Skip to main content

Below-average rainfall continues to threaten production prospects in Uganda

  • Key Message Update
  • Uganda
  • May 2023
Below-average rainfall continues to threaten production prospects in Uganda

Download the Report

  • Key Messages
  • Key Messages
    • In eastern, northern, and parts of central bimodal Uganda, cumulative rainfall from April 1 to May 25 was roughly 60-90 percent of the long-term average (1981-2022) for that period. Despite a spike in rainfall at the end of April, cumulative deficits have continued to delay crop growth in bimodal areas. In western and parts of central Uganda, including Mityana, Kyegegwa, and Mubende, pulses are being harvested as expected, although at below-average levels, with pulses in other bimodal areas nearing harvest. Meanwhile, cereal crops are at the vegetative, flowering, and grain-filling stages of development, with several more weeks of rainfall still required for national production to reach average or near-average levels. However, late-season forecasts suggest rainfall totals from May 21 to June 15 will only be 30 to 60 percent of the long-term average across much of the eastern, northern, and central bimodal areas, which is likely to negatively impact crops still in the early and middle stages of development. The below-average and erratic rainfall has interrupted the normal timing of seasonal activities, reduced the area planted, and impacted crop growth, limiting the need for weeding in localized areas and leading to unseasonably low availability of on-farm labor opportunities for poor households in high-producing bimodal areas. Consequently, nearly 20 percent of the population in the northern and eastern bimodal areas face reduced access to income and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or worse outcomes ahead of the first season harvest in June and July.

    • The ongoing lean season in Karamoja is of similar or greater severity than the harsh lean season last year, driven by below-average 2022 harvests, atypically high food prices, and sustained insecurity. According to CHIRPS rainfall data and GEFS forecasts, while cumulative rainfall from April 1 to June 10 is expected to total 45 to 90 percent of the long-term average, rainfall performance from mid-May through early June is likely to be exceptionally poor, forecasted to be less than 30 percent of the long-term average. Consequently, crop production in Karamoja is anticipated to be below last year’s and the five-year average in 2023. In April and May, a resurgence of livestock raiding in northern Karamoja by Turkana warriors in Karenga and Kaabong, as well as increases in road ambushes by criminal groups and heavy security deployment, are intensifying fear and impeding access to income-earning opportunities, such as on-farm labor, firewood collection, charcoal burning, and casual labor. Recent cattle raids have also led to the loss of oxen and heightened fear of using the few oxen that households have remaining. As the lean season progresses, households are growing increasingly market reliant; however, financial access remains constrained due to high market prices and sustained inflation amid relatively steady wages. While sorghum prices in April 2023 are similar to those recorded in April 2022, prices remain 50 to 90 percent higher than the five-year average. Many poor households are expected to be facing food consumption gaps despite the limited beans green harvests in localized areas of Abim, Amudat, Karenga, and Napak. Across Karamoja, Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely to remain widespread.

    • At the macroeconomic level, Uganda’s headline inflation rate fell for the fourth consecutive month in April to reach eight percent, down from nine percent in March 2023. The decline was likely primarily driven by the stabilization of fuel prices and the two percent decrease in food inflation between March and April. However, more recently, heavy rains and flash floods in western Uganda in late April led to severe infrastructural damage in high-producing areas, triggering substantial increases in staple food prices in urban centers in May. Staple prices are expected to decline slightly in June with the start of the harvest, increased availability of cooking bananas, sweet potatoes, and a variety of fruits reaching urban markets to moderate prices. However, the anticipation of a less-than-normal harvest of most cereal crops is likely to sustain higher than typical post-harvest prices through September, compounded by atypically high regional demand.

    • Sustained conflict in northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has displaced more than three million people over the last six months, nearly 15,000 of whom have been settled in refugee settlements in southwestern Uganda between January and May 2023. Many displaced children arriving at the refugee settlements are acutely malnourished, contributing to the high malnutrition caseload in already taxed facilities with limited resources. According to UNICEF Outpatient Therapeutic Program (OTP) admissions data, admissions of children with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) across refugee settlements between January and April 2023 were higher than in the same period of the last four years. Further, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) has reported a 50 percent increase in malnutrition cases among refugee children aged 0-59 months between 2021 and 2022, and the 2023 caseload is on track to exceed that of last year. The main drivers of malnutrition among refugees likely include poor food consumption due to humanitarian assistance ration cuts amid high food prices and limited income-earning, constrained health services delivery, and high levels of disease outbreaks. In May, humanitarian food assistance rations continued at planned levels across refugee settlements, sustaining Stressed! (IPC Phase 2!) outcomes. However, implementation of Phase 3 of WFP’s reprioritization process for determining humanitarian assistance ration eligibility is now anticipated to begin in July 2023 across refugee settlements, which is likely to lead to further ration cuts and the deterioration of more poor households into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) or worse.

    Recommended Citation: FEWS NET. Uganda Key Message Update, May 2023: Below-average rainfall continues to threaten production prospects in Uganda, 2023. 

    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.

    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