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Potential crop damage is possible with heavy second season rains.

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • October 2012 - March 2013
Potential crop damage is possible with heavy second season rains.

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Events that Might Change the Outlook
  • Key Messages
    • With the just completed first season harvest, the food security situation remains stable throughout Uganda except for in some northern districts and lower-east Karamoja. The harvest was average to above average for most parts of the country, except for Kaabong, Kotido, and Moroto Districts in Karamoja. Minimal to no acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 1) is expected throughout Uganda from October to December 2012.

    • The September to December second rainy season has been average to above average so far. Some districts in the Teso and Lango regions have experienced flooding, causing crop and asset damage. Average to above average harvests are expected in November and December. A steady supply of food from household stocks and of income from crop sales is expected from January to March 2013. 

    • Despite overall good rains in Karamoja since April, below average October to December harvests are anticipated in Kaabong, Moroto, and Kotido Districts. Household food stocks are likely to be exhausted before the end of the lean season in July. However, pasture and water resources for livestock production are available. With declining stocks, poor households will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) from January to March.

    • Prices for staple foods have continued to decline since July and are expected to remain stable, following normal seasonal trends as food stocks increase on the market from the first season harvest. They are not expected to significantly increase enough to deny poor households access to market purchases. 

    National Overview
    Current Situation
    • The September to December second season rains, which is the longer rainfall season for most of the bimodal areas, has started in most areas. Farmers across the country planted in a staggered manner since the usual temporary dry period between July and August was characterized by scattered rainfall as was the start of the second season rains. The cumulative rains over bimodal areas have been sufficient for an above average germination rate for most crops.
    • So far, the September to December second rains have been average to above average in terms of total volume. Heavy rains have caused water logging and flooding in areas of Teso and Lango Regions. In these areas, the primary crops affected were cassava, groundnuts, sorghum, and millet. The road network has also been affected with sections of road submerged and impassible.
    • In terms of seasonal livelihood activities, farmers are on schedule and currently weeding their crops amidst some rains. October is a peak period for labor demand while post-harvest activities like drying, threshing, cleaning, and storage from the first season’s harvest are also taking place. Bimodal areas in the West, South, and East of the country have completed harvesting for the first season crops while the northern part of the country is beginning the harvesting of major staples like sorghum, millet, groundnuts, and cassava. Nationwide, the first season crop harvests were average to above average.
    • Since the month of September, crops sales by households that have completed first season harvesting have been ongoing. Trading activities both locally and regionally have not been interrupted. Large volumes of maize and beans are being exported to Kenya from the eastern region districts of Mbale, Kapchorwa, Sironko, and from Busoga Region. Sorghum import volumes into Kenya, especially by brewery companies, have also been high. Significant increases in exports to South Sudan of maize grain and maize flour, sorghum, beans, cassava, and rice have also been recorded since June.
    • The prices of the majority of staple foods have continued to decline or remained stable from August to September. Markets are well supplied with harvests of most staple commodities from the first season, meeting the local demand as several pockets of the country complete their drying and harvesting in preparation for marketing and home storage. The retail price of matoke, the cooking banana, in Mbarara has continued to increase for the second consecutive month, despite a very good August harvest. Matoke prices increased by 85 and eight percent in Mbarara and Kampala, respectively, from August to September. September matoke prices are well above last year. Urban households who depend on cooking bananas as their primary staple food may substitute other staples due to the high prices. Between August and September, sorghum retail prices significantly decreased in Lira by 41 percent and by 14 percent in Gulu, and prices in Soroti only declined slightly by nine percent. Following the harvests, September millet prices in Lira and Soroti markets have also significantly declined by 26 and 15 percent, respectively, compared to the previous month. With the surplus being marketed, from August to September, retail maize prices in Kampala and Masindi markets have significantly declined by 22 and 18 percent, respectively. However, bean prices in Kampala, Lira, Gulu, and Mbarara have been relatively stable since July. From August, the September retail cassava chips declined 15 and 19 percent in Arua and Soroti, respectively. The declining or stable prices allow households to access food and are contributing to a stable food security situation for the country. However, prices remain high and are well above last year’s prices, perhaps because of the high regional demand from Kenya, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Rwanda. The market prices also remain high because of the poor state of the road network in rural areas. During this rainy season, without any longer dry period and with rising fuel prices, transaction costs for traders remained higher than usual.
    • The rain forecast given by the Uganda Department of Meteorology for normal to above normal September to December second season rainfall is expected to lead to a near average harvest in November and December. While heavy rains will cause damage to crops in some areas, the damage is not expected to reduce the second season harvest enough to reduce the national harvest totals to below average.
    • Crop sales from the June and August first harvest are expected to peak in October.
    • The exchange rate of the Ugandan shilling (UGX) against the U.S. dollar (USD) will not further depreciate due to tight monetary policy by the Bank of Uganda. While still relatively weak, shilling (UGX) depreciation is unlikely to cause further rises in imported fuel prices. However, rising international fuel prices are likely to increase local prices, increasing trader transaction costs which will be passed on to consumers in the price of food.
    • The current decline in food prices will continue to follow seasonal trends. Prices will likely increase before the second season harvest starts in November, but they are likely to decline following the second season harvest in November and December and to stay relatively low, though slightly higher than normal due to increased transportation costs, through March.
    • No major outbreaks of livestock disease that would necessitate longer quarantine periods or the closure of livestock markets are anticipated.
    • Trading activities in the country and across the region are expected to behave normally with high levels of demand from both eastern and central African countries expected to continue. No policy interventions preventing the free movement of food commodities from surplus to deficit areas are anticipated.
    • A decrease in tension and conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is assumed. This will reduce the recent influx of refugees into the southwestern districts of Uganda as a result of fewer displacements from the fighting in eastern DRC.
    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    The food security outcomes for most parts of the country will remain favorable. The October to December rains will provide favorable prospects for agricultural production. Near average or even in some cases above average second season harvests are expected from November to January in most parts of the bimodal areas. The areas affected by localized, but significant weather events, such as hailstorms or flooding, will, of course, have below average harvests due to damaged crops. A steady supply of food from household stocks and of income from crop sales is expected from January to March 2013. The food price situation of most staple crops will be seasonally normal. While prices will remain somewhat high, they will not significantly increase enough to deny poor households access to food from market purchases, including the urban poor. Normal milk production during the season is expected, supplementing household nutritional requirements and incomes for those households that will have a milk surplus in both pastoral and agropastoral areas. In the regions of Teso and Lango, which have experienced first season crop damage due to water logging, crop harvests from neighboring areas will be able to meet any food gap, so households will access food with income from non-agricultural livelihood activities such as petty trade, fishing, crafts, and casual labor in nearby urban areas. Rural households which depend on agriculture as their primary livelihood activity and source of income will not need to engage in atypical coping strategies.

