Skip to main content

Early start of second season harvest improves national food security

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Uganda
  • October 2017 - January 2018
Early start of second season harvest improves national food security

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • National Overview
  • Key Messages
    • Food security is improving among poor households in Karamoja with the harvest. Sorghum harvests are estimated to be near average in most areas, but maize crop prospects are less favorable due to Fall Armyworm (FAW) infestations. Most poor households are meeting their basic food needs, but face difficulty affording some essential non-food needs and are Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In Abim and Kotido, where production was more favorable, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes exist during the harvest. Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in all districts of Karamoja between February and May.  

    • Average to above average rainfall in bimodal areas is expected to result in average November/December harvests. Some maize crop losses are expected due to FAW infestations, though recent field reports indicate impacts are less significant than originally expected, due to increased pest management and prevention in some areas. In addition to expected favorable production, average food prices will support Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes. 

    • WFP is providing monthly food assistance to over 1.2 million refugees in Uganda, the majority of whom are from South Sudan. Most refugees have limited sources of food and income outside of humanitarian assistance. According to WFP, available funding will allow for continued assistance at current levels through December. However, the Programme faces a funding gap of 43 million USD to meet assistance needs through March 2018. Refugees are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through December, but would likely deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) after December in the absence of assistance. 

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    In Karamoja the April to September rainy season started erratically and a prolonged dry spell was experienced in May/June. However, rainfall was above average from July to October, resulting in above-average cumulative rainfall in the region. The August to December second season rains in bimodal areas started almost a month early and 50-200 millimeters (mm) of rainfall were received in July, nearly double what is typical for that month. Rainfall in August and September was average to above average in most areas of the country, though slightly below average in some western and southwestern districts (Figure 1). Flooding and mudslides were reported in localized areas of western and eastern Uganda in September and October due to heavy rainfall.

    In Karamoja, farmers have been harvesting sorghum since September. The harvest is complete in southern Nakapiripirit, but ongoing in central and northern areas where crops matured later than normal due to the delayed onset of rainfall. Late season rainfall improved sorghum crops that had suffered early season moisture stress and it is estimated sorghum production is average in most areas. However, maize production is estimated to be below average in some areas of Amudat, Nakapiripirit, and Moroto, primarily due to crop losses from Fall Armyworm infestations. In bimodal areas, crops are developing normally in most areas and some areas are already harvesting beans and maize green harvest. Fall Armyworm has been reported during the second season in many parts of the country, with the majority of reports coming from eastern and western maize growing areas.

    Above average seasonal rainfall has also supported sufficient water availability and the regeneration of pasture and browse, and conditions are average to above average in the cattle corridor districts. Livestock body conditions are normal and conception, births, and milk production are all occurring at average levels.

    Staple food prices were well above average in early 2017 as a result of poorer than normal national production in 2016. Prices have declined sharply, though, following the June 2017 first season harvest and have remained stable through September (Figure 2). Between August and September, slight to moderate price increases were observed for maize grain, maize flour, cooking bananas, and Irish potatoes, while prices of sweet potatoes, sorghum grain, millet grain, fresh cassava, and cassava flour decreased. Although prices have declined since early 2017 and have remained fairly stable in recent months, prices are still above the five-year average in most places. For example, the retail price of maize grain in September was approximately 30 percent higher than the five-year average in Kampala, Arua, Masindi, Gulu, Soroti and Mbarara.

    During the July-September third quarter of 2017, Uganda accounted for 40 percent of the total regional maize grain trade. Declining maize prices in Uganda encouraged higher exports than last year, though exports were still somewhat lower than average due to slightly below-average production. Maize exports to Kenya were around 51,000 MT, higher than the third quarter of 2016, but 34 percent lower than the third quarter average. Sorghum exports to Kenya were five-times greater than the quarterly average, though. Although first season sorghum production in Uganda was also below average, prices in Uganda trended below the regional average, supporting exports. Sorghum exports to South Sudan were 81 percent lower than the quarterly average due to conflict-related trade disruptions in South Sudan, and reduced demand due to low purchasing power in South Sudan.

