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Inflation, poor production to drive sustained food insecurity in Karamoja, Teso, and the greater north

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • June 2022
Inflation, poor production to drive sustained food insecurity in Karamoja, Teso, and the greater north

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • Due to below-average rainfall through the end of June, first season bimodal harvests in most of the greater northern Uganda and the Teso subregion are delayed and are expected to be below average. As a result, most poor rural households have below-normal seasonal income from crop sales and limited availability of food stocks. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely widespread in the greater north and the Teso subregion and are expected to prevail through the start of second season harvest in November/December. Worst-affected households are experiencing a third consecutive below-average production season and, given limited remaining coping capacity, are likely facing consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes.

    • The slow pace of economic recovery following impacts of COVID-19 restrictions last year is limiting access to typical income from daily wage opportunities and other sources. Additionally, rising prices of food and non-food items and general high inflation are constraining household purchasing power. As such, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely among the poorest households in both rural and urban areas.

    • In Karamoja, insecurity is further constraining typical livelihood activities and food prices are significantly above average. Although the harvest in August/September will temporarily improve food security, crop production will likely be below normal and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to prevail through at least January due to significantly below-average purchasing power. Some of the poorest households are likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Poor food consumption has likely contributed to increased levels of acute malnutrition, particularly in Moroto and Kaabong districts.

    • Given limited livelihood opportunities, below-average income-earning, below-normal first season crop production, and above-average prices, many refugees are expected to continue facing Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the projection period. Humanitarian food assistance rations equivalent to an estimated 40, 60, or 70 percent of households’ total energy needs are likely preventing more widespread consumption gaps despite limited funding and reduced rations in some settlements, with Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes likely at the area level.


    Current Situation

    The establishment and progression of the first bimodal rainy season (March to June) was poor, with the season likely to be among the driest on record since 1981 in large parts of the northern region. The full start of the season was delayed by around 30 to 40 days or more across the country. This was followed by poor temporal and spatial distribution throughout the season, characterized by light to moderate rains interspaced by atypical dry spells. Although some of these areas received favorable rainfall in April/May, the timing was too late and rainfall amounts were not sufficient to support full crop recovery. Overall, cumulative rainfall from March to May reached only 55-85 percent of average across most of northern Uganda and 85-95 percent of average across most of eastern Uganda, according to data from CHIRPS. In the worst affected northern areas, cumulative deficits exceeded 100 mm (Figure 1). More recently, in June, rainfall was below average across almost the entire country. Above-average temperatures since mid-May have further stressed crop development.

    In Karamoja, the onset of the unimodal rainy season (April to September) was also delayed by around 20 to 30 days. Southern Karamoja received rains earliest, in mid-April, while the onset was further delayed in northern Karamoja. According to data from CHIRPS, cumulative rainfall as of June 25 was only 75-90 percent of the average.

    In northern and much of eastern Uganda, the poor start of the season led to delays in planting or stunted or failed early-planted crops, requiring widespread replanting in the north. Consequently, crop development was delayed by approximately a month. Given significantly reduced rainfall amounts, late-planted crops in eastern and northern areas were suffering moisture stress in advanced flowering to grain-filling stages as of late June. Additionally, in localized parts of eastern and western Uganda, irregular rainfall and localized flooding and landslides earlier in the season led to localized crop damage. On the other hand, crop damage due to the African Armyworm was overall minimal given early chemical control and rainfall that killed the worms.

    Overall, given delays in the season, the start of the harvest is expected to be delayed to June/July. As of late June, dry harvesting and preparations for threshing are ongoing across much of the southwest and parts of the central and eastern regions where rainfall performance was not as poor. Some dry beans and green maize are already on the market. Meanwhile, the harvest is yet to start in the greater north and the Teso subregion.

    While satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data suggest that vegetation conditions have  been improving since March (Figure 2), vegetation has generally been below average across widespread parts of the country throughout most of the season given poor rainfall performance and above-average temperatures. As such, availability of seasonal cultivated and wild vegetables—important sources of food for poor households during the April to June period—is expected to have been below average in recent months. By late June, field observations also pointed to worse pasture conditions than suggested by the NDVI as well as to rapidly drying/reducing water resources for livestock production, exacerbated by atypically high land surface temperatures. Below-average pasture conditions have reportedly led to reduced seasonal milk production levels and slight deterioration of livestock body conditions across widespread areas. Additionally, in May, an outbreak of anthrax prompted a livestock quarantine (prohibiting livestock movement) and the closure of livestock markets in the eastern districts of Bududa, Manafwa, and Namisindwa. Livestock markets were closed and the sale of animal products was prohibited as vaccination efforts progressed, likely resulting in income losses for households in these areas.

