Ethiopia + 6 more

FEWS bulletin Nov 1999: Eastern Africa and the Horn

Poor Rains in Ethiopia’s Pastoral Areas
The annual retreat of the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) slowed in October, resulting in a one and one-half month delay to the end of the meher (main) season rains over much of Ethiopia. Although this is favorable for late-planted long-cycle crops, late rains can be damaging for short-cycle crops such as teff, which were planted extensively because of the delayed start to the season. Whether the yield gain in maize and sorghum will offset any loss in teff is not yet clear. A preharvest assessment in November/December will address this issue and provide detailed information on crop production and food aid needs. Even with the extended rainfall, 1999 meher production will likely be significantly below average because of poor growing conditions throughout the season.

The minor rainy season in the southeastern and southern pastoral lowlands has been below average, with little to no rains recorded in October. Water for human consumption has become a great concern in areas of Somali Region and Borena Zone (Oromiya Region), as is food insecurity and pasture availability. In contrast, floods in Afar continue to pose health hazards due to large areas of standing water. Floods have also dislocated 16,000 people in Gambela Region, subsequent to the Baro River overflowing its banks.

The Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC) issued an Appeal Update on October 15 that takes into account areas not identified in previous appeals. The Appeal Update targets a needy population of nearly 7 million for October and November and contains a request for 74,000 MT of food aid from donors to meet the needs of the additional beneficiaries.

The DPPC also issued a Bridge Appeal in mid-November, which is designed to fill an expected gap in the food aid pipeline in the first quarter of 2000. Additionally, the usual Annual Appeal has been moved from December to January 2000 to accommodate both the preharvest assessment and a planned pastoral areas assessment. In previous years, the Annual Appeal did not include results from the January pastoral assessments.

As of mid-October, 16 percent of the 414,000 MT of food aid pledged by donors had been delivered. The pledged food aid represents over 90 percent of the food aid requirement prior to the recent Appeal Update. Since July, the DPPC has been able to increase the amount of food distributed in every successive month. However, scattered localities remain in need of more relief distributions, particularly in parts of Gurage Zone (SNNP Region) where populations are extremely food insecure and in East Harargue Zone (Oromiya Region) where high malnutrition rates have been reported.

Country Updates


The overall dry conditions in October, with only light and patchy rains falling, have harmed prospects for the year 2000 season A bean and maize crop in one-half of Rwanda (figure 1). The Government estimates that almost 179,000 households are affected in Umutara, Kibungo, Kigali-Rurale, Gitarama, Butare and Gikongoro Prefectures.

A joint Government/donor/FEWS rapid assessment to the affected areas during the first week of November roughly estimated that between 60 and 70 percent of the area planted in beans, a major staple, will have significantly reduced yields. Some of the bean crop has already been lost. Maize, a less important crop, has also been affected as dry conditions occurred shortly before or during the critical flowering period; a total crop loss is expected in some locations, and yields will be very low throughout the affected region. The other principal staples—such as bananas, sweet potatoes and cassava—have not been as affected because these crops were able to tolerate the dry periods and rebound when rainfall improved. To avoid additional crop losses and increased food insecurity, well-distributed rainfall from November to January is critical.

The Prime Minister of Rwanda issued an appeal for food aid assistance on November 8. The rapid assessment team recommended that WFP double food distributions from approximately 3,500 MT per month to 7,000 MT. The team recommended close monitoring and a review of food shortages and potential food aid needs after the harvest assessment in December and January. The team requested that WFP provide immediate food aid assistance to the most food-insecure households in Sake Commune (Kibungo Prefecture) and in Ngenda Commune (Kigali-Rurale Prefecture).

Market prices have remained relatively stable in the areas affected by poor rainfall distribution with the exception of Umutara (Kabalore Market) where prices have risen sharply in the last 2 weeks. Nationally, the prices of bananas and cassava remain stable and only slightly above last year’s levels while Irish potato prices, also stable, are lower than the level reached one year ago. In large part, this is a result of increased production in the northwest. Also, recent assessments by FEWS and the joint rapid assessment mission have found that imports of staple foods from the Democratic Republic of Congo are helping to maintain market supplies in Rwanda. Cattle markets in Umutara have been closed following an outbreak of hoof-and-mouth disease. This has increased food insecurity among pastoralists, as they depend on livestock sales to purchase food commodities in the market.


