FEWS Monthly Country Summaries June 2000: Eastern Africa and the Horn
Rainfall was adequate in amount and spatial distribution during the first ten days of May for early main season farming activities in most agricultural areas. The rains then began to withdraw from the eastern half of the country and became more scattered in the west. By the last ten days of May, dry conditions typical of this month were established over most of the country.
The Ethiopian National Meteorological Services Agency (NMSA) outlook for the main season (meher) rains was released on May 31. It notes that the influence of La Niña on Ethiopia’s climate is expected to weaken and possibly dissolve in coming months, and that the main rains should begin early in June and end at the normal time in mid- to late-September. This would provide a lengthened growing period for long-cycle crops. Normal to above-normal rainfall is forecast for the northwest, west and center of the country. Normal to below-normal rainfall is probable over the northeast (including the eastern half of Tigray, Wag Hamra, North and South Wello, and the Afar Region), the east (including Hararghe) and parts of the Southern Region (including North Omo). The southern and southeastern lowlands will experience seasonal dryness during this period.
The NMSA outlook is more optimistic than the Nairobi Drought Monitoring Centre’s (DMC) regional outlook for the Greater Horn, issued earlier in May. According to the DMC, most of Ethiopia, with the exception of the far south and south-east where this period is normally dry, has a 75 percent probability of normal to below-normal rains from June to September. The differences in the two outlooks can be attributed to the use of different methodologies and the amount of data used by each (the NMSA uses data from more than 200 rain stations, many more than the DMC).
In the Wolayta area of North Omo (Southern Region), the United Nations reports a worrying decline in the nutritional status of children. This is due to the failure of the important sweet potato harvest, which usually fills a gap in the food supply cycle during the April-June hungry season. Late planting of maize, also caused by the delayed belg rains, means that green maize will not be available for consumption in this area before August. SCF-UK is recommending wider general distributions of food, and Concern has started supplementary and therapeutic feeding. The Drought Prevention and preparedness Commission (DPPC) has indicated that food aid distributions will continue at least to the end of July in these areas. In Somali Region, nutritional surveillance in Afder and Liben Zones continues to show increasing malnutrition rates, while the transport and distribution of aid is still problematic. In Afder, little aid has reached the local population in the last three months due to poor road conditions.
The DPPC, supported by the multi-agency Early Warning Working Group, is currently implementing field assessments to re-assess and verify increases in July-December food aid needs due to the failed belg harvest and poor rains in the pastoral areas. A revised Government appeal is expected at the end of June. The WFP Pipeline News of May 30 shows that confirmed cereal food aid has now reached 86 percent of the total amount appealed for in January (see Table).
Confirmed food aid pledges (MT) for drought, excluding IDPs
Expected increases in needs due to the belg failure will raise the monthly requirements from July onwards, and new pledges will be required. However, given the positive main rainy season forecast and the onset of the main rains, the major challenge to the government and international relief operation in the coming months is likely to be effective distribution of the resources already committed to those who need them most.
The 2000 long-rains season has been poor across most of the country (Figure 1). Large areas of the northern and eastern pastoral and agropastoral districts of Wajir, Baringo, Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, and West Pokot are in a state of emergency. In addition, the poor rains have caused the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to revise downward its national maize output estimates for the 2000 long-rains season. Preliminary estimates indicate that only 1.4 million MT of maize will be harvested during the current long-rains season, a drop of 35 percent from the average of 2.21 million MT. The poorest harvests are expected in Central and Eastern Provinces.
The Kenyan Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP) indicates that the local production system and dominant economy of the pastoral areas has collapsed after a fourth consecutive year of drought for some. Current livestock conditions in the worst hit areas are reminiscent of conditions during the 1996/97 drought. Widespread livestock losses, especially among immature and lactating stock, are being reported in West Pokot, Baringo, Samburu, Wajir and Marsabit Districts. Rates of child malnutrition ranging between 30-50 percent, are no longer uncommon, and compare closely with rates during the 1996/97 drought and the 1997/98 floods. The number of pastoralists in urban centers in Moyale, Marsabit, Turkana and Wajir Districts has grown rapidly during the past few months, attesting to the collapse of the rural livestock economy. Assets and purchasing power of the population have been reduced to an extent that additional emergency food aid will be required. In the absence of intervention, these poor food access conditions would lead to the loss of human lives.