    In June, there was a slight increase in incidence of COVID-19, though the positivity rate averaged below 5 percent. The government has indicated that, apart from observing the existing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), it would not re-impose any restrictions on the movement of people or on any sector of economic activity. Generally, overall low COVID-19 incidence is attributed to improved coverage of vaccination against the virus.

    According to the Bank of Uganda monetary policy statement for June 2022, economic growth is now projected at 4.0-5.0 percent in 2022, down from the earlier April projection of 5.5-6.0 percent growth. This downward revision follows the adverse global economic impacts of the Ukraine-Russia war on the national economy, including due to disruptions to supply chains and higher global prices of food, fuel, and fertilizer, which have resulted in higher domestic inflation and tighter monetary conditions. The annual headline inflation rate as measured by the Consumer Price Index for Uganda increased to 6.8 percent in June 2022, up from 6.3 and 2.7 percent registered in May 2022 and January 2022, respectively. In addition to rising prices, the slow pace of economic recovery following the full lifting of COVID-19 restrictions in January 2022 is constraining activities that typically support households’ access to income. High fuel prices are also straining livelihood activities dependent on fuel, such as in the transportation sector.

    Prices of staple food commodities have generally followed typical seasonal patterns but have been elevated since late 2021 due to reduced domestic supply, rising domestic demand due to the re-opening of the economy, above-average regional demand, and high global prices of fuel, cooking oil, wheat, and other commodities. Below-normal crop production in both bimodal seasons of 2021 resulted in a below-average national surplus of cereals and legumes and, though carryover stocks have lasted into 2022, supplies are less than normal. At the same time, since January 2022 when the economy was fully reopened, typical domestic demand for staple food commodities has been restored, exerting pressure on tightening supplies and contributing to inflation. Additionally, regional exports of maize, sorghum, rice, and dry beans were above average in the first quarter of 2022, driven by above-average prices in deficit countries (including Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, and South Sudan), which attracted supplies from Tanzania and Uganda (the main surplus producing countries in the region). Meanwhile, high domestic fuel prices since December have also contributed to rising prices of basic food and non-food items by increasing transportation costs. Rising staple food prices are now being further exacerbated by delayed first season harvests, as reduced supply is putting additional upward pressure on food prices, particularly given the high costs of transportation.

    In May, prices of preferred staple food commodities generally continued to rise across bimodal reference markets. This is being driven by declining market supply and rising demand as households exhaust stocks, compounded by sustained above-average regional demand and anticipated below-average first season production. From April to May, retail prices of maize grain increased by 6-14 percent in Arua, Masindi, and Mubende markets, though were relatively stable in other markets (Figure 3). Prices of beans, cassava, and sorghum also increased in many markets. Staple prices in May were generally above average and significantly above prices recorded at the same time last year across bimodal reference markets with the exception of beans (Figures 4 & 5), likely at least in part due to significant supplies of beans from Tanzania and bimodal areas. Above-average prices are reducing poor households’ purchasing power, constraining food access at a time when household food stocks are low or exhausted, harvests are delayed, and households are heavily dependent on market purchases. 

    At the same time, income-earning is likely below average for many rural households. Typical incomes earned from agricultural and livestock-related labor activities in the first agricultural season were likely below average in many areas due to the below-average rainfall and poor cropping season. Additionally, many poor households in bimodal Uganda typically have access to income from crop sales in June alongside the first season harvests. However, households in eastern and the greater northern Uganda have not yet accessed this income due to delayed harvests.

    In most bimodal areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected at the area level. However, given atypically high dependence on market purchases at a time when prices are significantly above average and access to income is below normal, most poor households in northern Uganda, the Teso sub-region, and several districts in eastern Uganda that were most affected by poor rainfall performance are likely struggling to meet their needs. Many likely have only minimally adequate food consumption and are unable to afford essential non-food expenditures, with Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes expected at the area level. However, some worst-affected very poor households in areas of the greater northern Uganda and the Teso sub-region that are experiencing a third consecutive below-average production season are likely reducing the size and frequency of meals given limited remaining coping capacity. These households are expected to be facing consumption gaps indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. This analysis is supported by observations during a late May field assessment conducted by FEWS NET across most bimodal areas in the greater north, east, and parts of central Uganda, which found that worst-affected households in northern Uganda were eating only one meal a day and were reducing both quality and quantity of food consumed. It is expected that the prevalence of acute malnutrition has risen to higher-than-normal levels in the Teso sub-region and greater northern areas.

