El Niño/La Niña Impact on Indonesia: Scenarios - Possible developments in Indonesia over the next 10 months (to end 2016) [EN/IN]

Originally published




The current El Niño started to affect Indonesia in March 2015, reaching strong El Niño levels by July before peaking in December 2015. It has remained strong in early 2016 but is now expected to weaken, returning to neutral phase by July. Whilst the intensity is comparable to the 1997/98 El Niño it has been slower in onset and lasted longer. In 2015, El Niño effects included reduced rainfall, especially in Central and South Kalimantan, southern Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and Papua; reduced the third harvest in some areas; and intensified seasonal fires in Central and South Kalimantan, southern Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi and southern Papua. These fires burned uncontrolled throughout September and October, blanketing Indonesia in dangerous levels of smoke for several weeks and affecting palm oil and rubber production. (OCHA 05/10/2015, FAO 02/02/2016, WHO 20/10/2015,)

This reduced rainfall has reduced soil moisture content in many areas at the start of planting for 2016’s first (main) harvest season and particularly delayed rice planting: around 25% of the national total had not been planted by the end of December 2015 predominantly in Java, Sulawesi, and eastern Indonesia (FAO 02/02/2016). The result is an anticipated delay of at least 25% of the main rice harvest by two months, to April 2016.

Localised reduced yields in 2015 and the delay in harvest of the current, first cycle due to El Niño has resulted in poorer households adopting negative coping strategies (loans, selling of assets etc.) and being less able to withstand future shocks. It is estimated that between 3 million Indonesians live below the poverty line in areas that have been severely impacted by drought, 1.2 million of whom rely on rainfall for their food production and livelihoods. (MoA, LAPAN, WFP 10/2015, WFP 28/01/2016, UN Focus Group on El Nino 02/2016).

Meanwhile the market price of rice is at a record high: as at February 2016 it is around 9 % higher than usual and expected to continue to rise gradually, as usual, until the first harvest. (MoA, LAPAN, FAO, WFP 01/2016)

The Government of Indonesia (GoI) has an on-going programme of drought mitigation measures such as the improvement of irrigation channels, new reservoirs and wells, and water pumps for distribution. The GoI has also allocated IDR 3.5 trillion (USD 258 million) to improve rice state reserves and stabilise the prices of staple foods. Rice imports totalling 1.5 million tonnes were authorised, with expected delivery by March 2016.

Several local authorities declared drought-related states of emergency although most have now ended. Meanwhile some local authorities are dealing with flooding. (MoA, LAPAN, FAO, WFP 01/2016)


Whilst Indonesia has strong capacity and expertise for responding to rapid-onset emergencies, it is far more challenging to respond to slow-onset emergencies. El Niño has already had a significant effect on national rice production and, together with a possible La Niña, has the potential to impact food security throughout 2016.
There is an urgent need to improve the collective monitoring of the situation to adequately prepare for possible increased humanitarian need and longer-term rise in poverty levels.


The scenarios within this document are not attempts to predict the future. Rather they are a description of situations that could occur in the coming 10 months, designed to highlight the possible impacts, and resulting humanitarian consequences, of El Niño and La Niña in 2016.

It is intended that they be used to:

  • Support planning by anticipating needs and related interventions;

  • Provide a framework for improved monitoring and surveillance systems; and

  • Create awareness, provide early warning, and promote preparedness activities among stakeholders.

While the scenarios consider possible developments from March until the end of 2016, any impact on access to basic needs will likely be felt by households as of July and the and extend beyond 2016.


The four scenarios developed are summarised on page 5. On pages 6 and 7 is a list of possible trigger events that, should they occur, will lead towards the situations described in the scenarios. Pages 8 to 11 give more detail on the scenarios including recommended actions that can be taken to mitigate the impact of the scenario and/or minimise the humanitarian consequences should the scenario materialise.


For all the scenarios, it is assumed there will be:

  • Only a slight reduction in the first (main) harvest for 2016 at a national level, although there will be significant reductions in yield in some localised areas.

  • Delayed planting of the second crop cycle in at least 25% of rice areas, mainly eastern Indonesia.

  • Some switching of crops (e.g. from rice to maize) in areas that continue to receive below average rainfall.

  • Good national and regional response capacity except to remote areas (islands / some eastern areas).

Furthermore, the effects of El Niño have already caused a significant number of households to lose income and adopt negative coping mechanisms. As a result, affected households are less able to cope with the impact of possible additional shocks.


Indonesia comprises many different islands spread across a wide area. Consequently the climate in one area can be significantly different to that in another. Even within islands microclimates exist. These scenarios refer to the different regions as shown on the map below but it should be remembered that within any regions there are wide variations in geography, climate, agricultural practices, employment, wealth and living standards.