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In 2015, eastern Ethiopia had a severe drought. The drought contributed to low crop production for both the Belg and Meher harvests, poor livestock health, low water availability, and lack of demand for agricultural labor.
A major food security emergency is projected for the coming year. Already, some northern pastoral areas have moved into Emergency (IPC Phase 4).
The Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team (EHCT) has early estimates that 15 million people will likely need food assistance in 2016, around half covered through the Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP) and the rest through emergency assistance. Needs are likely to be particularly high in July and August 2016 during the peak of the lean season in Meher-producing areas. In many areas of the country, lean season may start early this year.
The most food insecure areas include southern Afar and northern Somali Region, areas already in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) in October. Also, the lowlands of East and West Hararghe Zones are expected to move into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) from January to March 2016.
Other areas at risk of Emergency (IPC Phase 4) include lowlands in Arsi and West Arsi Zones in central Oromia and some areas in the northeastern highlands, including parts of Wag Himra and North Wollo Zones in Amhara. These areas are currently projected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through March.
- The June to September Kiremt rains started late and both June and July were very dry in eastern cropping areas, including northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, central and eastern Oromia, and the lowlands along the Rift Valley in Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) (Figure 1). Heavier rainfall was concentrated in August. As a result of late rainfall, fewer crops were planted. In many cases, there were more than two replantings. In general, long-cycle crops planted in May and short-cycle Meher crops planted in June wilted. Many crops planted later have not yet fully matured.
- In Afar and Sitti (formerly Shinile) Zone in northern Somali Region, both the March to May Diraac/Sugum rains (Figure 2) and the June to September Karan/Karma rains started late, were well below average in amount, and had frequent dry spells. With little forage (Figure 3) or water available, many livestock died, primarily in southern Afar and Sitti Zone. Despite early and unusual livestock migration patterns, livestock body conditions have continued to deteriorate, and livestock production has declined. With livestock body conditions poor, prices have fallen and are very low. As a result, livestock-to-cereal terms of trade (TOTs) are very low. Even with ongoing humanitarian assistance, there have been an unusually high number of admissions to nutrition programs in recent months. Therefore, poor households in Sitti Zone and southern Afar are in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) while poor households in other parts of Afar are in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
- Between July and August 2015, admissions to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP) across Ethiopia rose by 30 percent from 32,741 to 43,552 children under the age of five. August 2015 had the highest number of admissions of any month since 2011 (Figure 4). The increase was most dramatic in Oromia, where active screening efforts were intensified and the number of admissions rose from 16,697 children in July to 27,929 children in August. In September, however, TFP admissions fell to 35,130 nationally and to 16,901 in Oromia.
- Due to the low amount of the February to May Belg rains, the national Belg harvest in June/July was well below average.
- Normally from August to October, poor households in northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and central and eastern Oromia consume green vegetables, root crops, and the green harvest of Meher crops. However, low rainfall throughout the year led to very low soil moisture (Figure 5), making many of these food sources unavailable. There has also been less demand for agricultural labor due to low planted area and poor crop performance.
- In the lowlands of SNNPR along the Rift Valley, including areas in Sidama, Gamo Gofa, Wolayita, Hadiya, Kambata Tambaro, Gurage, and Silte Zones, and Halaba Special Woreda, the harvest of Belg root crops and haricot beans along with more recently planted vegetables has led to more access to food in October than in recent months. However, due to the poor condition of many Meher crops and a likely below-average harvest, less agricultural labor is being hired than usual. With low incomes from labor, despite mostly stable staple food prices and some fresh produce, poor households are in Crisis (IPC Phase3).
- In eastern cropping areas in northeastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and central and eastern Oromia, there was very low or no Belg production. Households are also not able to access green or dry harvests of Meher crops, as many have yet to reach maturity due to the late start of the rains and production is expected to be far below average. Poor households in most of these areas are currently in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
- In western cropping areas in Tigray, Amhara, Beninshangul Gumuz, western Oromia, Gambella, and western SNNPR, the June to September Kiremt rains started on time, and were near average in amount with a not untypical distribution. With the Meher harvest having started, early indications are that most areas will have a near average harvest. Modeled crop performance using rainfall indicates many western, surplus-producing areas of the country have crops that are “good” or “very good” and expected to continue to perform well thorugh the harvest (Figure 6). These areas are at the seasonal peak of food availability and access and are currently in Minimal (IPC Phase 1).
- In October, the Government of Ethiopia increased its request for emergency food assistance to cover 8.2 million people from October to December.
From October 2015 to March 2016, the projected food security outcomes are based on the following national assumptions:
- The Meher harvest is likely to be near average in most western areas of the country but well below average in most eastern areas (Figure 6). Overall, the national harvest will likely be below average. This will be due to low planted area for long-cycle crops, delayed planting of Meher crops, and lower yields for Meher crops. Also, post-harvest losses from October to December are likely to be higher than usual due to likely episodes of unusually heavy rain at that time. In 1997, when an El Niño also contributed to low Meher production at a similar time of year, grain production was 23 percent less than 1996, the previous year.
- With less agricultural production, labor demand for harvesting, threshing, and other activities will be less than usual from October to January.
- Due to the delay in the Meher harvest, prices will likely not start their seasonal decline until November, remaining near their annual lean season highs in many areas. However, price increases will start earlier this year, likely as early as January due to tight supplies and high demand.
- The government is still planning to import about 600,000 metric tons (MT) of wheat to help stabilize urban food prices in 2016.
- In eastern areas of the country where production will be below average, there have already been spikes in admissions to nutrition programs in August. Several areas have malnutrition prevalence that is high throughout the year or that has a typical seasonal peak that is very high. Once water becomes less available in the dry season, with access to food and water both declining, malnutrition prevalence will likely rise further in February or March. This will be attributed to less food from own production, difficulty making market purchases due to limited incomes, and longer distances to collect water due to drought, leading to worse hygiene and caring practices.
