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First-season agricultural activity progressing normally as COVID-19 control measures expand

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • March 2020
First-season agricultural activity progressing normally as COVID-19 control measures expand

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  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In bimodal areas, rainfall was average to locally above average in March. As a result, generally wetter-than-average conditions have supported timely first-season land preparation and planting activities. However, storms have resulted in localized flooding mostly in eastern Uganda and a landslide incident in Kisoro. In contrast, some areas of the southwest have experienced light and irregular rainfall, though planting is ongoing. In northern Uganda, typical rains are expected to be fully established and more widespread in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, above-average pasture conditions are supporting normal livestock productivity. Based on the current rainfall forecast, an average harvest of cereal and legumes is expected in May/June. For most households, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) outcomes are expected through September.

    • In Karamoja and nearby areas, damage due to the locust invasion since February has so far been minimal given the agricultural off-season. Populations of mostly less-destructive adults in Uganda have been decreasing in size due to a combination of control measures and reaching the end of their life cycle. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), the hatching of locust eggs in affected areas has so far been unsuccessful. However, the possibility of additional swarms migrating from Kenya poses a threat to crops expected to be in early vegetative stages in April. Surveillance and control measures are ongoing, though would be inadequate in the presence of additional swarms. Given lower than anticipated locust presence, farmers are expected to plant as normal. According to most recent forecasts, above-average cumulative rainfall is now expected in Karamoja during the April-September season. Overall, an average harvest is now anticipated in Karamoja in July.

    • Despite access to normal seasonal incomes from agricultural labor opportunities, atypical staple food price increases and seasonally declining household food stocks are constraining food access for the poor. Retail prices of beans and maize in bimodal areas increased by 56-75 and 48-67 percent, respectively, in monitored markets between January and February 2020. As a result, prices of beans and maize reached levels 33-39 and 8-23 percent higher than the five-year average, respectively. Similarly, in Karamoja, firewood-, labor-, charcoal-, and goat-to-sorghum terms of trade moderately declined between January and February, with Napak district experiencing the largest declines of between 28-38 percent. In Karamoja, inadequate food access will likely lead to consumption gaps and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes among an increasing number of households in Karamoja as the lean season progresses, though Stressed (IPC Phase 2) area-level outcomes will persist.

    • As of March 31, 44 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Uganda. In response, the government has enacted control measures to limit the spread of the virus, including banned gatherings, closed schools and shopping malls, suspended public and private transport, prohibited open-air markets in rural areas, prohibited marketing of non-food items in urban markets, and prohibited entry into the country for all people, including Ugandan citizens and refugees. Cargo is exempted from movement restrictions, though misinterpretation of the regulations has led to disruptions in trade. While Uganda is not highly dependent on food imports, local food prices have reportedly increased atypically – especially in urban areas – due to panic buying and speculative trading, and some poor households face difficulty earning income through previous activities including market sales. Should the current measures implemented continue in the medium term, further disrupting business and market activities, poor households will face increased difficulty meeting their basic food and non-food needs, particularly in urban areas. Entry of refugees and asylum seekers from neighboring countries has been prohibited for one month following the closure of all borders and transit centers. However, refugees already in Uganda are expected to experience 30 percent ration cuts to humanitarian food assistance benefits beginning in April.

    This Key Message Update provides a high-level analysis of current acute food insecurity conditions and any changes to FEWS NET's latest projection of acute food insecurity outcomes in the specified geography. Learn more here.

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