    Food availability and access has improved throughout Uganda as a result of the ongoing harvest in Karamoja, second season green harvest in some bimodal areas, and declining staple food prices. It is expected that most households are able to meet their basic food and non-food needs and Minimal (IPC Phase 1) persists in bimodal areas. This includes poor households in southwestern and northeastern Uganda where Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes existed earlier in the year. Food security has also improved in Karamoja, and most poor households are consuming two meals a day compared to the typical one meal during the lean season. Households previously in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) have improved to Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

    Civil conflict and food insecurity continues to drive many South Sudanese to seek refuge in Uganda. Of the 1,381,207 refugees and asylum-seekers in Uganda as of September 30, roughly 25 percent are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, and Somalia, and 75 percent are from South Sudan. Over 820,000 South Sudanese have fled to Uganda since July 2016, when renewed conflict in South Sudan catalyzed the ongoing large-scale displacement to Uganda. Refugees are located in 30 refugee settlements in 12 districts of the country, though the majority of South Sudanese refugees are residing in settlements in the northwest. Rapid food security assessments indicate that most refugees are meeting their basic food needs, but have limited livelihood options and are heavily dependent on food assistance. WFP has provided a full ration to all refugees who arrived after July 2015, and a half ration to all refugees who arrived before July 2015. With humanitarian assistance, along with other minor sources of food and income, it is likely most South Sudanese refugees have minimally adequate consumption, but are Stressed (IPC Phase 2!). 


    Between October 2017 and May 2018, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national-level assumptions:

    • The early-October IRI/CPC ENSO forecast suggests an increased likelihood of La Niña between October 2017 and February 2018. While La Niña events are typically associated with below-average rainfall over the Horn of Africa, the impact over inland countries such as Uganda is less strong and usually associated with above average rainfall. 
    • Rainfall for the August to December second rainy season in bimodal Uganda has been average tending to above average in most areas through mid-October. Based on seasonal performance to date and forecasts from NOAA and USGS, total seasonal rainfall is forecast to be average tending to above average.
    • Based on forecasts by NOAA and USGS, the March to June 2018 first rainy season in bimodal Uganda is forecast to be average tending to above average. The tendency towards above-average rainfall is due to the expectation that La Niña will continue to drive above average rainfall over Uganda as it dissipates towards ENSO neutral during this time.
    • During November/December second season production some maize crop losses are expected from FAW infestations, though recent field reports indicate impacts are less significant than originally expected due to increased pest management and prevention measures. FAW is expected to remain present throughout the projection period. 
    • November/December second season production is likely to be average, or slightly above average, for all crops except maize. This is based on field visits and key informant information which indicate favorable crop development, normal levels of planting, and forecast average tending to above average rainfall. Maize production is expected only slightly below average: rainfall would support average to above-average production in some areas, though crop losses are still expected in areas where pest management and prevention measures have not increased.
    • In both bimodal areas and Karamoja, agricultural labor opportunities are expected to be available at typical levels and usual wage rates throughout the outlook period based on forecast favorable rainfall and expected average levels of cultivation. This assumption is also based on historical data that show wage rates tend to remain generally stable over time despite the fluctuations in rainfall and production.
    • Casual labor opportunities and incomes from non-agricultural activities are also expected to occur at normal levels and typical wage rates through May 2018.
    • It is expected forecast rainfall will lead to adequate regeneration of pasture and water and resources will be average to above average through December. Livestock body conditions and milk production are expected to average throughout the outlook period.
    • The price of a typical food basket is expected to remain higher than usual throughout the outlook period, driven by the expectation that prices will remain slightly above average. It is also expected to follow seasonal trends, increasing somewhat through November and declining after December when the second season harvest replenishes household and market stocks and staple food prices decline. 
    • Staple food prices are likely to remain slightly above average throughout the outlook period. Based on FEWS NET’s price projections using Soroti as a reference market, sorghum prices are expected to be roughly 20 percent below last year, but still roughly 15 percent above the three-year average. Prices will remain closer to average as a result of near average 2017 second season production, but still slightly above average due to past seasons of poor production.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcome

    The harvest of average to above-average volumes of staple foods is expected from November to January, which will restore household and market food stocks to typical levels. Food supply is expected to be higher than the same time last year. Although staple food prices are expected to remain slightly above average, they will remain within levels that allow for near-normal food access. In addition to average harvests, 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, which will allow households to purchase basic food and non-food needs. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) acute food insecurity is expected in most areas through May, including Kotido and Abim of Karamoja. In all other areas of Karamoja, though, poor households are expected to be Stressed (IPC Phase 2) throughout the majority of the projection period. South Sudanese refugees are expected to maintain Stressed (IPC Phase 2!) through December, though Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in 2016 in the absence of additional funding to guarantee continued assistance. These areas of concern are discussed in more detail below. 

    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

    Current food security outcomes, October 2017

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Source: FEWS NET

    Figure 3

    Figure 1. CHIRPS-estimated rainfall anomaly, percent of normal, August 1 – September 30, 2017

    Source: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figure 4

    Figure 2. Retail price of maize in Soroti

    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.

    Get the latest food security updates in your inbox Sign up for emails

    The information provided on this Website is not official U.S. Government information and does not represent the views or positions of the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Government.

    Jump back to top