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Average Meher harvest likely, though poor Belg/Gu and high prices drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes

  • Food Security Outlook
  • Ethiopia
  • October 2019 - May 2020
Average Meher harvest likely, though poor Belg/Gu and high prices drive Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes

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  • Mensajes Clave
  • National Overview
  • Partner
    Mensajes Clave
    • Deyr/Hagaya rains in southern and southeastern Ethiopia were significantly above average in October, resulting in one of the wettest Octobers on the historical record. Localized flooding occurred in Oromio, SNNPR, and Somali Regions, displacing 205,000 people and causing localized crop and livestock losses. A flooding risk continues for these areas as rainfall for the rest of the season is forecast to be above average. Localized, negative impacts are expected; however, the above-average rainfall will also lead to favorable pasture and crop development.

    • National Meher production is expected to be average due to generally favorable June to September Kiremt rainfall. Meher production is expected to improve household and market food availability nationally. However, poor Kiremt rains in parts of northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and northern Afar resulted in poor production prospects for the ongoing Meher harvest in these areas.

    • Prices for commodities such as maize, sorghum, and wheat are expected to slightly decline seasonally from October to December, although prices are expected to remain above average. From January to May, increases in grain prices are expected, reducing the purchasing power of market-dependent poor households. In pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to increase; however, they are unlikely to keep pace with staple food price increases. As a result, livestock to grain terms of trade are anticipated to decline and remain below average. This will continue limiting pastoral households’ ability to purchase sufficient grain to meet their basic needs.

    • In areas including lowlands of East Hararghe, Guji, and Bale Zone in Oromia and Northern Afar, where Kiremt rainfall was below average, and in the border areas of Western Somali and Oromia where insecurity is affecting the movement of pastoralists, poor households are expected to face constraints to typical food access. Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are likely in these areas throughout the scenario period. Minimal (IPC Phase 1) or Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected in the rest of the country due to the likely average Meher harvests, improved livestock productivity, and near-normal herd sizes that are facilitating household food access.

    National Overview

    Current Situation

    Performance of June to September 2019 Kiremt rainfall was favorable across most areas, particularly in surplus-producing western and central areas of the country; however, some localized areas of northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and northern Afar received below-average rains (Figure 1). In these areas, rainfall started nearly a month late with intermittent mid-season dry spells. In late August, heavy rainfall led to over-saturation of soil, which resulted in flooding in parts of central riverine and low-lying areas with localized crop losses. In areas with below-average Kiremt rainfall, September and October rainfall decreased cumulative rainfall deficits and improved pasture and cropping conditions. In East and West Hararghe zones of Oromia, Kiremt rainfall typically ends in September; however, this year late-season rainfall continues to enhance production estimates. However, some late-season rainfall in parts of Afar, Oromia, and SNNPR, could potentially negatively affect maturing crops and/or spoil stored grains.  

    National grain production and availability is unlikely to be significantly affected by losses associated with below-average Kiremt rainfall; however, this is likely to lead to isolated below-normal levels of household food stocks in affected areas. The Meher harvest is ongoing across most areas, especially in high producing areas of central and eastern Ethiopia. In Amhara and Tigray, harvesting of early maturing crops, such as barley and haricot bean, has already started. In central and western parts of the country, both long and short cycle crops are nearing the harvesting stage. However, areas of northeastern Tigray and Amhara that experienced poor Kiremt seasonal rainfall are expected to have below-average harvests, though its contribution to the overall Meher production is minimal. This will have minimal impacts on overall national production, with average overall Meher production anticipated.

    Deyr/Hagaya rainfall started in early October with heavy rains and some areas receiving 160 mm or more of rainfall in the first two weeks of the season. As a result, October has been among the wettest on record. This excessive rainfall has caused localized flooding in Borena and Bale Zones of Oromia, Hadya zone in SNNPR, Afder, Liben, Dollo, Korahe, Dawa, and parts of Shabelle/Gode Zones of Somali regions. According to a UNOCHA, as of late October, an estimated 205,000 people are displaced, with over half of displaced people in Somali Region. Reports as of late October estimate of over 20,000 hectares of crops (maize, sorghum) and nearly 10,000 livestock were washed away by the floods in Somali region. Overall, cumulative October rainfall is expected to be over 225 percent of normal (Figure 2).