A delay in the onset of the short rains is increasing concerns for the food security of pastoralists in the north and east of Kenya and for households in the marginal farming areas of Eastern Province (figure 2; see East Africa forecast box). Reports from the Drought Preparedness Intervention and Recovery Program (DPIRP) and the Arid Lands Resource Management Project (ALRMP) indicate that the unusually dry conditions have led to the loss of surface water sources and an increasing reliance on the few functional boreholes. As grazing and browse near these boreholes become over exploited, livestock conditions will deteriorate further. Poor October rainfall in the farming areas of Eastern Province, especially in Machakos, Makueni, Kitui, Mwingi and Mbeere Districts, has delayed planting and germination of the short-rains crop. In contrast to the rest of Kenya, the short-rains harvest in these areas accounts for up to 70 percent of the annual harvest. Traditional coping strategies, such as working as farm laborers in more productive farm areas, have been limited throughout the year due to poor production during the long-rains season.

The Government has earmarked $4 million for the local purchase of 23,000 MT of maize for relief programs, but the money has not yet been released by the treasury. In November, officials plan to distribute 7,200 MT of maize to 35 districts in North Eastern, Eastern, Rift Valley, Coast and Central Provinces. To address the water needs of pastoralists, the Government has begun borehole improvement and transport of water in North Eastern, Eastern and Rift Valley Provinces. The ALRMP has also set aside $40,000 for each of 10 pastoral districts in these Provinces to respond to urgent needs as they arise. Planning for NGO and donor interventions is based on the recommendations of the Kenya Food Security Group (KFSG), which consists of representatives from Government, UN agencies, donors and NGOs. The group meets monthly to review ongoing interventions and to identify unfulfilled needs. Geographically based sub-groups of the KFSG meet at least once per month to undertake detailed response planning.

Harvesting of the last of the 1999 long-rains maize crop is underway, but unseasonable rains in Uasin Gishu and Trans Nzoia Districts in Rift Valley Province may hamper harvesting activities. The 900,000 MT maize harvest expected from Rift Valley Province represents nearly half of this year’s long-rains output.

The fall in maize prices, which began in July, is expected to continue into November and December. The declining trend is attributed to the increased supply of maize from western Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. Nonetheless, the current price of maize remains over 50 percent higher than at the same time last year. Sustained high cereal prices result from poor long-rains production in most parts of the country and the expectation of a poor short-rains season.


In Somaliland, 1999 cereal production in the main agricultural Regions is estimated at 21,800 MT. This compares favorably to last year’s total production of 12,800 MT and is 30 percent higher than the post-war average. However, compared to the pre-war production average (1982-88) in Somaliland, 1999 production is down by more than 50 percent.

Good rains during October in most northern Regions of Somalia have regenerated pasture and water supplies, following a prolonged dry-spell in many areas. However, animals are in poor condition, and this has led to a drop in livestock numbers and reduced reproductive rates and milk production. Consequently, milk prices are relatively high in most northern markets. If the rains continue and pastures improve, milk production should return to near normal levels by the end of the deyr (secondary) season around December in the northwestern Regions. Milk production is likely to recover more slowly in eastern Somaliland and in Puntland, where animals have been hardest hit by dry conditions.

Overall, food security conditions are favorable for most of Somaliland for the months ahead. However, poor pastoralists in the Haud Plateau have lost most of their animals, and many households are on the brink of destitution. Food assistance for the coming months could help save their remaining assets. Additionally, a relatively small number of agropastoralists in Togdheer Region are drought-affected and may require some assistance, particularly with inputs for the next gu (main) season in July 2000.

In most of southern and central Somalia, October rains were light and localized as the 1999 deyr season began. Crop establishment is mixed in rainfed areas, with incomplete planting in some areas and germination failures in others. Irrigated production in southern Somalia is proceeding well. However, heavy rainfall in the Ethiopian highlands has led to high river levels in both the Juba and Shabelle Rivers. Reports of flooding have already been received from the Juba Valley, and the high level of the Shabelle River in the Belet Weyne area is causing concern over possible flooding of both villages and crops.