The price of most food commodities has risen dramatically in all key reference markets, limiting the access of the most food insecure populations. Even in the surplus producing districts of Rift Valley Province maize stocks are being depleted and prices have continued the sharp rise that began in April (Figure 2) due to less than average production during the last season. In addition, there has been speculative buying by millers, and a higher retention of stocks by surplus-producing farmers, further increasing the upward pressure on prices. In spite of reduced domestic supplies - including National Cereals and Produce Board stocks - , Government has yet to reduce or suspend a 75 percent tariff on maize imports that is impeding an increase in stocks and a reduction in prices.
WFP continued emergency food interventions in Turkana, Marsabit, Moyale and Mandera Districts during May, and the Government plans to distribute 5,400 MT of maize during June to the worst hit districts not covered by the on-going WFP EMOP. On June 7 the Kenyan President appealed to the donor community for $148 million of aid. Current planning by WFP and the Government/donor Kenya Food Security Steering Group for the food crisis is based on a worst case scenario that reflects the imminent failure of the 2000 long-rains season in several highly food-insecure areas. For the July to December period, 2.2 million people in 19 districts in the Rift Valley, North Eastern, Eastern and Coast Provinces have been identified as being highly food insecure and in need of an estimated 186,000 MT of emergency food aid of maize beans and oil. In addition, some 1 million children would receive 19,700 MT of food through WFP’s expanded school feeding program and 430,000 children would benefit from 15,500 MT of food provided through UNICEF’s supplementary feeding program. When finalized, this updated appeal will incorporate human and livestock health, agricultural, water and food aid interventions, and will form part of the Consolidated Special Drought Emergency Appeal for the Horn of Africa.
The month of May was unseasonably dry, and only a week-long return of rains during the last days of the month mitigated the impact of this dry spell on crops. A joint crop assessment mission by the Government, UN agencies (FAO and WFP), and FEWS was conducted throughout the country between May 22 and June 3, 2000. Although the official results of the assessment are expected by end of June, FEWS/Rwanda’s provisional forecast of national Season B production is that pulse (mainly beans) production should be slightly below average, cereals (mainly sorghum) should be about average, and the production of sweet and Irish potatoes, cassava and bananas should be average to above average. Livestock are generally in good condition.
In Bugesera, mainly situated in Kigale Prefecture, poor rainfall conditions caused most seasonal crops to sustain severe moisture stress. Bean production was virtually a total failure, and cereals, bananas and root crops were seriously affected. The population living in the Bugesera is experiencing a serious food shortage and needs outside intervention. WFP is addressing the food crisis in Bugesera by providing food in free distribution and food-for-work programs to targeted food insecure households. The forthcoming crop assessment report will advise WFP whether or not it needs to mobilize additional resources to respond to the crisis.
Prices of most commodities remained relatively stable compared to last month, and to last year. However, bean prices are rising, reflecting the poor production this season. The Government of Rwanda launched a Poverty Alleviation Program on June 1, 2000, to reduce the country’s widespread poverty level. Poverty hampers access to food in Rwanda even when prices are low.
Lower than normal rainfall characterized the first season in the south and northeast (Kotido and Moroto Districts), limiting crop development. For the northeastern districts, the poor rainfall came during their only cropping season. It slowed replenishment of ground water and regeneration of pastures and browse, thereby reducing livestock’s access to fodder. Emaciation, increasingly visible in livestock, has exacerbated the fall in price of live animals as pastoralists sell them off to earn income to purchase food. Most districts in northern Uganda continue to receive average rainfall that is supporting normal crop growth. The Department of Meteorology forecasts that the country will receive reduced rainfall in June, which could signify an early end (by nearly one month) to the rainfall season. This could have potentially serious food security implications for areas to the south of Lake Kyoga, as well as northeastern and northwestern Uganda.