    Agropastoral areas of Karamoja - the livestock sorghum bulrush millet livelihood zone

    Current Situation

    The area which covers parts of northern Nakapiripirit, Napak, Moroto, Kotido, and Kaabong Districts of Karamoja experienced average to above average rainfall during the April to September rainy season. However, localized dry conditions occurred in September and October. The rains resumed briefly in October. Rangeland conditions are good with good availability of pasture, but water resources were beginning to decline by October. Cumulative rainfall amounts enhanced performance for the crops being currently harvested.  Despite the overall good rainy season, other factors have already reduced the size of the ongoing harvests. Pests and diseases, especially for sorghum, waterlogging of some crops in the lowlands and along streams, low area planted due to the late start of the rains, and crops that failed to germinate due to the late start of the rains in late April instead of early March, will all significantly affect the ongoing crop harvests. Heavy rains were received from June to August, also, affecting the crops. The harvests were below average in Kaabong and Kotido Districts and in some other parts of other districts in the Karamoja region. So far, crop production is less than last year. Household food stocks have been replenished by the start of the harvest, but not as much as usual. However, a near normal harvest from the wetter belt of Nakapiripirit District has started, and it is ongoing for crops like maize, cowpeas, sunflower, and beans. Crop sales are ongoing after starting in September, and they will continue through December. Government and partners are urging households not to oversell their harvests, though higher prices in the market than last year may encourage substantial sales by many households. Four weeks of dry road conditions in late September and early October increased food inflow by traders. The increased supply of food on the market from this trade lowered food prices. This has improved food access for those households currently supplementing their food with market purchases, though it is not yet the time of year for peak market dependency due to the ongoing harvest and green consumption.

    Apart from the incomes from crop sales, another typical income source at this time of year is grass sales, which began in September and will continue to the end of January. Typically the period from May is characterized by low charcoal and firewood sales.  However, charcoal and firewood sales will likely continue to be an important source of income for some households. Also, Nakapiripirit and Amudat District local government administrations are working towards restricting charcoal burning in order to protect the watershed. The terms of trade between livestock and sorghum in some markets have increased since August as cattle demand and thus cattle prices have increased while sorghum prices have significantly reduced. The increase in cattle prices is primarily because of good health and body conditions, which were enhanced by the good range conditions and water availability during the April to September rainy season. Also, passable roads for traders to transport livestock have helped sustain the increased prices. Pastures and water resources have been abundant since April when the dry season ended. Additional income is being obtained from cash for work (CFW) and food for work (FFW) programs under the livelihood investments support programe of the Northern Uganda Social Action Fund (NUSAF II) being implemented by the World Food Program and several partners. Relief food has been distributed to households headed by the elderly, the sick, or children. There are also ongoing community feeding programs at health centers for young mothers and their children. This external assistance provides food for a small, but significant proportion of the local population.

