Food Security Conditions Worsen in Ethiopia
Ethiopia continues to experience worsening food security in multiple areas of the country, signifying a serious situation. North Wello, South Wello, Wag Hamra (Amhara Region), South Tigray (Tigray Region), East Harergue (Oromiya Region), Konso Special Wereda and North Omo (SNNP Region) all face serious food shortages. Various Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) and UN field assessment missions have determined that food assistance remains a top priority, overriding all other non-food needs. They also reported that a greater volume of supplementary food than initially expected would be needed to stabilize the deteriorating nutritional status of children. The DPPC estimates needs to be about 425,000 MT for 5.3 million people, but so far donor responses have reached only half of that amount.
Although the current situation is far from being a full-scale famine, the multiple foci of extreme food insecurity and the large numbers of people affected have led to serious concerns about availability of food resources and the capacity to respond. Inadequate response to the current situation could result in greater numbers of people needing assistance over time. The UN Country Team in Ethiopia has launched a special Relief Action Plan and Appeal, targeting the most severely affected parts of the country over the next 3 months. The UN Appeal, valued at about $7.5 million, focuses on a number of priority interventions in the areas of health, water, sanitation, nutrition and agriculture.
The abnormal weather pattern that started with the belg (secondary) season (March 1999) has yet to fully return to normal for the current meher (main) season. This is evidenced throughout July by consistent rainfall scarcity in the west, unseasonable rains in the pastoral areas of South Omo Zone in the southwest and irregular rains in other parts of the country. The unseasonable rains in South Omo and adjoining Konso and Derashe Weredas were most welcome to herders. The rains helped to replenish water sources and pastures that had suffered from a drought earlier in the year. These resources are now expected to last until the next rainy season due to start in September.
The 1999 gu (main) season harvest is complete in most areas of southern Somalia. A multi-agency assessment mission, with FEWS participation, estimated total cereal production at almost 129,000 MT, comprised of some 75 percent maize and 25 percent sorghum. This is almost 25 percent below the forecast made at the start of the season. Production in rainfed areas was particularly disappointing due to poor rainfall, civil insecurity and heavy bird attacks. Agricultural areas of Bay Region, the heart of the sorghum belt of Somalia, produced only 19,000 MT of sorghum compared to a prewar average (1982-1988) of about 90,000 MT. In Somaliland, the gu harvest will begin in September. Production prospects are improved from initial forecasts as a result of the good seasonal rains (karan) and assistance from international agencies, which enabled farmers in Somaliland to plant or replant some 4,000 hectares of crops.
Although livestock conditions improved in southern Somalia following the July showers, dry conditions are causing concerns in the north-eastern and central rangelands (Puntland). Significant livestock movements were reported in July from Puntland toward the Haud area of Ethiopia. This is an early sign of water shortage and drying pastures in Puntland, where livestock have never fully recovered from water shortages that began at the end of 1998.
Newly printed currency continues to be pumped into the economy, causing substantial devaluation of the Somali shilling. Prices are rapidly inflating in virtually all markets where the old shilling is used, eroding the purchasing power of most Somalis (figure 1). In July, prices of imported food commodities such as wheat flour, sugar and vegetable oil rose by about 13 percent in Mogadishu and by as much as 18 percent in markets of the interior. Prices of these commodities usually fall during the post-harvest season.
High rates of internal population displacement continue due to the recent surge in fighting. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mogadishu, previously estimated at 250,000 (about 20 percent of the city’s population) is increasing daily. Most of the new IDPs come from the port town of Kismayo and from the districts and villages where factional control changed in June. It is expected that many of these IDPs will eventually end up in Puntland.
In July, the Somalia Aid Coordination Body (SACB) released an inter-agency emergency appeal for southern and central Somalia for the period July through December 1999. The appeal aims to benefit some 1.2 million people at a cost of almost $17.5 million. More than 75 percent of the requested funds would be directed toward bolstering food security through the provision of an additional 17,200 MT of food, 2,100 MT of seed and 1,500 MT of supplemental feeding blend (supermix). The Italian Government pledged $6 million for WFP’s new Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation in Somalia, and the US Government has committed 6,000 MT of food to CARE.
Food security continues to deteriorate for Kenyan households in pastoral and marginal agricultural areas. Although a comprehensive assessment has yet to be coordinated by Government and donors, there are several indications that drier than normal conditions during much of the past 2 rainy seasons are taking their toll on the ability of households to meet food needs. Estimates of the current season’s production have been revised downward by 7 percent, the national food deficit has grown, prices are high and livestock health conditions are deteriorating.