    In Karamoja, many poor households are likely facing food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes at the peak of the lean season, with worst-affected households likely in Emergency (IPC Phase 4). Food affordability continues to be the limiting factor for food security due to low access to income-generating activities and elevated food prices since early 2022. Insecurity is constraining normal livelihood and income-earning activities and has resulted into the loss of livestock assets, disruption of marketing activities, and loss of human life and property. For many poor households, consumption gaps are increasing as the lean season progresses, expected to be contributing to high levels of acute malnutrition. According to a food security and nutrition assessment (FSNA) conducted by WFP/UNICEF/GOU in March 2022, the prevalence of acute malnutrition has increased in many districts of Karamoja, with the highest levels (“Critical” levels according to IPC thresholds) recorded in Moroto and Kaabong. In-depth analysis on Karamoja is provided in the “area of concern” section of the report below.

    According to UNHCR/OPM, Uganda hosted 1,529,272 refugees and asylum seekers as of June 30, 2022.  At the area level, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected across refugee settlements in the presence of humanitarian assistance, with many worst-affected households (though less than 20 percent of the overall population) likely to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). In-depth analysis on refugees in settlements is provided in the “area of concern” section of the report below.


    The most likely scenario for the June 2022 to January 2023 projection period is based on the following key national-level assumptions:

    • At the national level, first season bimodal production of staple cereals is expected to be below average and production of legumes is expected to be significantly below average. Crop production is expected to be poor and significantly below average across much of the greater north and parts of the eastern region. Elsewhere, production is likely to be average to below average, with notable localized variability expected based on a late May field assessment.
    • Despite relatively higher farmgate prices, income from crop sales is generally expected to be below average for households who harvest below-average amounts, with households in northern and eastern Uganda worst affected.
    • In Karamoja, despite the delayed and below-average start to the April to September rainy season, cumulative rainfall is likely to be near average according to international forecasts. However, due to below-average planted area and recurring moisture stress, crop production is expected to be below average, with the start of harvesting delayed until August/September. Labor demand for typical weeding and harvesting will likely be below average and delayed.
    • According to international forecasts, cumulative rainfall during the second bimodal rainy season from September to November 2022 is most likely to be below average, though uncertainty exists given the long-term nature of the forecast. Given this, second season crop production is most likely to be slightly below normal. Given historical patterns at these production levels, it is likely that agricultural labor demand and wage rates will be near normal.
    • Incidence of the African Armyworm is likely to remain low given the presence of chemical control. Overall, crop damage due to the African Armyworm is likely to be minimal. However, there is still a risk of resurgence while crops remain in the fields due to reduced rainfall since June.
    • Domestic fuel prices are generally expected to increase throughout the projection period and, given expectations for high global fuel prices and continued uncertainty in the global market, remain higher than last year and five-year average levels. High transportation costs will likely put additional upward pressure on prices of food and non-food commodities.
    • According to the Bank of Uganda monetary policy statement for June 2022, economic growth is projected at 4.0-5.0 percent in 2022, less than earlier projected. Given expectations for slow economic recovery, income-earning opportunities will likely remain below average in general, constraining household purchasing power.
    • Given the volatile conflict situation in the North Kivu and Ituri provinces of the DRC and South Sudan, continued high rates of population displacement into Uganda are likely. WFP estimated in April 2022 that, should the recent rate of arrivals continue, 100,000 people could arrive from April to December 2022.
    • Pasture and water resources in the central cattle corridor districts will likely decline earlier than usual following below-average rainfall in June/July and will likely remain below average through October before the second rainy season begins to drive regeneration. Consequently, average to below-average livestock body conditions and productivity are likely through around October, with improvement to near-normal conditions expected thereafter.
    • Staple food prices are likely to decline when supplies are boosted by the bimodal harvests in June/July but are likely to remain above average during the post-harvest period and increase again through the arrival of second season harvests in November/December. Staple food prices will likely remain above prices recorded last year and five-year average levels throughout the projection period given expectations for below-average first-season cereal and legume production, high domestic demand, and above-average regional demand due to drought. Price increases will likely be highest in the greater northern Uganda due to expected production shortfalls.
    • Below-average production and rising prices are likely to moderate exports of maize, beans, sorghum, millet, and other staple goods to Kenya given competitive imports from Tanzania through September. By October to January, maize exports to Kenya are expected to increase given reduced supplies from Tanzania and relatively lower prices in Uganda. Exports to South Sudan are expected to continue increasing through September 2022 due attractive marketing margins despite insecurity-related risks and costs along the transit route.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, below-normal first season harvests in June/July are expected to replenish household and market stocks, but not to typical levels. Nonetheless, improved food availability from own crop production and anticipated slight market price reductions will likely support temporary improvement in many rural households’ ability to meet their needs in the post-harvest period. However, income from crop sales will likely be below average for many households due to reduced production—particularly in the greater north and east—and income from other sources will likely be below average throughout the projection period due to slow economic recovery. As food stocks seasonally decline in September/October and reliance on market purchases increases, many poor households are likely to face increasing difficulty meeting their non-food needs without engaging in coping strategies such as selling younger and smaller livestock, selling assets, spending savings, borrowing money, or reducing dietary diversity, indicative of Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. Worst-affected poor households will likely reduce frequency of meals, with slight to moderate food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes expected. Beginning in November, second season harvests will again improve food availability and drive some price reductions, though production is likely to be below average for a fourth consecutive season in many areas. As such, it is likely that some rural households will be purchasing more food than is typical throughout the projection period, with below-average income-earning and above-average prices likely to continue constraining some poor households’ ability to meet their essential non-food needs and invest in typical livelihood activities. Overall, across most bimodal areas of the country, most households are expected to access sufficient food and income to cover at least their minimally adequate dietary needs throughout the projection period, with Minimal (IPC Phase 1) area-level outcomes likely to be sustained. However, in the greater northern Uganda—including Acholi, Lango, Teso, and parts of the West Nile subregions—following three consecutive seasons of poor production, area-level Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to persist through November/December when the harvest will boost food availability and increase market supplies.

