humanitarian assistance remains a significant source of food, most refugee households are likely able to meet their basic food needs with this source and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), although many are unable to afford essential non-food expenditures.


    Between June 2018 and January 2019, projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • Above-average June/July production is likely for most crops, including cereals, legumes, cassava, sweet potatoes, and bananas. However, localized areas will harvest below-average quantities due to flood-related crop damage, including Karamoja, Mt. Elgon slopes, Teso, and Kigezi. Some maize crop losses are also expected due to FAW in localized areas, including Luwero, Wakiso, and parts of Eastern Uganda; however, the impact is expected to be lower than the two preceding seasons based on the low incidence of the pest that was witnessed during FEWS NET’s field assessments and reports that the heavy rainfall suppressed its spread.
    • Rainfall between July and September, the latter months of the main rainy season in Karamoja, is forecast to be above average. Based on this forecast and rainfall performance to date, production is expected to be average in higher elevation areas. However, due to waterlogging, harvests are likely to be 30 percent below average in lowland areas, where approximately half of Karamoja’s crops are planted. Given that heavy rainfall also delayed planting in some areas, and led to re-plating in others, harvesting is expected to start a month late, in August. Agricultural labor opportunities are likely to be slightly below average throughout the projection period, as better-off households who typically hire labor are among those who planted in lowland areas.
    • According to the International Research Institute for Climate and Society and Climate Prediction Center (IRI/CPC) consensus forecast, El Niño conditions are likely during the Northern Hemisphere winter. Given that El Niño events have a less predictable impact over inland East Africa countries and impacts are not expected until late 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and United States Geological Survey (USGS) forecast that the August to November second rainy season in bimodal Uganda will be average. The harvest of second season crops is expected to be average and start on time in November/December.
    • Agricultural activities for the second season in bimodal areas are expected to be undertaken from August through December at typical levels, supporting normal labor opportunities. Based on current and historical wage rate data, daily income from labor is also expected to be typical throughout the projection period.
    • Current average to above-average pasture and water availability is expected to continue throughout the projection period, supported by forecast average or above-average rainy seasons throughout 2018. As a result, normal livestock body conditions and above-average milk production are likely. Above average grazing resources will also lead to normal or above normal livestock conception and birth rates.
    • Regional maize exports from Uganda to Kenya between July and December 2018 are expected to be higher than normal, based on an agreement between the Grain Council of Uganda and the Kenya Cereal Millers Association (CMA) for 600,000 MT to be exported to Kenya over this time period. However, an export levy of USD 0.4/kg on maize effective July 1 may dampen exports to East Africa overall. Exports to South Sudan will likely remain low, similar to early 2018, as a result of persistent security-related disruptions to trade flows and low purchasing power among many South Sudanese.
    • Although heavy March to May rainfall damaged infrastructure in some areas, impacts on trade flows were minimal and short-lived; no significant disruptions are expected to persist during the projection period due to these damages. The movement of staple commodities and market functioning within Uganda is expected to behave normally. Atypically high fuel prices following the weakening of the Uganda Shilling against the U.S. Dollar and Government’s increased fuel tax effective in July are likely to raise transportation costs and subsequently food prices, though these increases are not expected to have a large impact.
    • Based on FEWS NET’s integrated price projections, staple food prices across Uganda are expected to remain stable through September, and below both last years and the five-year average. This will be driven by expected above-average first season production, and ample market supply resulting from two consecutive seasons of normal or above-normal production. Prices are expected to seasonally increase in October and decrease in November/December, though remain below average during these months as well.  
    • Due to likely continued conflict in South Sudan and the DRC, newly displaced persons from both countries are expected to seek refuge in Uganda during the projection period, increasing the total number of refugees hosted by Uganda. However, the rate of daily arrival of South Sudanese refuges will likely be lower in the latter half of 2018 compared to the same time period in 2017. Conversely, the daily rate of arrival of DRC refugees will likely remain similar to current levels owing to the anticipated tensions brought about by the upcoming general elections.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcome

    In bimodal areas, poor households are expected to harvest roughly five months of cereal in June/July, and will be able to rely primarily on this production to meet their basic food needs through November/December, during which time another season of average production is expected. Some very poor households are likely to exhaust their stocks by September/October, after which they will meet their basic food needs through market purchases. To fund these purchases, poor households will earn typical levels of income through agricultural and casual labor. Given that food prices are expected to remain below average throughout the projection period, purchasing power will be higher than normal, supporting household food access.  Furthermore, poor households are expected to have normal or above normal access to livestock milk for sale and consumption. With these food and income sources, most poor households will maintain at least minimally adequate consumption and continue to engage in normal livelihood activities. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through at least January 2019.  

    In Karamoja, very poor households will continue relying primarily on markets to access food through July. Above-average labor-to-sorghum and charcoal/firewood-to-sorghum ToT will support food purchases, though total food purchased is not expected to be higher than normal given lower availability of agricultural labor and firewood. Harvests are expected later than normal, extending the lean season through July; many very poor households will rely on less preferred foods, limit meal sizes, and limit spending on non-food items and be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In August, when very poor households begin accessing green harvests, the quantity of food consumed will improve. It is expected most will harvest sufficient crops to last approximately 4-5 months. This food source, alongside continued market purchases at below-average prices, wild foods, and milk, will support minimally adequate consumption and most very poor households will experience None (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity between August and January. However, some very poor households, specifically those which experienced significant crop losses, will rely heavily on markets throughout the projection period and remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Although WFP’s April country brief anticipated an imminent shortfall in funding, more recent communications with WFP indicated that refugees from South Sudan and DRC will continue accessing planned and funded humanitarian food assistance through July 2018. Most refugees who arrived by March 2018 are also likely to access harvests in June/July and Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected during this time. Their production will only last 1-2 months, though, and income from other sources including labor and petty trade, and a second round of harvests in November/December, will be insufficient to meet all basic food and non-food needs between August and January. In the absence of assistance, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would be expected, though some extremely vulnerable households could face more extreme outcomes.

    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 Map depicts current food security outcomes. In June all areas are Minimal (IPC Phase 1) except Karamoja, which is Stressed (I

    Figure 1

    Source: FEWS NET

    In bimodal, first season planting Mar to mid-April, harvest Jun and July. Second planting Aug and Sep, harvest Nov and Dec. T

    Figure 2

    Source: FEWS NET

    The map depicts rainfall over Uganda from March to May. In the northeast (Karamoja) and the far southeast, rainfall was far a

    Figure 3

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    This map depicts the vegetation conditions in Uganda, which save for a few areas throughout the country, are above average.

    Figure 4

    Source: FEWS NET/USGS

    The chart shows the price of maize and sorghum in eight markets compared to the same time last year. For both cereals, prices

    Figure 5

    Source: Farmgain/WFP

    Chart shows price of maize, beans and sorghum in eight markets compared to five-year average. Prices are around 10 percent be

    Figure 6

    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.

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