Based on July figures from the Ministry of Agriculture, national long-rains maize production is forecast at 1.7 million MT. This is 25 percent lower than last year and 23 percent lower than the 1994-98 average. Likely yield gains as a result of July rains in the central part of Rift Valley Province will be more than offset by significant losses in other key agricultural areas of the Province where July rainfall was poor. Even if the upcoming short-rains harvest (October to February) is average, FEWS estimates a 500,000 MT national maize deficit for the period July 1999 to June 2000.
Maize prices continued to rise in July at most reference markets. In pastoral areas, maize prices, which rose 5 to 10 percent between June and July, are 30 to 40 percent higher than at the same period last year. In Nairobi, July maize prices were 40 percent higher than the 1996-1998 July average. As livestock prices decline, the decrease in livestock-to-cereal terms of trade makes access to cereals increasingly difficult for pastoralists. Government efforts to encourage imports by reducing duties on imported maize from 32.5 to 25 percent have not yet been effective. Traders are likely holding out for duties to be reduced to zero, as has been the case in the past.
Reduced availability of water, pasture and browse for livestock has resulted in decreased body weight, increased susceptibility to disease, reduced birth rates and poor survival rates of offspring. Competition for increasingly scarce grazing resources has led to an upsurge in civil insecurity, particularly in parts of Moyale, Samburu, Turkana and West Pokot Districts. Two projects working in the pastoral areas (the Arid Lands and Resource Management Project and the Drought Preparedness Intervention and Recovery Project) have classified populations in several divisions in Marsabit, Moyale, Tana River, Turkana and Wajir Districts as highly food insecure (figure 2).
In response to the deteriorating situation, the Government has been distributing maize to the areas of the pastoral, agropastoral and marginal agricultural districts worst hit by recent droughts. During July, it distributed 6,400 MT of maize. To date, however, poor targeting has diluted the impact of Government food aid distributions. Limited, localized food-for-work and supplementary feeding activities by NGOs are continuing in the pastoral and marginal agricultural areas of the Central Division of Mandera District and in Mwingi and Tana River Districts. Further food aid needs will be determined after joint Government/donor field assessments have been completed. These assessments have been postponed until September while donor funding is being secured. -
Food security conditions in southern Sudan’s Western Upper Nile Region are deteriorating. Civil insecurity since early 1999 has disrupted agricultural production, impeded access to markets and resulted in the loss of assets. Thousands of people have been displaced within the region and are in urgent need of assistance. With access limited due to a Government flight ban and continuing insecurity, only small amounts of relief food, agricultural seeds and tools, health and other forms of relief assistance were delivered in the last year. The flight ban was partially lifted in August; however, to facilitate and increase relief deliveries, hostilities will need to cease.
Most of southern Sudan experienced heavy rains in July except that rainfall continued to be inadequate in eastern parts of Eastern Equatoria Region. Overall, good to fair yields are expected in Western Equatoria and parts of Eastern Equatoria where harvesting has commenced. However, Kapoeta and parts of Torit Counties (eastern parts of Eastern Equatoria) are already registering partial crop failures as a result of poor rains this year; yields are expected to range from average to poor. Kapoeta and Torit Counties, also important livestock areas, are likely to face shortages of pasture and water because of the poor rains.
Relief assistance continues to be needed in areas of southern Sudan affected by insecurity and population displacements. In Bahr-el-Ghazal Region, relief efforts must be continued to prevent any deterioration in nutritional levels. The Region hosts large numbers of displaced persons, and there are still pockets of unacceptably high malnutrition rates, particularly in Aweil West and East Counties. In July, WFP/OLS delivered about 8,200 MT of food aid to the southern sector; this is 86 percent of the planned 9,498 MT and a 38 percent increase compared to June deliveries. In Upper Nile Region, WFP/OLS delivered 67 percent of the planned distributions to 61 percent of the planned beneficiaries, a significant improvement over June when 14 percent of the planned distributions went to 26 percent of targeted beneficiaries. However, large areas of Western Upper Nile remained inaccessible.
The agropastoral northeastern Districts of Moroto and Kotido are facing a serious food security threat, as poorly distributed and inadequate rainfall has reduced the 1999 sorghum harvest. Many areas report a total crop failure. A coalition of NGOs and church groups (part of the Action by Churches Together Network) estimates that 250,000 people are affected by crop losses and even total crop failures in Moroto and Kotido—nearly half the Districts’ population. Hundreds of people have moved into Moroto town in search of income opportunities, and pastoralists have started moving to dry-season grazing areas nearly two months earlier than normal. Food prices are soaring, doubling since June. Cattle raiding and recurring attacks on road convoys are preventing the flow of market goods both within and outside the region. An assessment mission planned by the Government, WFP, NGOs and FEWS has been postponed until the security situation improves.
