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Ongoing harvest in Karamoja improving food security slightly

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • October 2016 - May 2017
Ongoing harvest in Karamoja improving food security slightly

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  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • In Karamoja, the harvest is complete in most areas. Production was significantly below average in Moroto and Napak and very poor households are expected to deplete their stocks early and be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) by the start of the lean season in April. Conversely, production was more favorable in Kotido, where Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through January. 

    • The start of second season rainfall in bimodal areas was late by approximately 10-15 days. Rainfall began in early October and has enabled planting activities to begin. However, rainfall has been erratic in distribution and crop development and vigor is below average in some areas. This could lead to reduced crop yields in November/December. 

    • In Teso and Acholi regions, where first-season production was below average, food security of poor households is marginally improving with access to agricultural labor income. These areas are expected to improve to Minimal (IPC Phase 1) with the second season harvest in November/December, although some households will again be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by April/May when stocks are depleted.   

    • Over 481,000 South Sudanese have sought refuge in Uganda, 232,551 of whom arrived after July, when fighting spread to Greater Equatoria. On average, 2,300 new refugees arrive in Uganda daily. A SMART survey conducted by ACF in August reported a GAM (WHZ) prevalence of 10.2 percent (7.9-13.0) among new arrivals, at the low end of the Crisis (IPC Phase 3) threshold.

    National Overview

    Current Situation 

    There are two rainy seasons in all areas of Uganda except Karamoja. The start of second season rainfall in these bimodal areas was late by approximately 10-15 days. However, rainfall began in early October and despite being erratic in distribution, it has enabled planting activities to begin. Crop development and vigor is suppressed and delayed in most areas. The greatest impacts are in the Lake Victoria basin and parts of eastern and southwestern Uganda where early season dry spells have occurred. Below-average rainfall in these areas is negatively affecting the flowering of crops.  

    In Karamoja, the rainy season typically occurs from April to September, although the region received atypical rainfall in early October. Throughout the season, total cumulative rainfall was average in Kaabong and Kotido, and above average in Napak, Moroto, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, and Abim. However, in all areas rainfall was erratic, and a prolonged dry spell in May/June negatively impacted crop development. Sorghum production was not significantly impacted, but many maize, bean, and millet plants wilted from moisture stress during grain filling. Similarly, rainfall in October was too erratic to support additional short-cycle crops.

    Vegetation conditions, as depicted by the eMODIS/NDVI percentage of normal (Figure 1), remains slightly below average throughout much of the country, although the onset of second season rainfall is improving conditions. Rangeland in the central cattle corridor districts of Isingiro, Rakai, Kiruhura, Mityana, Luwero, Mubende, Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Sembabule, and Lyantonde are below average. Rainfall at the start of the second rainy season has been insufficient to fully restore pasture and water resources. Livestock conditions are slightly below average, although milk production is near normal. In Karamoja, despite the erratic nature of rainfall, average to above-average total cumulative rainfall during the rainy season supported adequate pasture conditions, and livestock body conditions are normal.

    In bimodal areas, poor households are accessing normal agricultural labor opportunities. Typically, October is a period of peak agricultural labor demand and seasonal activities including ploughing, planting, and weeding are available at normal levels. For most poor households in these areas, agricultural labor is their primary source of income and most are currently earning average levels of income. In Karamoja, the harvest is complete in most areas and agricultural labor opportunities are seasonally low. However, in Kotido and Kaabong, harvesting is ongoing and some poor households in these areas still have access to agricultural labor income.

    First season maize production in bimodal areas was below average, as a result of poor rainfall. Uganda still has a surplus of 200,000 metric tons (MT), although this is lower than the 620,000 MT surplus in 2015. Staples from surplus-producing areas are being supplied to areas that had below average production, including Gulu and Lira. Although prices in these markets still remains slightly above average (Figure 2), market supplies are at normal levels. 

    Sorghum prices seasonally declined between August and September, while maize prices remained stable (Figures 2 and 3) However, prices remain above their five-year averages. In bimodal areas, with increasing access to labor income and declining sorghum prices, poor households’ purchasing power is seasonally improving. In Karamoja, the sale of natural products is the main source of income for poor households. Stable firewood/charcoal prices and declining sorghum prices are also improving poor household purchasing capacity in Karamoja.

    Maize exports to South Sudan in the third quarter of 2016 reached 78,000 MT. Despite ongoing conflict and insecurity in South Sudan, this volume is higher than last quarter, the same quarter last year, and the three-year third quarter average. Conflict in South Sudan’s surplus-producing areas is significantly reducing the domestic flow of goods to Juba from surrounding areas. This is increasing the demand for goods from Uganda. High demand is supporting high profits and many risk-averse, small-scale traders in Uganda are choosing to export in place of large-scale traders who have withdrawn from the market. The cumulative impact of many new traders is increasing the volume exported. In the same quarter, maize exports to Kenya were atypically low, at around 35,000 MT. This decrease is attributed to reduced demand for maize imports in Kenya, given their increased domestic supply.    