    Since September, when desert locusts were first reported in Ethiopia, they have continued to threaten the northern and eastern parts of the country, covering about 56 woredas. Desert locust bands are spreading towards northeastern parts of Tigray and Amhara and southward to the Ogaden plateau in Somali region. The average to above-average soil moisture and continued rainfall in the eastern part of the country has created an environment conducive to locust breeding. According to UNOHCA, as of mid-October, desert locust bands cover an estimated 17,500 hectares with the government confining and controlling about 10,600 hectares. The worst-affected area of the country is Dollo Zone in Somali Region with locusts mostly affecting pasture. If urgent control operations do not continue to manage the situation, the locust bands will continue to damage both pasture and agricultural land.

    Pasture conditions are generally favorable in western and central areas of the country due to above-average rainfall. In localized areas of northern Afar, northeastern Amhara, and eastern Tigray, according to the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), grazing land conditions are below the median due to poor rainfall; however, some late-season rainfall is improving pasture availability. Additionally, per the NDVI, pasture conditions in Deyr/Hagaya rain receiving areas are below the median, although this is most likely due to the lag time it takes for pasture to regenerate following the start of the rainy season. In areas with late seasonal rainfall of northern Ethiopia, livestock are returning to their normal homesteads for grazing. Although livestock births and milk production are below average in these areas due to poor body condition. Livestock body conditions and productivity in central, western, and northern areas of the country are near average, besides in localized areas of northern Afar, northeastern Amhara, and eastern Tigray where poor pasture conditions and water availability is leading to below-normal livestock body conditions.

    Prices of locally produced staple foods have been increasing since October 2017 and remain well above average (Figure 3), specifically in Belg receiving areas where production was below average. September 2019 prices for sorghum, wheat, and maize in Woldiya, Addis Ababa, and Hosanna markets were over 25 percent higher than last year’s prices and the five-year average. In addition, sorghum prices in Gode market are 100 and 66 percent above last year and the five-year average, respectively. Staple food prices are generally above average due to macroeconomic factors including high fuel prices and transportation costs and abnormally high market demand due to poor production in some areas. 

    Similarly, livestock prices continue to increase in most parts of the country, specifically in Somali region where September 2019 cattle prices are about 40 percent above average (Figure 4). September 2019 shoat prices in Woldiya and Gode markets show an increase of nearly 40 percent and slightly over 25 percent compared to last year and the five-year average, respectively. Despite increases in both livestock and staple food prices, the livestock-to-cereal terms of trade (ToT) are not favorable for pastoral households, as staple food prices are increasing at a faster rate than livestock prices. As such, the shoat to sorghum TOT has declined by over 55 percent in most markets across the country. 

    Many poor households across the country have limited income access from livestock sales, livestock products, and agriculture labor. However, they are accessing income mainly from casual labor and self-employment activities such as petty trade, charcoal, and firewood sales. Income from agriculture labor associated with the Meher harvest is near average; however, in areas with a below-average harvest, income from this source is below typical levels. In pastoral areas of the country, specifically southern and southeastern areas still recovering from the 2015/16 drought, herd sizes are below average, as is income from livestock and milk sales. Similarly, in northern pastoral areas where livestock conditions are below average, incomes from livestock and milk sales is limited. Additionally, in areas affected by conflict, households are unable to engage in their normal livelihood activities. In parts of the country with a high concentration of IDPs, there is an increase in competition for labor opportunities, driving down labor wage rates. Generally, across the country, purchasing power of most poor households is below normal due to below-average income and very high food prices.

    The political and insecurity situation remains unpredictable as conflict between bordering ethnic groups continues. Conflict has been of increasing concern since 2018 in most bordering areas of Somali and Oromia Regions, Gedeo and Segen Zones of SNNPR and Guji Zone of Oromia and some localities Gurage Zone in SNNPR. This has resulted in displacement of households and disruption to normal livelihood activities. According to an IOM report in October, slightly over 1.6 million people continue to be displaced with most of this population displaced by conflict. IDPs continue to return to their place of origin with an estimated 1.5 million people returned to their communities. However, returnees face difficulty reintegrating into their communities and have limited assets and ability to engage in normal livelihood activities. As such, many of these households are in need of humanitarian food assistance.

