FEWS Bulletin - March 28, 1997
Masika (long rains) rainfall during February remained patchy and below average throughout most of Tanzania, although above-average rainfall was recorded in parts of the central Regions. The masika season is the only rainy season in the central and southern highlands, and planting, which normally ends in January, is still under way. Some late-planted crops may not mature if the masika rains end as usual, in April.
There are signs of drought stress on maize and sorghum crops in parts of Shinyanga and Mwanza Regions. Insufficient moisture has caused maize and sorghum to tassel prematurely and wilt. Poor rainfall has also delayed rice planting in Mwanza, Shinyanga, and Tabora Regions, which normally account for half of the rice produced in Tanzania. Although rice is not a major crop nationally, it is important as a source of income or food in these Regions and among urban dwellers.
Despite the delayed and unevenly distributed rainfall at the national level, rainfall in the southern highlands of Iringa, Mbeya, and Ruvuma Regions and the western Region of Rukwa has been adequate, and the crops range from knee high to flowering stage and are doing well. Crops throughout the central Regions are at various stages of development; if the rains continue normally, yields should be good. However, masika production this year will likely be lower than it was in 1995/96, because sporadic rainfall early in the season resulted in a reduction in area planted.
The prolonged unseasonably dry spell along the Kenyan border, in the pastoral and agropastoral areas of Arusha, Kilimanjaro, Mara, Morogoro, Mwanza, Shinyanga, and Tanga Regions, continues to threaten rangeland conditions and livestock production. Cattle mortality has increased in Arusha Region. Migration of livestock in search of water and pasture is unusually extensive, and livestock prices have declined due to the poor condition of animals. Rinderpest remains a threat to livestock in Arusha, Kilimanjaro, and Mara Regions, and the Government of Tanzania has implemented a vaccination campaign that includes preventing pastoralists and agropastoralists from moving livestock until the animals are vaccinated.
The below-average 1996/97 vuli (short rains) harvest and the delayed start of the 1997 masika season have led to a deteriorating food security outlook for Tanzania. Interagency teams are assessing the situation in the most affected areas. The outcome of the masika season, which is the critical determinant of food security in 1997, will become clear in April.
The onset of the first-season rains normally occurs in the southern half of Uganda in late February or early March, and the rains then move into the north by early April. Uganda's first-season rains have been patchy, with some rains reported in mid-March for Kabarole and Kasese Districts in the west and Soroti District in the east.
In the eastern Districts, where last season's production was poor, farmers began dry sowing as early as January in hopes of an early onset of rains. In Kapchorwa District, normally a grain surplus region, this year's anticipated high demand has spurred preparation of unusually large areas for maize.
Maize shortages are keeping prices high in all the major markets. As a result, traders in the border Districts of Kapchorwa and Kasese, who normally export surplus to neighboring countries, are selling to local Ugandan markets.
Pasture conditions remain poor in the northeastern Districts of Kotido and Moroto, and many pastoralists remain with their livestock in neighboring Districts. WFP reports that about 35,000 Karamojong pastoralists have returned to Uganda from Kenya because of poor conditions in seasonal pastures. WFP has recommended that they receive food assistance and seeds until the next sorghum harvest.
The crop and food needs assessment carried out in March by FAO and WFP highlights deteriorating food situations in northern, eastern, and northeastern Uganda, as reported in the February FEWS bulletin. The assessment suggests that throughout the country, nearly 600,000 Ugandans and 221,000 Sudanese refugees are highly vulnerable and will require some food assistance over the next 6 months (figure 3).
The most vulnerable populations are in the northern Districts of Gulu, Kitgum, Moyo, Arua, and Nebbi, where an estimated 210,000 persons have been displaced by civil unrest and are increasingly dependent on relief aid. WFP has initiated emergency assistance to 110,000 persons in the hardest hit Districts of Gulu and Kitgum.
In eastern and northeastern Districts, FAO and WFP estimate that 250,000 persons in Pallisa, Kumi, Mbale, and Tororo Districts -- as well as 91,000 in Moroto and Kotido Districts, including the 35,000 Karamojong returnees from Kenya -- may need some food assistance before the next harvest. WFP has not yet received a formal request for food aid assistance for this part of the country.
Government officials report that as many as 40,000 persons have been displaced in Kasese by insecurity along Uganda's border with Zaire. There are also approximately 14,400 refugees from Rwanda in Mbarara District and 29,300 refugees from Zaire in Kabarole and Kisoro Districts.
Uganda -- Constraints to Food Aid Delivery
April through July will be a critical period for both displaced and drought-affected populations in Uganda, because food stocks will be very low or exhausted and the harvest does not peak in most of the country until early August. WFP estimates that, beginning in April, its Uganda program will need food resources of about 10,920 MT per month to meet increasing demand.
If Uganda had experienced a normal production year, WFP would procure food relief supplies from surplus production areas in country. This year, however, it will have to obtain the food commodities from southern Africa or further abroad. WFP is planning to procure relief food from southern Africa as soon as funding issues are resolved.
The shipping logistics will be difficult, because Mombasa, the Kenyan port through which the food aid for Uganda will probably be shipped, is already congested with the arrival of large commercial and donor shipments destined for Kenya and other countries in eastern Africa. The potential delay in procurement and the difficult logistics of shipping pose real constraints for food aid deliveries at a critical time for many Ugandans.
With the beginning of light rains in early March, Rwandan farmers have been preparing their fields for this year's second season. Farmers at high altitudes in Ruhengeri, Byumba, and Gisenyi Prefectures -- which receive more rainfall and whose soil has more moisture throughout the year than the rest of the country -- are harvesting Irish potatoes as well as planting cowpeas and maize.
Farmers in bottom lands throughout the country are also harvesting sweet potatoes and other vegetables. In Gitarama Prefecture, where cassava is the main source of income, cassava mosaic virus has reduced yields by as much as 30 percent. Poor maintenance has caused banana yields in Kibungo Prefecture, which accounts for half of Rwanda's banana production, to decline by 20 to 30 percent.
Rwanda's returnees and members of other vulnerable groups -- a total of 2.1 million persons -- continue to receive food aid programmed through WFP. Their needs are likely to remain substantial beyond the June - July harvest. New Government policies limiting the distribution role of nongovernmental agencies have delayed bean seed deliveries to needy farmers, which will reduce the total land planted to beans. Donated seeds for other staple crops, such as maize and sorghum, and sweet potato cuttings have met only 30 percent of the needs of the target population, as calculated by Rwanda's ad hoc committee on seeds and tools.
Market prices for staple foods continue to rise. Factors contributing to this rise include increased demand due to the arrival of 1.5 million returnees during the past 4 months and reduced supplies due to insecurity in eastern Zaire, the embargo on trade with Burundi, and poor pulse harvests in eastern Zaire, southern Uganda, Tanzania, and Burundi (bean prices are nearly 30 percent higher than they were at this time last year).
In 1996, production of Rwanda's two export crops, coffee and tea, reached only 60 and 25 percent, respectively, of prewar levels, restricting the country's ability to service its US$96 million debt and to import required food commodities.