WFP and CARE have coordinated food aid distribution plans in Gedo, Bakool and Bay Regions. Distributions are proceeding fairly well in Bay and Bakool Regions. Civil insecurity has constrained humanitarian efforts in Gedo Region, although CARE has initiated food aid distributions in some areas. WFP has also experienced some difficulties in distributing food in Galgadud Region due to civil insecurity.


The vuli (short season) rains in bimodal northern and coastal areas of Tanzania, which normally last from October through December, have started poorly this year in many areas (see East Africa forecast box). A dry October in Arusha, Coast, Kilimanjaro, Morogoro and Tanga Regions raises fears that continuation of dry conditions into November and beyond in these areas could lead to a second consecutive year of below-average vuli production. In contrast, the vuli season started well in Kagera and Mara Regions. Beans, sorghum, maize and sweet potatoes planted in these latter Regions are at the vegetative to flowering stages and in good condition.

The long-rains season, which normally starts in November, began in October in unimodal Kigoma and Rukwa Regions. Land preparation and dry planting have also started in other unimodal areas of the country. Since most smallholder farmers store their seed from one year to the next, seed availability will be limited for the poor farmers in the areas affected by 2 consecutive droughts. In particular, sorghum and millet seeds will be in short supply for many households in Dodoma, Mara, Mwanza, Shinyanga, Singida and Tabora Regions.

The national average prices of maize and potatoes leveled off between September and October and were, respectively, 9 and 22 percent below their levels of October 1998. Maize prices also steadied in October in the food deficit Dodoma, Shinyanga and Singida Regions and were between 2 to 15 percent lower than one year ago. Household cereal availability and access in northern Regions and in the southern highlands were bolstered by the 1999 long-rains season harvest completed in October. The flow of surplus maize to Kenya (see trade box, FEWS bulletin, October 1999) continued in October and could extend beyond November due to the continuing maize price differential between the 2 countries.

Food needs assessment teams visited the drought-affected central and lake zones in mid-October and are expected to report on the magnitude of food insecurity in November. The report will be used by the Government and WFP to determine likely food relief needs in these areas before the next harvest in May 2000.


The food security situation in Kotido and Moroto Districts (northeastern Uganda) continues to worsen, following last season’s poor harvest and uncertain civil security in the region. Local production shortfalls, combined with insecure transport corridors, have forced a steep rise in food prices, and local markets must now rely on food imports from surplus areas outside the region. Livestock prices have dropped significantly as pastoralists sell off animals to pay for staple food purchases. Furthermore, District Veterinary Officers report the emergence of serious livestock diseases"Red Water Fever (Anaplasmosis) and East Coast Fever (corridor disease)"and increasing animal deaths in Kotido District. Households are trying to cope by engaging in petty trade, firewood and charcoal sales and labor exchange and sales. School attendance has gone up, especially among girls, as the Districts’ schools offer free food to students.WFP is developing contingency plans to mitigate food shortages through food distributions that may start as early as January 2000. As civil insecurity continues to prevent an assessment of the numbers of households in need of assistance in these 2 Districts, WFP will likely intervene cautiously, through food banks, schools, parishes and other centers. Any relief effort mounted will be contingent on adequate security for targeting assessments, food distributions and monitoring.

An estimated 110,000 people remain displaced in Bundibugyo District, as insurgents continue to destabilize the region. Nutritional monitoring by Médecins sans Frontières-France indicates that levels of malnutrition in children under 5 in this District are rising. WFP and other humanitarian groups are providing food and non-food assistance.

In the rest of the country, second-season cultivation continues with harvests expected to begin in mid-November in the north and end in January in some southern Districts. Production in eastern and central Districts is expected to be average to above average. In the southwest along Uganda’s borders with Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, rainfall distribution has improved. In Kabale District, for example, an assessment by FEWS in late October found crop conditions much improved over an earlier assessment conducted in September. If rainfall continues to be well distributed through early December, fears of production losses due to early season drought will be allayed.