    According to UNHCR, as the end of September 2019, Ethiopia hosts an estimated 702,000 registered refugees and asylum seekers. The number of refugees has declined over the past year. Nearly half of all refugees are from South Sudan including a quarter from Somalia and one quarter from Eritrea and Sudan. The opening of the border between Eritrea and Ethiopia resulted in an increase in the number of new arrivals from January 2019 to late-October 2019.

    As per Emergency Nutrition Coordination Unit (ENCU) data from July 2019, TFP admissions nationally were near or above last year and the five-year average. The areas with the highest TFP admissions above last year and the five-year average are Somali and Oromia Regions. There is a reported outbreak of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD) in Somali Region, but has also occurred in other regions, including Oromia, Afar, and Amhara. This is most likely having an impact on the increased number of cases of acute malnutrition, specifically in Somali and Oromia Regions. Additionally, acute malnutrition is likely driven at least in part to limited access to clean water sources as well as a high prevalence of disease.

    As per data from the food aid Prioritization Committee (PC) chaired by The National Disaster and Risk Management Commission (NDRMC) an estimated 8.0 million people are being reached in each distribution of humanitarian food assistance from the beginning of the HRP in March 2019. Typically, at this time of year, organizations are implementing Rounds 6 and 7 of humanitarian food assistance distribution; however, this year due to a pipeline break prior to the delivery of Round 3, distribution is delayed. As per an update by the PC on October 31, about 73 percent of the planned food and all of the cash distributions in Round 3 has taken place. Round 4 food distributions are also ongoing with 100 percent of cash beneficiaries already receiving their distribution. Round 3 and 4 beneficiaries have been reached across the country from July to present. The majority of assistance is being distributed to pastoral areas of the country specifically in Afar and Somali Regions. Humanitarian food assistance is most likely improving household access to food in areas where it is delivered; however, the role of humanitarian food assistance at the area-level is difficult to assess based on available data and irregular and delayed delivery.

    The Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) typically distributes cash and food assistance to chronically food-insecure households supplementing their food and income sources. Beneficiaries typically receive their assistance in January to June; however, there are field reports indicating distribution is still pending in some PSNP receiving woredas, due to logistic issues.   

    Many households in surplus producing areas of the country are accessing own foods with the start of the Meher production and are in Minimal (IPC Phase 1). Delayed, but average 2019 Belg and average Meher production is improving household food access. Additionally, access to income from agricultural labor was above average slightly improving households purchasing power. As a result, most areas in SNNPR are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) except along the Rift Valley where most households are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In areas where Meher harvest is ongoing, demand for market foods is decreasing as households are relying on own foods for consumption. The delayed and below-average Belg harvest coupled with price increases, below-average incomes has resulted in decreased food access; Crisis (IPC Phase 3) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are likely across many Belg producing areas in northeastern Amhara, southern Tigray, and agro-pastoral areas of Afar.

    Poor pastoral households in northern Afar, south and southeastern Somali, lowlands of Borena, Guji, Bale, East and West Hararghe Zones of Oromia regions are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) as the result of below-average livestock body conditions and productivity. Delayed, but average 2019 Belg and average Meher production is improving household food access. Additionally, access to income from agricultural labor was above average slightly improving households purchasing power. As a result, most areas in SNNPR are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1) except along the Rift Valley where most households are in Stressed (IPC Phase 2). In areas where Meher harvest is ongoing, demand for market foods is decreasing as households are relying on own foods for consumption.


