Ethiopia

FEWS Ethiopia Food Security Update: 16 Oct 2003

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Situation Report
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Highlights

While recent food aid pledges and distributions (at full ration of 15 kg cereal, 1.5 kg pulses and 0.5 kg vegetable oil) to previously identified beneficiaries continued to have a positive impact on food security and nutrition, preliminary field assessment results indicate that food assistance will be required next year, though at a significantly reduced level in comparison with that of 2003.

The DPPC-led annual national crop production and needs assessment for the CY 2004 will start in late October and continue to mid-November 2003. The findings of this and other non-food assessments will form the basis of the annual appeal, which is planned to be released on 10 December 2003.

Examining the overall production prospects for the meher 2003/04 season, the normal rainfall observed over most meher-crop growing areas was favorable for meher season agricultural activities. Despite a decline in the use of fertilizer and hybrid seeds, the meher harvests this year are expected to be close to normal (based on the 1997/98-2001/02 Central Statistical Authority's production average of 8.79 million MT), and higher than those of last year (7.37 million MT), which fell about 20 percent below the average.

Cereal prices in selected markets were stable between August and September, but are still much above the September 1995-2002 averages. Record-high prices may help producers get better prices at the start of the harvest season and possibly reduce their heavy indebtedness. However, these high prices may have negative consequences for households who rely on the market for food purchases (particularly the most vulnerable) by sharply eroding their real purchasing power and ability to cope.

Current analysis on market prices seems to indicate that expected price declines for the coming few months should not reach the level of 2000/01, when record low prices, below farmer's production costs, were recorded. During 2000/01, these depressed prices created a disincentive effect on farmers' planting decisions the following year. In turn, this adversely affected household incomes and cereal production.

Food security continues to improve with better food aid deliveries and the ensuing main harvest, but vulnerability remains, and food and non-food requirements will continue through 2004.

While recent food aid pledges and distributions (at full ration of 15 kg cereal, 1.5 kg pulses and 0.5 kg vegetable oil) to previously identified beneficiaries continued to have a positive impact on food security and nutrition, preliminary field assessment results indicate that food assistance will be required next year, though at a significantly reduced level in comparison with that of 2003.

During the first half of 2003, although there were significant pledges to Ethiopia, timely delivery and distributions of pledges was problematic. For example, in June 2003, only 67 percent of the required food aid was distributed. In some Regions, especially in Southern Nations, Nationalities and People's Region (SNNPR), inadequate food aid distribution during the first half of the year has contributed to increased food insecurity. This problem seems to have been resolved. Currently almost 100 percent of committed and required food assistance has been delivered at the national level or distributed locally, improving the food security status of vulnerable populations. Overall, the Disaster Prevention and Preparedness Commission (DPPC), WFP and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) managed to distribute 1.4 million MT of food or 84 percent of the total required amounting to 1.6 million MT between January and September 2003 (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Monthly Food Aid Requirements and Distributions
(January - September 2003)


Preliminary results from the national 2003 mid-meher season assessment indicate that cereal production is near normal in the major meher producing areas. This is expected to temper the prevailing crisis of food insecurity. Furthermore, assessment teams have indicated that access to pasture and water is much improved in drought-affected pastoral areas of the country this year. Livestock are reported to be in good condition. Improved crop production, water and pasture are expected to reduce the number of people requiring emergency food assistance for 2004. For instance, estimates from East and West Hararge zones of Oromiya Region, Dire Dawa and Harari Regions and Shinille and Jijiga zones of Somali Region, show that even taking the worst case scenario (assuming rainfall ceases at the time of assessment) food aid needs in 2004 may decrease by about 25 percent compared to 2003.

However, in the dry midland and lowland areas, where the main harvest, especially of maize, has significantly been affected or where households have lost significant livestock assets, and also where the chronically food insecure with depleted household assets and limited coping mechanisms are concentrated, the need for food and non-food aid assistance will continue through CY 2004. Furthermore, pockets in southwestern parts of the country have been affected by various climate shocks, such as late onset of rains, erratic distribution of rainfall, long dry spells during the season, flooding, and pest infestations which are expected to lower crop production in and increased many households' vulnerability to food shortages.

A combined humanitarian assistance effort by the Government, donors, Untied Nations (UN) agencies and NGOs has helped to avert a potentially much worse national disaster in Ethiopia in 2002/03. Given the widespread and significant impact of the food crisis in 2003, increasing destitution and chronic food insecurity, erosion of livelihoods, and other factors, similar efforts by Government, donors, UN agencies and NGOs will be required to continue for next year. Thus, the Government and donors should work to ensure sufficient funds are available to cover the reduced humanitarian needs of Ethiopia at least for the first half of the next year.

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