- According to the latest seasonal forecasts by National Meteorology Agency (Figure 7), regional, and global forecast centers, the October to December Deyr/Hageya rains are expected to be above average in southern and southeastern parts of the country (Figure 8). These rains are expected to help increase forage and water availability in the southeastern and southern pastoral areas. They will also support cropping in agropastoral areas. Flooding is likely in river valleys and some lowlands due to episodes of heavy rainfall (Figure 9).
- Resource transfers through the Productive Safety Net Program are expected to take place following the typical schedule from January to June 2016.
- In Arsi, East and West Hararghe, Bale, and Guji Zones in Oromia, and Hadiya, Kambata Tambaro, Sidama, Gedio, Wolayita, and Gamo Gofa Zones in SNNPR, 36 percent of the Ethiopia’s coffee production occurs. However, this year below-average June to September Kiremt rains in these areas will likely lead to below-average coffee production. This will reduce income from coffee sales for many producers, and reduce income from coffee labor, an important source of income locally in these areas but also a key source of income from migratory labor from other areas of Ethiopia.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes
Early estimates by the Ethiopia Humanitarian Country Team (EHCT) were that up to 15 million people will require food assistance in 2016. This includes around 7 to 8 million recipients of PSNP and 7 to 8 million people needing emergency food assistance. The highest number of people in need and the most severe food insecurity are likely to be during the peak lean season in Meher-producing areas from June to September 2016. Lean seasons across eastern Ethiopia are expected to start much earlier than usual and to have far more severe food insecurity than is present in Ethiopia in a typical year.
With locally average Meher crop production expected in the western and central surplus-producing areas (Figure 6), households will continue to be able to meet their essential food and nonfood needs and remain at Minimal (IPC Phase 1) through at least March. However, with the below-average Meher harvest and less income from agricultural labor along with likely increases in staple food prices later in the year, poor households in East and West Hararghe Zones are likely to move into Emergency (IPC Phase 4) as malnutrition becomes even more prevalent. Many areas in central Oromia, northern and eastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and the lowlands along the Rift Valley in SNNPR are already in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in October, and they are expected to remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) through much of the coming consumption year. Some areas in central Oromia, northern and eastern Amhara, eastern Tigray, and the lowlands along the Rift Valley in SNNPR are currently in Stressed (IPC Phase 2) in October. These areas are expected to move into Crisis (IPC Phase 3) between now and March as households exhaust their meager food stocks and their incomes become inadequate to support food purchases.
Due to the large number of livestock lost in Sitti Zone and southern Afar, the recovery of these assets and associated income will take some time. As households do not gain new sources of income, but cereal prices increase further between now and March, an increasing number of households will be unable to purchase enough food. Poor households in southern Afar and Sitti Zone will remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4) through at least March, but northern and central Afar will be in Crisis (IPC Phase 3).
Flooding is likely during the above-average October to December Deyr/Hageya rains along rivers and lakes in southern Shebelle (formerly Gode) Zone and the lowlands in South Omo Zone in SNNPR. When flooding occurs, cropping will temporarily cease, and it may be difficult to find forage for livestock. Poor households in these areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) after the floods until at least December. After flood water recede, normal income-earning activities will resume. After that, these areas will likely improve to Stressed (IPC Phase 2) by March.
After March, as market supplies tighten further, staple food prices will likely rise again. As prices rise and even areas that had relatively better production turn to markets as their primary source of food, food access in many areas will decline. While water availability may improve once the Belg rains start, markets will remain tight, even after the Belg harvest in June/July. With higher prices, even if labor demand is mostly normal, many households will be unable to purchase adequate quantities of food. Food insecurity will deepen in many Meher-producing areas during the peak of the lean season from June to September. Many areas will remain in Crisis (IPC Phase 3) in Afar, eastern Tigray, and eastern Amhara, central and eastern Oromia, and central and northern SNNPR. As recovery of assets may take a long time in northern pastoral areas, many households in southern Afar and Sitti Zone may remain in Emergency (IPC Phase 4), in the absence of humanitarian assistance, for much of 2016.
For more information on the outlook for specific areas of concern (Figure 10), please click the download button at the top of the page for the full report.
Seasonal calendar in a typical year
Source: FEWS NET
Current food security outcomes, October 2015
Source: FEWS NET
Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC v2.0) Area Phase Descriptions
Figure 1. July 1 to September 30, 2015 rainfall, anomaly in millimeters (mm) as a standard deviation (SD/z-score) from 2000-2014 mean, using Climate Hazards Group Infrared Precipitation with Stations (CHIRPS) data
Figure 2. March 1 to May 31, 2015 rainfall, anomaly in millimeters (mm) as a standard deviation (SD/z-score) from 2000-2014 mean, using CHIRPS data
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 3. eMODIS Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly from 2000-2010 mean, October 11-20, 2015
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 4. National number of admissions to therapeutic feeding programs (TFP), January to September, 2013-2015
Figure 5. Soil moisture anomalies from 1981-present record, October 2015
Figure 6. End of season (EOS) water requirements satisfaction index (WRSI) for sorghum planted after March using CHIRPS rainfall estimates
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 7. October 2015 to January 2016 rainfall forecast compared to historical record
Source: National Meteorological Agency
Figure 8. Percent of 1981-2010 mean annual rainfall during September to December, CHIRPS data
Source: USGS/FEWS NET
Figure 9. Flood-prone areas, as of July 2013
Figure 10. Areas of concern
Source: FEWS NET
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.