    Based on the above evidence, households are currently classified as being at the None or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) level of food insecurity (Figure 2). Overall, households in the zone are able to meet their basic food needs without coping strategies.

    • The October to January crop harvests will likely be near average in most agropastoral areas of Karamoja. However, the harvest will be below average to average in the districts of Kotido, Kaabong, and Moroto.
    • From November to January, pole cutting and brick making will be unimpeded.
    • Charcoal and firewood sales will continue normally and are expected to peak from December through March, as an alternative income source during their normal season.
    • The rainfall forecast is for near normal to above normal rains. In the agropastoral and pastoral areas of Karamoja, rains are expected to resume by the end of October and to end in November at their seasonally normal time. More rain in October and November should assure pasture for livestock and water resources for both humans and livestock.
    • After the cessation of rains in November, the onset of the next rain season is expected at the beginning of March when land preparation activities and planting happen for the next cropping season will take place.
    • Wild food consumption in the November to March dry season will likely increase, as wild foods should be more available following the above normal rainfall.
    • Peak livestock sales will begin in March as is seasonally normal. March is also the beginning of the peak milk production period as the March to September wet season resumes.
    • Incomes from casual labor are expected to peak in March as land preparation and planting peak.
    • Maize, sorghum, and other food prices are expected to decrease from September until January, as new stocks from the local harvest and the second season harvest from bimodal areas enter markets in Karamoja.
    • Normal trading activities will continue to occur uninterrupted as the extended rains are not expected to significantly limit access to roads.
    • It is expected that the current levels of incidence of livestock diseases will continue, and that current levels of brucellosis and contagious bovine pleural pneumonia (CBPP) will not significantly impact either livestock herds or human health.
    • The rainfall being expected during the month of November is not expected to be detrimental to rangeland conditions as it is not expected to cause heavy soil erosion or waterlogging in the areas prone to these risks.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Poor households will likely be able to maintain their food consumption through the end of the harvest in December, including those in the districts of Kotido and Kaabong where the harvest is expected to be below average. However, household food stocks are likely to be exhausted before the end of the lean season. Households stocks will likely be exhausted earlier than in a typical year, reducing the quantity of food from own production between April and June. Households will prepare for this by increasing consumption of wild foods from November to March, and they will increase their sales of natural resource products like grass, poles, and firewood or charcoal. Food purchases funded by these sales will likely increase, enabling households some food access. In the current scenario, it is not expected that livelihoods will be significantly negatively impacted by high food prices, and income sources are expected to be relatively stable. Opportunities for labor in March will depend on the onset of rains and an on time onset will allow households to access some food from the markets during the lean season. Favorable rangeland conditions should allow good livestock body conditions to continue. Calving is expected in March, increasing milk availability for human consumption. Then livestock can still conceive in July and August at the peak of the rains. While available evidence indicates minimally adequate food consumption from October to March, high levels of malnutrition among children under the age of five are very common in this region. Most surveys regardless of the season, find that the global acute malnutrition (GAM) rate averages around ten percent. Despite ongoing development assistance and more targeted nutritional assistance programs, poor households will have minimally adequate food consumption from January to March, but the poor harvest in some areas means they will be unable to afford some essential non-food expenditures in the districts of Kaabong, Kotido, and parts of Moroto. Poor households will have a reduced ability to invest in their livelihoods and are likely to not purchase high quality seeds in March or perhaps sell some additional livestock in order to purchase food or agricultural inputs or to cover other expenses. The households will be classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) for January to March while the rest of the country will continue to be in None or Minimal (IPC Phase 1) from October to March (Figure 3). 

    Events that Might Change the Outlook



    Impact on food security outcomes

    Karamoja agropastoral and pastoral zones

    The impact of well above average rains and flooding could cause the condition of the roads to worsen.

    Transportation of food to Karamoja by traders may be difficult and translate into increased transaction costs, leading to higher food prices for poor households.

    Karamoja agropastoral and pastoral zones

    An outbreak or increased incidence of livestock diseases like contagious bovine pleural pneumonia (CBPP) or foot and mouth disease (FMD) and the introduction of associated quarantines

    As livestock sales are an important source of income, a quarantine would lead to reduced income and likely reduced food consumption due to foregone or delayed livestock sales.

    Bimodal areas

    Adverse weather, including hailstorms, flooding, and waterlogging from rain

    Damage of a large number of hectares (ha) of cropped land would reduce the total quantity of harvests. Large enough adverse weather events could affect the size of the national second season harvest and the volume of exports from Uganda.

    Southwestern districts hosting the refugees

    Increased conflict or continued high level instability in the eastern DRC

    External food assistance needs for both refugees and for the host population may significantly increase.

    Figures Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Figure 1

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Figure 2

    Current food security outcomes, October 2012

    Source: FEWS NET

    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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