    In Karamoja, availability of food and income is expected to remain highly limited during the remainder of the lean season, which is now expected to last through July (longer than usual by at least a month) given delays in the 2022 agricultural season. Around August/September, the start of harvesting in Karamoja is expected to support improved access to food from own consumption and income from crop sales, ending the lean season. However, insecurity is likely to continue constraining typical income-earning activities throughout the projection period and, though some seasonal price declines are expected with the bimodal harvests, prices are expected to increase overall and remain above average throughout the projection period. As such, for many poor Karamoja households, significantly below-average purchasing power will continue constraining access to food from market purchases. Though children of school-going age will likely access at least one daily meal through WFP’s programming for school feeding during the rest of the second school term through August and during the third school term from September to December—providing significant support to poor households—many poor households will be unable to meet their food needs given limited food and income sources and eroded coping capacity following below-average crop production in 2021. Widespread Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are now expected to persist at the area-level through at least January, with worst-affected households facing Emergency (IPC Phase 4) outcomes.

    In northwestern refugee settlements, most farming households will likely consume significantly below-average crop production in green form in June/July. Refugees in southwestern settlements are likely to obtain near normal harvests, with stocks expected to last around a month. Given limited income-earning opportunities, above-average prices, and limited coping capacity, access to food from market purchases is expected to be constrained for refugee households. However, humanitarian food assistance rations are expected to continue supporting 40, 60, or 70 percent of most refugee households’ total energy needs. Despite this, given overall limited food and income from other sources, Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes are expected to persist at the area-level, though an increasing number of refugees are likely to face food consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes throughout the projection period, even in the presence of humanitarian food assistance.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    Possible events over the next eight months that could change the most-likely scenario:


    Impact on food security outcomes

    Second season rainfall is significantly below average and/or poorly distributed

    This would likely result in worse crop production than currently anticipated. Income from agricultural labor opportunities and crop sales would likely be farther below normal. A greater number of households would likely face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes, including in urban areas due to price increases. Worst-affected poor households would likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3), especially in the greater north and east.

    Global supply chain disruptions result in fuel shortages

    This would contribute to additional fuel price increases and higher prices of many food and essential non-food items, further weakening the purchasing power of poor households dependent on markets and constraining food access, especially in urban areas. It is likely that Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes would emerge in urban areas. In rural areas, higher costs of agricultural inputs could also impede poor households’ ability to invest in livelihoods.

    Figures Uganda seasonal calendar. In bimodal, land preparation, dry sowing in the east and north are from January to march. Planting

    Figure 1


    Source: FEWS NET

    The greater north is in Stressed and Karamoja is in Crisis; refugee settlements are in Stressed!

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, June 2022

    Source: FEWS NET

    These are maps showing that rainfall from March to May was significantly below average across much of the north and above-ave

    Figure 3

    Figure 1

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    These are maps showing that vegetation conditions in June 2022 were average to below average across most of the country, thou

    Figure 4

    Figure 2

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Retail prices in May 2022 as a percent of April 2022 prices for various commodities and markets in bimodal areas

    Figure 5

    Figure 3

    Source: Farmgain/WFP

    This is a graph showing that prices of cassava, maize, and sorghum were above average in most markets in May 2022 but prices

    Figure 6

    Figure 4

    Source: Farmgain/WFP

    This is a graph showing that prices of cassava, maize, and sorghum were above prices last year in most markets in May 2022 bu

    Figure 7

    Figure 5

    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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