Ethiopia Weekly Humanitarian Bulletin, 8 April 2013

Food Security Outlook

The delayed belg (mid-February to May) rains in most belg-receiving parts of the country, including SNNP, north eastern Amhara, eastern and southern Tigray and central and eastern Oromia Regions, have led to late planting of belg crops. The late onset of the seasonal rains and subsequent late planting will have an impact in lowering crop production as, even if the rains have improved from the second dekad of March and are forecast to further improve during the remainder of the season, the early moisture stress will inevitably have a negative impact on crop yield. The crops are also vulnerable to damage at the start of the kiremt (June to September) rains when they are likely to be at the flowering, maturity or harvesting stage. Furthermore, the overall area in the country planted with belg crops to date is insignificant. According to the latest report by the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET), only seven per cent of planned belg cropland was planted in Amhara by mid-March and thirteen per cent in Tigray Regions – in a normal year, belg crop planting ceases at the end of March. Similarly, the area planted with belg crops in SNNPR is reportedly very low, and planting has only started in mid-March in Oromia. Farmers in some areas might also opt to switch to meher (long-cycle) crops, which will further delay the next harvest.

The delayed planting and subsequent late belg harvest will extend and deepen the April to June lean season in belg- dependent areas. According to FEWS NET, poor households in affected areas will not be able to meet their food needs through the next harvest without depleting their livelihoods asset. Most households have already turned to the market to access food (as early as January), as their food stock from the 2012 belg and meher harvest is already exhausted. With increasing demand on the market, the current high food price is likely to further rise, stretching the limited resources of these households. In SNNPR in particular, sweet potato harvest – a root crop consumed primarily by poor households during the lean season in the major root crop-dependent areas of Kembata, Hadiya and Wolayita zones - is reportedly below-average. Low area planted with sweet potato, as a result of shortage of cuttings during the planting window in November, and moisture stress during November and December have led to the reduced yield. The root crop and belg-dependent areas will therefore suffer from increasing food insecurity until the next harvest.

In most parts of the southern, south eastern and north eastern pastoralist and agro-pastoralist areas, the March to May sugum/gu/ganna rains started in the first half of March. However, dry and hotter than usual weather conditions in late February and early March have led to an earlier and rapid depletion of water and pasture in these areas. Livestock body conditions are reportedly below average in affected areas and early livestock migrations reported in Afar and Somali Regions. With the near normal to below normal seasonal rainfall forecast this year, the situation is not expected to improve to its normal level. Poor households in Afar and Somali will therefore likely be in food crisis from April to June, according to FEWS NET. In Oromia, however, the expected good seasonal rains in the lowlands of Borena and Guji zones will help poor households meet their minimum food requirements through June. For more information, contract ethiopia@fews.net

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