The main cropping season in eastern, central and Lake Victoria Basin districts is March to June/July. A combination of late planting, poorly distributed rainfall, and low soil moisture reduced heads and grain size. This may result in a reduction in cereal production of up to sixty-percent. Beans, which have a shorter growth period, were less affected and production losses may be no more than forty percent. Low millet and sorghum production will increase household food insecurity in eastern districts where these crops are the main staples. The reduced maize harvests - which normally supplement household incomes - should only have a limited direct impact on food security due to the availability of alternative crops, especially sweet potatoes and cassava.
During May, seasonal price trends for cereals, pulses and other staple crops were observed, rising steadily in major district markets across the country, and indicating a diminishing but adequate supply just before the next harvest in July. Household food access from last season’s production, markets and other sources remains good, except in Bundibugyo, Kotido and Moroto Districts, where limited supply is due to poor harvests in the previous one or more seasons.
A UN assessment of Katakwi, Kumi, Lira and Soroti Districts in mid-May observed that life returned to normal in these districts following the departure of the rebels and deployment of Local Defense Units (LDUs). Most of the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) have returned or have moved to trading centers closer to their homes.
WFP is targeting food aid to households in Moroto and Kotido Districts through school feeding, Food For Work (FFW) and other programs. By the end of May 2000, WFP had distributed a total of 3,350 metric tons through the Adventist Relief Agency (ADRA), it’s implementing agency. WFP is executing an Emergency Operation (EMOP) to distribute 9,069 metric tons of combined food commodities, out of which only 3,955 metric tones has been pledged. Donations are being solicited for the additional 5,114 metric tons of combined food commodities still unpledged.
Due to generally poor rains during the 1999/2000 season, the harvest in many unimodal rainfall areas of the country is expected to be less than the 1994/95-1998/99 average. This area of poor harvests includes central, southern coast, lower elevations of the southern highlands; and areas near Lake Victoria. Many households in central Tanzania (Dodoma, Singida, Tabora, Shinyanga and parts of Morogoro and Mwanza Regions) are now facing a fourth consecutive poor harvest of maize, sorghum, rice, and pulses. In some of these same areas (Manyoni, Singida Region; Mbulu, Arusha Region; Ulanga, Morogoro Region), Norwegian Peoples Aid and CARITAS are finalizing a two month distribution of 1330 MT of WFP emergency food aid to food insecure populations.
The May masika (main) season rains were also below average in the bimodal areas of Arusha, Coast, Kagera, Kilimanjaro and Tanga Regions. Although rains resumed in the first week of June, they may have been too late to save immature crops, which had already suffered significant drought stress. Although the reduced rainfall has also decreased the availability of pasture and water for livestock in several areas, there are no reports of abnormal livestock migrations. In fact, pastoralists from drought-stricken Kenya have been grazing livestock in northern Tanzania, especially in Monduli District.
As the harvest comes in, the availability of on-farm stocks is improving in most households in the country and is resulting in an overall decline in food prices, despite the drought problems. The prices of maize, beans, rice, potatoes, sorghum and millet in May in nearly all markets were below both April prices and the 1995-1999 average May price.
A preliminary food production forecast in June by the Food Security Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives estimates total national food production for the 1999/2000 agricultural year at 6.68 million MT, comprised of 3.55 million MT of cereals and 3.13 million MT of non-cereals. This harvest figure, if it is confirmed, would be less than both last year’s 7.2 million MT figure determined by the joint Government/UN/donor mission and the Government’s total national food requirement estimate of 7.36 million MT for the market year (June 2000 to May 2001). In June, the Government, donor agencies, and NGOs are conducting a rapid assessment of the 1999/2000 cropping season and 2000/2001 market year food supply for all 20 regions of mainland Tanzania. A report is expected in mid July that may indicate what actions, if any are required to support food security in these areas.