    The most-likely scenario from October 2019 to May 2020 is based on the following national-level assumptions:
    • The most likely ENSO Neutral conditions and positive Indian Ocean Dipole (IOD) through December 2019 will most likely result in above-average October to December (Deyr/Hageya) rains over southern and southeastern parts of Ethiopia.
    • In November and December, heavy Deyr/Hagaya rainfall is likely to generate atypical levels of flooding, particularly over flood-prone areas of Shebelle and other riverine areas of the Somali and Oromia Regions. Flooding is expected to temporarily displace households and have localized crop and livestock losses, and potentially limit humanitarian access to flood-affected areas.
    • Temperatures, in north-eastern and parts of central and southwestern Ethiopia, are anticipated to be warmer than average temperature, while southwestern Ethiopia is most likely to experience near average temperatures. This will likely lead to the drying of pasture and surface water availability slightly earlier than normal.
    • The start of February to April 2020 Belg/Sugum/Diraac/Gu rains is most likely to have a timely start with average cumulative rainfall.
    • Southeastern pastoral areas are expected to have normal regeneration of pasture and water availability to above normal levels following above-average Deyr/Hagaya rainfall. These seasonal improvements of pasture and water availability are expected to lead to normal livestock body conditions, near-normal level of conceptions, and seasonal livestock productivity. However, due to high livestock deaths in 2016/17, cumulative livestock conceptions and product production are expected to remain below average.
    • In pastoral areas of Afar and northern Somali (Sitti and Fafan zones) Regions, availability of pasture and water is expected to be near normal following average Karan/Karma/Kiremt rainfall. In these areas, livestock body conditions, conceptions, productivity, and production will most likely remain near average. Although, localized areas of northern Afar with below-average rainfall, are likely to have below-average water and pasture availability. This is expected to lead to a slight deterioration in body conditions of livestock, production, and productivity with slightly below average rates of conception.
    • Livestock prices and price trends are likely to follow seasonal trends and remain above the five-year average (Figure 7). However, prices are expected to gradually decrease between February and March 2020 in much of Somali, northern Afar and the southern lowlands of Oromia due to the long dry season and localized below-average Kiremt rainfall in northern Afar. 
    • Access to food and income from own production is likely to improve to normal levels between October 2019 and January 2020. However, poor households and the middle and some better-off households in northeastern Amhara, southern and eastern Tigray, and eastern Oromia are likely to start, as typical, exhausting own harvest starting February 2020 and rely more on markets as the lean season approaches from March to May 2020.
    • Staple food prices are likely to follow seasonal trends; however, prices are likely to remain significantly above last year and the five-year average due to anticipated inflation and increasing fuel, spare parts, and transportation costs. 
    • The Ethiopian Birr is expected to continue gradually depreciating through the outlook period due to tight foreign reserves, global strengthening of the USD, and increasing interest due on USD-denominated debt. As a result, domestic fuel and transportation costs are likely to increase. Imported agricultural inputs prices are expected to be atypically high limiting household planting ability.
    • Livestock to staple food ToT is likely to continue to favor cropping households as price increases for staple food are higher than the price increase for livestock, this is deteriorating the purchasing power of the pastoralists.
    • With anticipated average seasonal Meher 2019/2020 and perennial crop harvest, including coffee and fruit, October 2019 to January 2020, agricultural labor opportunities and wage rates are likely to be normal.
    • The number of cases of Acute Watery Diarrhea (AWD)/cholera is expected to increase, particularly in Holly water areas of Amhara, and Tigray regions. Moreover, with the anticipated average Deyr/Hageya rains, pastoral communities who are dependent on open water sources in Somali, Afar and southern Oromia regions are expected to be affected by AWD/cholera. The possibility of increased AWD/cholera outbreaks is also of concern in state farm areas of Afar, Metema and Humera areas of Tigray and Amhara in October 2019 to January 2020 due to the concentration of daily labors in state farms for harvesting without having proper sanitation facilities and access for potable water.
    • In eastern and northeastern parts of the country where production will be below average, a high number of admissions of children to nutrition programs is anticipated. The nutritional status of children and PLWs, it is expected to improve between October 2019 to January 2020 following the anticipated Meher 2019 production as TFP admission rates are expected to return to near the five-year average. However, starting in February 2020 nutrition outcomes are anticipated to start deteriorating due to exhaustion of own production and the long dry season.
    • Conflict between ethnic groups is most likely to remain a constant concern among communities after the Meher harvest in agricultural areas and during the Deyr/Hagaya rains in pastoral areas due to tension overgrazing, pasture, and water resources. This is expected to result in a temporary increase in displacement and disruption in normal livelihood activities, movement of people for labor activity and livestock, and trade flows.
    • Resource transfers through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) are expected to take place following the typical schedule from January to June 2020 with most beneficiaries being reached in the eastern half of the country (Figure 6). Humanitarian food assistance is planned and funded through the start of 2020. Although, it is anticipated delivery of assistance will follow current trends with the continued occasional delays.

    Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

    Food security is expected to remain relatively stable across the country from October 2019 to May 2020 owing to the average Meher harvest and generally favorable conditions across the country. Households in central and western surplus-producing areas of the country are expected to continue facing Minimal (IPC Phase 1). In general, while average Meher production is anticipated at the national level, crop production is expected to be below average in areas of northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and East and West Hararghe Zones of Oromia. In these areas, Minimal (IPC Phase 1) and Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected from October 2019 to January 2020. However, from February to May 2020, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes are expected to emerge in these areas as household food stocks are expected to be limited or exhausted. Additionally, market food access is anticipated to be limited since household purchasing power is below average due to high staple food prices.

