Eritrea Food Security Update, March 2004

Situation Report
Originally published


The bahri season, which took place in the eastern escarpments and coastal areas of the Northern Red Sea Zone between November and February, is over; the azmera season, which normally occurs between March and May, has begun. According to the recent 13th Climate Outlook forum for the Greater Horn of Africa, the azmera rains are likely to be near to below normal.

According to the December 2003 nutrition survey carried out by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with various NGOs and UN agencies, global acute malnutrition rates are high, but lower than during the previous season. According to the ERREC, available food stocks (36,762 MT) for the estimated 1.9 million in need of food aid will run out at the end of April.


1.1 The bahri rainy season is finished, having failed for the most part; the azmera season is forecasted to be normal to below normal

The bahri season, which falls between November and February, is over and the azmera season, which lasts from March to May, has just begun. The bahri rains were very poor, improving only in February, when it was too late to benefit crops; as a result, rain-fed crops failed. The late rains, however, did greatly improve pasture conditions.

The azmera season, which occurs in the central and southern highlands, is when long cycle crops such as sorghum and maize are planted, constituting around 20% of annual production.

The 13th Climate Outlook Forum for the Greater Horn of Africa (GHACOF-13), held February 25-27, issued rainfall probabilities for March to May (Figure 1), suggesting that near normal rainfall conditions are likely in Eritrea. While the most probable outlook is for normal rainfall conditions, there is a higher chance for below normal rainfall than above normal in the azmera-dependent areas of Maekel and Debub Zones of Eritrea.

The forecast has been translated into potential rainfall amounts and anomalies by FEWS NET/GHA and USGS using the FEWS Agro-climatology Tool/Forecast Interpretation Tool (FACT/FIT) developed by USGS/FEWS NET (Figure 2). The FACT/FIT generates potential rainfall amounts based on the median rainfall probabilities projected to occur during the period. Areas that depend heavily on the March -- May rains have an enhanced likelihood of near normal to below-normal rainfall. Accordingly, it is projected that most parts of Maekel and Debub Zones and some parts of Northern red sea will receive between 50-100 mm. Parts of southwestern Northern Red Sea Zone are likely to receive more than 100 mm.

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