Good rains throughout much of May provided sufficient soil moisture that the main-season rain-fed sorghum crop in the center of southern Somalia was in "luxurious growth". The coastal maize belt of southern Somalia was drier and in dire need of good rains in late May and early June. Heavy rains in southeastern Ethiopia filled the Juba and Shebelle rivers downstream in Somalia and allowed irrigated grain production to get underway. A crop establishment survey will be carried out in June by the FSAU, FEWS and other partners, and will give more information about how much agriculture may contribute to household food security this year.
The Gedo Region continues to be an area of particular concern. Relief interventions since the February 2000 Inter-Agency Humanitarian Assessment have been minimal, and the gu rains started late and have continued lighter than elsewhere in southern Somalia. A UNICEF malnutrition survey in Belet Hawa town (Gedo Region) indicated that 22 percent of the children were moderately to severely malnourished, whereas an ACF survey of camps of the displaced around Luuq (Gedo Region) found a 20 percent rate.
One of the most important and busiest trade routes in southern Somalia, the Mogadishu-Baidoa road was opened for the first time since June 1999. The use of this principal tarred artery can cut up to 4 or 5 days off of the movement of people, goods, and humanitarian assistance into communities in Bay, Bakol, Gedo, and even some border areas of south-eastern Ethiopia.
Food aid distributions for the January-May 2000 period met approximately 40 percent of the FSAU-estimated food relief needs in the most food insecure areas of Bakol, Gedo, and Bay regions. In other areas of southern and central Somalia, deliveries of food aid were much higher, rising in some places to 250 percent of estimated needs.
The Sudanese Relief and Rehabilitation Association (SRRA) completed a preliminary analysis of current food access conditions in several counties, to determine whether it would suffice until the harvests in August/September 2000. The assessment corroborates information provided by the WFP Technical Support Unit (WFP/TSU), and raises new concerns for food security in Aweil East, Aweil West, parts of Twic, Juba, Torit, Kapoeta and Rumbek counties. In addition, other assessments by the WFP/TSU indicate that food security conditions in Upper Nile and Jonglei Regions continue to be of concern. Nevertheless, the assessments also suggest that the situation east of the Nile River, in Bieh, Phou and Latjor has worsened in the last three months, and should receive as much of the food security programming and media focus as has been given since 1999 to Leech State and Ruweng County.
The number of malnourished children in the IDP camps of Nimule and Labone in Eastern Equatoria Region increased by more than 100 percent in April compared to March. Recent multi-agency assessments reveal a global malnutrition rate of 33.8 percent in Bieh State, and an increased number of children in feeding programs in Aweil East and Twic Counties. Health related problems are increasingly being identified as principal factors of the observed food insecurity, highlighting the need for intensified health interventions in addition to relief food distributions. The food security of these areas is also complicated by an influx of returnees from the north and local displacement of populations, low stocks due to the poor harvests last year, and limited access to some of the affected locations due to civil insecurity.
Rains intensified in May, following a late and inconsistent start during March and April. Consequently, vegetative conditions are improving and are now above the seasonal average in most locations, with the exception of pastoral areas of Kapoeta County, Eastern Equatoria Region and isolated locations in other regions. The continued poor vegetation in Kapoeta County is cause for concern as normal migration to neighboring counties, where grazing conditions are better, is not possible due to tribal animosity. Deteriorating livestock health and productivity is therefore considered inevitable.
The status of crop production varies across regions in southern Sudan, depending on the onset of the rains, its intensity and seed availability. In Western Equatoria Region, planting is nearing completion and weeding has commenced. In the remaining regions, planting is ongoing and is expected to continue through June and into July in areas where seed distributions have been delayed.
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