Belg Field Report

Originally published
This year the belg rains were on time in all belg producing weredas of the North Omo zone - Southern Nations Nationalities Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS), although often excessive. Rainfall received in February was reported to be too much and hampered land preparation, delaying planting in the three visited western highland areas of former Wolayita awraja (Kindo Koisha, Boloso Sore and Ofa). According to the belg crop assessment report conducted in some of the weredas by DPPC in collaboration with NGOs operating in the area, and information obtained from line departments, 20 to 40 % yield reduction has been registered in comparison with the 1995 belg season production. Moreover, continuation of the belg rains into the kiremt season was reported to have had a negative impact on land preparation and planting of the long cycle teff crops. Sweet potato butterfly had also caused damage on sweet potato crops in the weredas visited.

According to the Sodo DPPC Coordination Office, the nutritional status of children under 5 in the eastern highlands of Damot Gale, Damot Weide, Sodo Zuria and Humbo as well as in the western highlands of Boloso Sore, Offa and Kindo Koisha was reported to be satisfactory to good, and has remained stable since the SCF UK nutritional surveillance survey conducted in July. According to the survey by SCF, market cereal prices were reported to be low in the eastern highlands, while a survey conducted in the western highland placed the prices at an average level. Changes, however, are not significant in comparison with an earlier survey in July.

In another survey conducted in the area it was found that a total of 651 households and about 100 hectares of cropland were damaged by landslides at different periods during this year's belg season.

The availability of pasture and water for livestock was reported to be far better than the same time the previous year. General livestock performance was also good and no alarming outbreaks of human and livestock diseases were reported.

Currently, the Sodo DPPC coordination office reports a total of 33,930 quintals of sorghum are in stock at two EGTE warehouses rented by the Commission.

The following report mainly emphasises the outcome of the belg season, as in the visited areas normally maize, the staple food of the population, is planted during the belg cropping season and harvested by June. The short rains therefore have a direct impact on the general household food security of the area.

2. Weredas Visited

2.1. Kindo Koisha

The wereda is reported to be both belg and meher dependent. Early and heavy belg rainfall this year was common in all, resulting in difficulties in land preparation and, subsequently, poor crop performance.

According to the 1996 belg crop assessment report conducted by the wereda Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Committee in collaboration with SOS SAHEL, the 1996 yield was 70% lower than 1995 and 40% lower than the 1994 belg seasons.

The kiremt rains also negatively affected agricultural performance at both the land preparation and planting stages. However, the performance of the meher crops of teff, wheat, barley and pulses was positive during the field visit to the wereda, and crops were at the flowering stage.

A survey conducted by the wereda DPPC indicated that a total of 1135 people were affected by landslides that occurred between June/July, and 78 hectares cropland were damaged.

No major diseases were reported but endemic diseases such malaria were still reported to be a standing problem in the wereda. Trypanosomiasis in livestock was also reported to be endemic.

2.2. Sodo Zuria

The Sodo Coordination Office of the DPPC reported that the population at risk is 25,808, of which 9,774 persons are being assisted by World Vision in Humbo. However, comparing the population at risk with the total population of 829,824 in the five visited weredas, it could be concluded that only a small percentage of about 3% are affected in Sodo Zuria, a fact that also suggests the situation is not alarming here at the present time. The Coordination Office had received 100,000 quintals of sorghum from the DPPC to be used for North Omo and neighbouring zones. According to this office, a total of 66,060 quintals has been re-allocated to some of the weredas in the former Wolayita awraja, Gambella Region and Jinka in South Omo Zone (SNNPRS), for both food for work projects and the flood affected people in Gambella.

A total of 3,785 people were also affected by crop failures as the result of heavy rainfall, hail storms and landslides. However, in the aftermath of these natural hazards, various replanted crops were thriving and farmers expect a good meher yield, providing that no more heavy rains occur before the harvest.

Pasture and water availability in all agro-ecological zones of the wereda were reported to be satisfactory, and the condition of livestock stated as being much better than the previous year (1995). No reports were available on major disease outbreaks except the chronic problem of malaria. Trypanasomasis has also long been a standing problem for livetock in all agro-ecological zones of the wereda.

2.3. Boloso Sore

The belg rainfall was reported have had a timely but poor distribution at the start of the season. Following this weak beginning, excessive rains soon became a problem, somewhat hampering land preparation and planting. The wereda council, together with the Agriculture Department of the wereda, confirmed that the 1996 belg production is considered to be poor in comparison with the 1995 belg season production.

According to the wereda Agriculture Department, sweet potato, which is the second staple food after maize, was highly affected by the sweet potato butterfly.

According to wereda officials, of the 38 kebeles in the wereda 30 kebeles are recognised coffee producers. However, a reduction in the overall yield was reported due to a high occurrence of Coffee Bearing Disease (CBD).

Kiremt rainfall in the wereda had a timely onset and relatively good amount and distribution in comparison with neighbouring weredas. Teff, which is the main meher crop in the wereda, was at the flowering stage during the field visit, and was expected to be harvested towards mid-November.

Regarding the health situation, several cases of malaria and typhoid have been reported in the wereda over the past three months. The wereda Health Office is currently providing necessary medical supplies and treatment. However, a scarcity of drugs was reported.

The performance of livestock was generally reported to be good during the visit, as the result of abundant rainfall this year and good pasture availability. No major diseases were reported except endemic occurrences of Anthrax, Blackleg and Trypanosomiasis.

2.4. Offa

According to local authorities, the Offa wereda is comprised of 26 kebeles with a total population of 136,910. The wereda is reported to be dependent both on belg and meher crops.

The belg rainfall this year was reported to have been on time but excessive. According to the wereda Agriculture Department, above normal rainfall damaged maize crops at tassling and maturity stages. The wereda belg crop assessment team, who were in the field during the field visit, had already indicated less production in this year's belg in comparison with the 1995 belg crop production. The reduction will be confirmed as soon as the assessment is finalized.

176 heads of families (a total of 1,134 people) were reported to have been affected by landslides in June and July, and about 83 hectares of cropland destroyed. According to a report obtained from the wereda council, food assistance had been provided to the affected farmer families.

Too much rainfall during July and August delayed planting time of teff, the main meher crop, in the mid- and lowlands and also hampered planting of pulses and cereals in the highlands. During the visit to the wereda, teff was at its flowering stage and was expected to be harvested between early November and the end of December. Teff in the wereda is considered the primary cash crop.

Malaria, although not yet at epidemic levels, has become an issue of concern to the wereda, and during the visit health officials especially expressed concern regarding a shortage of drugs to counter any spread of the disease after the end of the rainy season.

Livestock condition is satisfactory, although some cases of Anthrax and Blackleg have been reported in the wereda since July. According to the wereda Agriculture Department, vaccination measures have been undertaken by the veterinary service and both diseases were successfully controlled.

3. Conclusions and recommendations

As discussed, in some of the weredas visited some yield reduction has been registered from the belg harvest and a less than optimum meher harvest is anticipated by the wereda DPPC and line departments. This yield reduction is primarily the result of unexpected, excessive and prolonged rainfall this year, although it is also obvious that even under normal conditions the Wolayita has long had a fragile food equilibrium. In order to avoid increased household vulnerability through the progressive depletion of food stocks and capital assets, close monitoring in the coming months by Government officials and agencies operating in the area, especially in the three weredas of former the Wolayita awraja, namely Kindo Koisha, Offa and Boloso Sore, is highly recommended.


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