Southern Sudan

Crop harvesting continues across southern Sudan. Harvesting of second-season crops in the Equatorias and long-cycle sorghum in Bahr-el-Ghazal and Upper Nile Regions is expected to continue into December. Heavy late-season rains in October have sustained good pasture growth for livestock but caused extensive flooding in low-lying areas of Bahr-el-Ghazal and Upper Nile Regions.

The annual FAO/WFP Food Supply and Crop Assessment Mission for southern Sudan was completed in October. The report has not been released, but initial findings confirm a significant increase in the area planted and in production compared to 1998. Preliminary results of the WFP/FEAU (Food Economy Analysis Unit) Annual Needs Assessment estimate a reduced requirement for relief food in 2000, compared to approximately 91,000 MT estimated for 1999 for the southern sector. Substantial improvements in food security are noted in Lakes Region and parts of northern Bahr-el-Ghazal. However, food insecurity is expected to persist in several areas (figure 4). These include flood-affected areas of northern Bahr-el-Ghazal (Aweil West, Twic, Gogrial and Aweil East Counties), areas of Upper Nile experiencing continuing civil insecurity and population displacement (Liech State and Ruweng County) and drought-affected parts of Eastern Equatoria (Kapoeta and Torit Counties). WFP is examining the possibility of locally purchasing relief food from surplus areas of Western Equatoria for distribution in northern Bahr-el-Ghazal.

The UNICEF Household Food Security Unit (HHFS) estimates that more than 2,200 MT of seeds and 1.1 million agricultural tools will be required for distribution at the start of 2000. This is a 40 percent reduction in the amount of seed distributed in 1999. UNICEF is purchasing 600 MT of local seeds from Western Equatoria. NGOs, including World Vision International, CARE and Sudan Production Aid (SUPRAID), have also started buying local seeds. Critical to the success of these distributions will be the procurement of seeds of appropriate crop varieties, identification of necessary tools and their timely distribution before the start of the season in May 2000.

During October, WFP delivered 5,350 MT of relief food - 98 percent of planned deliveries. This is a 30 percent reduction from the target deliveries of September, made possible by increased food availability from the incoming harvests. For all Regions taken together, beneficiary coverage was above 50 percent despite civil insecurity and flooding in some locations in Bahr-el-Ghazal and Upper Nile.

Mid-season Evaluation of the Climate Outlook for the Greater Horn of Africa

The Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum indicated in a statement issued after their September 1999 meeting that dry conditions would prevail over much of the Greater Horn of Africa during the period September through December 1999 (FEWS bulletin, September 1999).

Normally, for northern areas, the rainy season would be tapering off during this period with significant rains ending in November. For southern areas, although the rains generally last through December or even January, rains during September and October are critical for crop development. FEWS has evaluated how well the forecast has played out so far (figure 3).

In wide areas, the forecast has been largely borne out. Eastern Kenya has experienced normal to below-normal rainfall while western areas have been wetter than normal. A similar pattern is seen for northern, eastern and the lake areas of Tanzania while southwestern areas have received normal to above-normal rains. Eritrea had normal to above-normal rainfall as was forecast. In the Somali Region of Ethiopia, the season, although short (October-December), is crucial for livestock. In October, there were only two rainy days, and these rains were light and inadequate for pasture growth and replenishment of the water supply; in light of this, the short-season rains failed, as was predicted. The forecast is also correct for northern Ethiopia where anticipated above-normal rainfall was observed. As expected, southern and central Somalia were normal to below normal while some northern areas were normal to above normal.

However, in some areas, the pattern is mixed. Sudan had rainy conditions over a wider area in the south than predicted, but the forecast dry swath was apparent, although somewhat further north than expected. The dry patch in northwestern Uganda did not materialize, but most other areas of the country were wet as expected, although drier than normal conditions occurred in the extreme southwest region, along Uganda’s border with Rwanda. Rwanda was dry, which was contrary to the forecast. While satellite imagery shows Burundi to be near normal, a "drought" assessment was recently released, which would indicate that at least for parts of the country, the dry forecast was correct.

While at this point in time (halfway through the forecast period) indications are that the forecast has been quite accurate in many areas, conditions can still change. Special vigilance should be given to those areas (southern Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Burundi, and now, using local forecasts, Rwanda) expected to be dry for the remainder of the crop season.