    In bimodal areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is sustained for many poor households. In most areas, adequate staple food supplies from the first season harvest and income from usual livelihood activities are supporting household consumption and market access at normal levels. However, many poor households in Teso and Acholi remain Stressed (Phase 2), as most harvested minimal stocks from first season while others consumed all their harvest in green form. Many are coping through engaging in petty trade, borrowing and sharing food, and seeking additional casual labor opportunities. These coping strategies do not earn enough income to compensate for income lost through crop sales during a normal year. As a result, many households in Teso and Acholi are unable to afford many basic non-food items as they would in a normal year. However, with the start of second season cultivation, many poor households are now engaged in agricultural labor activities and access to income is improving.

    In Karamoja, most areas remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), except for Kotido, which is expected to be in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). The August to October harvest is increasing food availability, most significantly for households who grew sorghum, as this crop was least impacted by the season’s erratic rainfall. However, most households also grew maize, beans, and sunflower, which performed poorly. As a result, very poor households are unable to supplement the consumption of sorghum with other commodities at normal levels. While production this year was slightly better than last year, harvests are still estimated to be below that in 2012/13, a near-average year used as a baseline in this analysis. Production in Napak and Abim was significantly lower than in Kotido, Moroto, Kaabong, and Nakapiripirit. In Napak and Abim, most households grown long-cycle sorghum, which was planted late and significantly impacted by the season’s prolonged dry spell. Production was highest in Kotido and the harvest is still ongoing, providing households access to agricultural labor income. In Kotido, most households are accessing sufficient food from own production and purchase to maintain Minimal (IPC Phase 1). In the remaining districts, very poor households in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) continue to engage in typical livelihood activities including firewood/charcoal sales and brewing alcohol, although at a lower levels than during the lean season given some access to own production. Seasonally declining sorghum prices, and increasing firewood/charcoal and goat/sheep prices have improved household food access.

    Currently, there are over 481,000 South Sudanese refugees in Uganda, 232,551 of whom arrived after fighting in July spread to Greater Equatoria, which borders Uganda. On average, 2,300 new refugees arrive in Uganda daily. A SMART survey conducted by ACF in August reported a GAM (WHZ) prevalence of 10.2 percent (7.9-13.0) among new arrivals, at the low end of malnutrition levels indicative of Crisis (IPC Phase 3). Most refugees are residing in Adjumani, Arua, and Kiryadongo Districts. With high influx and funding gaps, the Government and humanitarian aid agencies are finding it increasingly difficult to meet humanitarian needs. While new arrivals receive full rations, comprised of 1.5 kg of pulses, 0.9 kg vegetable oil, 1.2 kg corn soya blend, 10.5 kg maize, monthly, refugees who arrived prior to July 2015, have recently had food assistance cut to half rations. These individuals have access to land for own production, but their plot size of around 900-2,500 square meters produces only around 1.5 months of cereal stocks. It is expected new arrivals, who are heavily dependent on humanitarian assistance, are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!), while refugees who arrived prior to July 2015 are Stressed (IPC Phase 2), with newly reduced rations and low levels of own production. 


    Between October 2016 and May 2017, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following key assumptions:

    • As of mid-October, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reported a 55-70 percent probability of La Niña conditions (negative ENSO) through mid-winter 2016/2017. Although conditions may not meet the operational definition for NOAA to declare and official La Niña, FEWS NET expects La Niña-like impacts on October to December rainfall. This is due to a combination of the ENSO conditions mentioned above and the ongoing negative Indian Ocean Dipole. These conditions typically suppress rainfall over the Horn of Africa; however, the impacts over Uganda are less clear. Although there may be some effects, they are expected to be less significant than over the Horn. As a result, the October to December second rainy season is likely to be average, although there may be isolated areas that receive slightly below-average rainfall.
    • The March to May 2017 first rainy season in bimodal areas is expected to start on time and be average in total rainfall.
    • In most bimodal areas, harvesting of second season production is expected to be delayed by 2-3 weeks. Given the likelihood of warmer than average temperatures and possible pockets of slightly below-average rainfall, second season harvests are estimated to be slightly below last year’s second season production.
    • Pasture and water conditions in the cattle corridor districts of Rakai, Lyantonde, Lwengo, Kalungu, Bukomansimbi, Sembabule, Mubende, Kiboga, Kyankwanzi, Nakaseke, Isingiro and Nakasongola are expected to remain below average, as conditions are currently poor and rainfall has so far been insufficient for normal regeneration. Conditions are not expected to improve to usual levels with October to December rainfall. Livestock body conditions will remain poorer than usual through March. Improvements to normal are expected after March, with forecast average rainfall.  
    • Staple food prices are expected to remain 10-15 percent higher than both last year and the five-year average through December, due primarily to below-average first season production.
    • As a result of ongoing conflict in Greater Equatoria of South Sudan, which continues unabated, it is expected that refugees from South Sudan will continue to cross into Uganda at the current high rates of thousands a day. Most are expected to enter from Elegu, Oraba, and Lefori. Given the likely increase in refugee numbers, and WFP’s estimated 21 million USD shortfall in funding requirements for October 2016 to March 2017, it is anticipated that the new reduction to half rations for refugees who arrived prior to July 2015 will be maintained.
    • Refugees who arrived prior to July 2015 have plot sizes between 900 and 2,500 square meters and have cultivated for second season. They are expected to harvest approximately 1.5 months of cereals. Most new arrivals in Moyo and Koboko receive plot sizes around 900 square meters and those in Adjumani received plot sizes around 1,000 square meters. However, new arrivals missed second season cultivation and are currently cultivating only vegetables.
    • Ongoing insecurity in South Sudan is negatively impacting trade flows from Uganda to Juba along the Nimule-Juba trade route. However, risk-averse traders from Uganda are still choosing to export, increasing trade volumes. High profit margins but high levels of insecurity are expected to result in volatile trade throughout the outlook period.  
    • Exports to Kenya are expected to flow at typical levels, but at relatively higher prices compared to last year, as a result of below-average first season production in Uganda and expected below-average short rains production in Kenya. 
    • The Resiliency through Wealth, Agriculture, and Nutrition (RWANU) project under ACDI-VOCA is expected to continue providing monthly food rations through December to approximately 5,226 beneficiaries in Napak, 1,654 in Moroto, and 7,667 in Nakapiripirit. Beneficiaries include pregnant mothers, lactating mothers, and children under two years of age. Individual rations are comprised of corn soya blend (4 kgs), vegetable oil (1.35 kgs) and lentils (1.5 kgs) for pregnant and lactating women, and corn soya blend (2.25 kgs) and vegetable oil (0.7 kgs) for children.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    In bimodal areas, although the June/July first season harvest was below average in central and northeastern regions of Teso and Acholi, production in many surplus-producing areas was still average. Therefore, the supply of staple commodities was maintained at near normal levels in markets across the country, including in areas where production was poor. Staple food prices remain slightly above average, but are seasonally declining. This is enabling poor households increased access to food from the market. In Teso and Acholi, poor households have little to no food stocks and are continuing to cope by seeking additional wage labor in neighboring areas and selling firewood/charcoal. They remain Stressed (IPC Phase 2), although conditions are improving with second season cultivation, which is providing access to agricultural income-earning opportunities. Food security is expected to further improve in December, with the arrival of the second season harvest. These harvests are expected to replenish household food stocks to usual levels, which typically last until the next harvest in June/July. Prices of staple commodities are expected to seasonally decline in January and return to near five-year averages, as supplies from the second season harvest enter the market. In December, it is expected that households in Teso and Acholi who were previously Stressed (IPC Phase 2) will improve to Minimal (Phase 1). All other bimodal areas, which have not experienced any significant shocks to production or typical livelihood activities, Minimal (Phase 1) will continue through May. In these areas, poor households are expected to earn typical levels of income through normal livelihood activities including the sale of crops and poultry, pretty trade, and casual labor. Income from these sources will support normal market access, and most poor household will be able to meet both their food and non-food needs.

    In Karamoja, the September/October harvest is increasing household and market stocks, supporting decreased staple food prices in local markets. Very poor households have increased food access and food security is improving. Those previously in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) during the lean season are now likely Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In Kaabong and Kotido, where production was more favorable and the ongoing harvest continues to provide agricultural labor opportunities, many very poor households are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). It is expected that poor household will deplete their stocks by December/January, roughly two months earlier than in a normal year. From January until the next harvest in July, very poor households will increasingly rely on the sale of firewood/charcoal, domestic labor in nearby towns, and agricultural labor, which are expected to be available at near normal levels from February through April. In Abim, although production was significantly below average, households are expected to continue to cope through accessing agricultural activities in neighboring surplus-producing areas. This district is expected to maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes. In Napak and Moroto, where the harvest was significantly impacted, households are expected to deplete their stocks earlier than in other districts and more heavily rely on alternative income-earning opportunities and the consumption of wild foods. In these areas, households are expected to be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3), in April and May, the start of the lean season.

    Given the likely continued high influx of refugees, it is expected the area of land allocated to new arrivals will be minimal. This will limit the agricultural production capacity of many refugees. However, new arrivals are expected to have the majority of their food needs met through humanitarian assistance, which is planned and likely through at least early 2017. However, funding restraints could result in lower ration sizes over time. Although humanitarian assistance may continue to sustain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes through May, given that the status of assistance levels through that time period is unknown, refugee settlements are expected to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in the absence of assistance. 

    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

    Current food security outcomes, October 2016

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Percentage of normal NDVI (Vegetation conditions) in the 2nd dekad of October

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Nominal retail sorghum prices in Gulu

    Source: Farmgain

    Figure 5

    Nominal retail maize prices in Kampala

    Source: Farmgain

    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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