    In areas where flooding occurred and is expected along riverine and low-lying areas in Deyr/Hagaya rainfall areas, localized areas are expected to have crop and livestock losses with some temporary displacement.  In these areas replanting may not be possible due to waterlogging and livestock may have difficulty finding forage. However, flooding is expected to also have positive impacts, leading to above-average pasture regeneration after floodwaters recede. The negative impacts of flooding are expected to be localized with more large-scale positive effects on pasture and cropping conditions in the medium term. Despite the positive improvements, poor households in western areas of southern and southeastern pastoral areas bordering Somali and Oromia regions are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). As livestock are anticipated to return to their homestead, households are able to sell livestock products normally for food, although at below-average levels. In eastern and central parts of Somali region Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes are expected to be widespread as the result of the Hagaya/Deyr rainfall improving pasture and water availability, which is anticipated to continue to improve livestock production and productivity. However, although pastoral conditions continue to improve, households’ livestock herd sizes still have not recovered from drought in 2016 and 2017, which continues to limit household purchasing power.

    Most parts of Belg dependent areas in SNNPR, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) is most likely from October 2019 to May 2020 due to below-average harvest associated with localized insecurity and conflict. However, some areas affected by conflict bordering Oromia are likely to deteriorate to Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between February and May 2020 period. Areas of SNNPR, Oromia, and Somali region that experienced significant ethnic clashes in 2019 are also anticipated to continue experiencing Crisis (IPC Phase 3) outcomes. The worst-affected resident and displaced populations are expected to be directly impacted with insecurity limiting livelihood opportunities and the ability to engage in the ongoing agriculture seasons. Similarly, previously displaced households returning to their place of origin are most likely to continue facing Stressed (IPC Phase 2) or Crisis (IPC Phase 3) depending on their ability to re-integrate and return to their normal livelihoods.

    Events that Might Change the Outlook

    AreaEventImpact on food security outcomes
    Meher crop-producing areasHeavier and unseasonable rainfall in November and December resulting in a further reduction in Meher production during the harvest and high post-harvest lossesAvailability of food declines on markets and at the household level
    NationwideIncreased food grain supply to the local markets by the government and partner agencies as interventions to stabilize market pricesAccess to food through market purchases improves 
    NationwideDramatic increases in international export food pricesLimits the amount humanitarian support donors can provide, decreasing national food availability and decreasing supplies available for nutritional interventions
    Eastern Tigray and Amhara, most Afar, East and West Hararghe of Oromia, and central and western parts of Somali RegionHigh prevalence of desert locust and damage on standing crops, pasture and browse Below average Meher, riverine and irrigation agricultural harvest, low supply of grains to the local markets, decline in livestock production will result in a reduction in overall household food consumption  
    South and southeastern parts of the countryRainfall Poor pasture and water replenishment lead to low livestock productivity and poor livestock body conditions
    South and southeastern parts of the countryContinued above average rainfall resulting in extensive flooding in lowland areas Extensive livestock loss, destruction of infrastructure and crop destruction. This would lead to a reduction in herd sizes and decline in livestock product and productivity, below-average riverine agricultural harvest, and constrain the market, health services, and educational accesses. Thus, increasing the level of acute food insecurity in these areas. 


    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.

    Figures Map of Ethiopia illustrating the IPC acute food insecurity phases across the country.

    Figura 1


    Figura 2

    Seasonal Calendar for a Typical Year

    Fuente: FEWS NET.

    Figura 3

    Figure 1.

    Fuente: USGS/FEWS NET.

    Figura 4

    Figure 2.

    Fuente: USGS/FEWS NET

    Figura 5

    Figure 3.

    Fuente: EGTE, Ethiopia

    Figura 6

    Figure 4.

    Fuente: Somali Region DPPCO

    Figura 7

    Figure 5.

    Fuente: ENCU

    Figura 8

    Figure 6.

    Fuente: FEWS NET data from humanitarian partners and Ethiopian Government

    Figura 9

    Figure 7.

    Fuente: Somali Region DPPCO

    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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