In mid-July, the Government and FEWS assessed the effects that dry conditions since April have had on production in the southwest Districts of Kisoro, Kabale, Ntungamo and Mbarara. Although hard data were unavailable, local agricultural officers estimated that first season (March-June) production was reduced by as much as 60 percent. However, first season harvests play a relatively small role in annual food production in these areas and this shortfall will be abated somewhat by the ability of most households to draw on carry-over food and non-food assets from last year. Until the next harvest in December, the most vulnerable households will also cope by entering into petty trade (such as charcoal sales) and purchasing food from the market. While some pockets may require food aid, the total need is expected to be minor.
While the rest of the country experienced interruptions to the normal rainfall pattern in June and July, production was less affected than in the southwest and northeast. In Gulu and Kitgum Districts, World Vision International and International Service Volunteers Association report normal harvests as more land was put into production than last year. Harvests in the eastern and central Districts were normal, with surpluses in beans and maize.
Relief efforts continue in Bundibugyo District, where an estimated 112,000 people remain displaced in 42 protected settlements. Displaced persons in Gulu and Kitgum continue to receive food and non-food aid assistance; their food aid needs are decreasing as much improved security since January has given farmers better access to land for cultivation.
Final results of the Government/FEWS/WFP/ NGO joint assessment mission conducted in late June/early July indicate national food production for 1998/99 to be 7.2 million MT, approximately equal to the five-year (1993/94 to 1997/98) average and to last year’s output. While total production is about average, crop composition has markedly shifted toward non-cereal crops (mainly bananas, cassava and potatoes). Compared to the 5-year average, non-cereal crop production increased 10 percent, while cereal production fell 9 percent. This shift occurred due to dry conditions in predominately cereal-producing areas in central and northern Regions and in parts of the Southern Highlands, while several key non-cereal crop-producing areas were to a large degree unaffected by the dry weather.
At the sub-national level, food production in 32 out of 101 districts (in the central and northwestern regions of Dodoma, Shinyanga, Singida, Tabora, Mwanza, Morogoro and Mara) declined by more than 25 percent compared to average. A majority of these districts also have production deficits (food production compared to consumption needs) for the 1999/2000 marketing year and are experiencing a third consecutive poor season.
The cassava crop area in Kagera Region is increasingly being infected with the cassava mosaic virus (see FEWS Special Report, July 1998) as the disease spreads from Uganda into Tanzania. Crop losses of cassava, which is the second most important staple after bananas and accounts for 18 percent of the Region’s food production, are reducing food availibility in the Region and are likely to have a negative impact on food security if the disease is not brought under control. The Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has advised farmers to uproot and consume the mature cassava, to destroy all young cassava and crop residues and to leave infected fields fallow for 6 months before replanting with mosaic-resistant varieties.
Due largely to the shortfall in cereal production, national average prices of sorghum, maize, rice and finger millet in July were 25, 26, 36 and 42 percent higher, respectively, than last year’s prices for the same period. While maize prices in central Tanzania and Lake Victoria declined slightly following the harvest, prices have remained extremely high in the northern markets, where maize prices are more than double those of last year and the 5-year average.
Significant production shortfalls relative to average at the district level and continued high prices are likely to leave populations in affected areas in need of relief interventions before the next harvest. Careful food needs assessments should be conducted to determine the magnitude of the problem and to target interventions.
In July, WFP completed distribution of over 14,100 MT of relief food to 900,000 beneficiaries in Arusha, Iringa, Singida, Dodoma, Coast, Mwanza, Tabora, Morogoro and Shinyanga Regions. The emergency operation (EMOP) will be extended to December of this year, but only 2,600 MT of food stocks remain and new pledges have not yet been obtained. WFP may amend the EMOP to request additional food to respond to the deteriorating food situation.
Preliminary estimates of 1999 season B crop production for Rwanda have been revised downward slightly, from 2.46 million MT to 2.42 million MT. Nonetheless, the new estimates show a production increase of about 9 percent over last year. This is mainly due to increased production in the northwest, which resulted from improved security and better access to land.
Despite the increase in aggregate production, the number of kilocalories produced per person per day during season B was no different from last year, remaining about 20 percent below the pre-war level (1990). The assessment team’s provisional national food balance shows a commercial import requirement of 50,000 MT and a food aid requirement of 73,000 MT. By the end of July, 54,000 MT of food aid had been pledged, including 34,000 MT from WFP, leaving a gap of 19,000 MT.
Market prices of major staples are still below their 3-year average (1996-98). However, poor production of staples in southwest Uganda due to poorly distributed rains last season, as well as continued insecurity in the Democratic Republic of Congo, may drive up prices in Rwanda in the coming months.
The July crop production and food needs assessment mission found that the population of goats, sheep and poultry increased by as much as 25 percent over last year. Such increases should benefit most rural households across the country. The cattle population, estimated at 750,000 head in May 1999, has remained level and is close to the maximum number ever recorded. Cattle are held primarily by households in the north and east.