Poor crop production, food aid delivery problems, and civil insecurity are increasing food insecurity in Rwanda. In normally food-deficit Butare, Gikongoro, and Kibuye Prefectures and in the extreme northwest of Byumba Prefecture (figure 1), heavy rains during season A produced flooding and excessive humidity, which caused households to lose large portions of their sweet potato, pulse, and Irish potato crops (60, 50, and 30 percent, respectively). In Ruhengeri and Gisenyi Prefectures, civil unrest continues to disrupt farming and trade. Across Rwanda, opportunities to earn off-farm income are few, prices for staple foods remain extremely high, and market supplies are limited.
Relief needs are greatest in Gikongoro Prefecture, where the local authorities’ request for an immediate 1-month food aid ration in March for 14,000 households went unmet due to transportation problems in Kenya and Tanzania. On field trips to Gikongoro Prefecture in late February and early March, FEWS heard from local officials that 2,000 primary-school children had abandoned classes because of hunger. Prisoners were facing food shortages because their families had no food to feed them, and there were reports of increased incidence of hunger-related illnesses and death.
Signs of stress elsewhere include the closing of Government boarding schools across the country 1 to 2 weeks in advance of the normal March 27 semester end, due to a lack of donor-supplied food assistance. The shortages have also prevented nearly 40 percent of the schools from reopening after the semester break. WFP reports that nutritional conditions are deteriorating in resettlement camps in Kubungo Prefecture, and local authorities in Kibuye and Byumba Prefectures are also reporting worsening nutritional situations in some communes.
The WFP regional office in Kampala has requested special operations funds from WFP headquarters in Rome to increase the program’s trucking capacity from Indian Ocean ports, where over 17,000 MT of Rwandan food aid is stocked. An increase in deliveries from 4,000 to 6,500 MT through June would cover the needs of 220,000 persons who are already receiving aid (refugees, displaced persons, and participants in nutritional and food-for-work programs) and provide emergency food aid for 330,000 more - albeit at a partial ration of 1,025 kcal/day. WFP is considering airlifts in the event that the long rains in Tanzania or Kenya further weaken the transportation system.
The current rains in Rwanda have been favorable for season B crop germination and development, but seeds for most crops remain in short supply. The agricultural input campaign met only a fraction of the country’s needs, except for the distribution of sweet potato cuttings, which reached 94 percent of the target amount. Should favorable rains continue, a successful sweet potato harvest in July would improve food security, especially in the medium- and low-altitude Prefectures of Butare, Byumba (eastern portions), Gikongoro, Gitarama, and Kigali.
Uganda’s rainy season has begun in some parts of the country. Farmers in the east and south have begun preparing their fields, but rains have not yet materialized. In the west and center of the country, slightly wetter conditions have allowed farmers to proceed with normal cultivation activities.
Pastoral conditions remain good across Uganda, and pastoralists in the northeastern Districts of Moroto and Kotido have been able to keep animals near their homes, thus improving their families’ access to milk and meat.
The recent second-season cereal harvest has increased the supply of cereals in markets and pushed down prices (figure 2). Households and traders are now able to rebuild cereal stocks, which had been low following the poor first-season harvest last year.
February’s near doubling of the internally displaced populations in Kitgum and Gulu Districts (from 250,000 to 400,000) has forced WFP to reduce rations while it appeals for additional pledges. To improve planning and targeting, WFP is working with the International Organization for Migration to count the internally displaced persons in those districts. In Gulu District’s Kilak and Omoro Counties, World Vision International is implementing a pilot project to provide agricultural inputs and extension services to 20,000 internally displaced persons and their host families in order to lessen their dependence on food aid.
A UNICEF-UNDP report released in March gave the first comprehensive view of the human health impact and the magnitude of livestock losses in the pastoral districts in eastern Kenya that were most affected by flooding between November and February. The report estimated district-level losses of small stock at greater than 60 percent in all but Marsabit District, cattle losses at 0 to 20 percent, and camel losses at 8 to 20 percent. Children’s health status demonstrated the human cost of the crisis: based on middle-upper-arm measurements, 30 to 55 percent of those under 5 years old were malnourished. WFP emergency distributions in these districts are scheduled to end in May. Donor, Government, and NGO representatives plan to meet soon to discuss interventions that will be necessary after May to help pastoralists recover, as well as possible funding sources.
In response to Drought Preparedness, Intervention, and Recovery Programme reports of high malnutrition rates in Turkana District, FEWS visited the district in March. The reports showed district average malnutrition rates between January and March of approximately 30 percent of children under 5. In Kalokal and Lokori Divisions, 40 percent of children under 5 were malnourished. While Turkana was one of the few pastoral districts that did not have unusually high livestock mortalities during the heavy rains that fell from October to January, FEWS identified various other factors that are eroding food security in the district: high food prices, which have reduced pastoralists’ purchasing power; cattle raiding, which has kept pastoralists from exploiting good pastures and thus reduced milk production for consumption and sale; and poverty among pastoralists who suffered heavy livestock losses during the past three droughts. Donor, Government, and NGO projects are small scale and too limited to address the widespread food insecurity in this remote district.
Unseasonable heavy rains in early 1998 delayed land preparation and planting of long-rains crops in all long-rains growing areas of Kenya (figure 4). In Rift Valley and Western Provinces, which have a unimodal rainfall pattern, planting has been delayed by up to 2 months. The delay may reduce total area planted, but it will not necessarily reduce yields if rains are favorable for the remainder of the season. In Central, Eastern, and Nyanza Provinces, which have a bimodal rainfall pattern, the current 1-month delay in rains may reduce both area planted and yields, because the rains usually last just 3 months.
Short-rains harvesting is complete in Eastern, Central, and Nyanza Provinces. Increased availability of maize from the short-rains harvest has contributed to lower maize prices at major markets compared with the same period last year, but March maize prices at most major markets were still double the average for 1992 through 1996. In response to unusually high maize prices, the Government has waived maize import duties for April 1 through June 30. The Government estimates that 630,000 MT of commercial maize will be imported before July 1.
Most of Tanzania experienced below-average rainfall from late February through March. In bimodal regions, the dry spell was initially welcome, allowing fields to dry out enough for farmers to harvest vuli (short rains) crops and prepare fields for the masika (long rains) season. However, continued below-average rainfall through the end of March delayed planting and may limit total area planted. In unimodal areas, the effects of abnormal dryness will depend on the stage of crop development when the dryness occurred. For the 60 percent of crops that had been planted in November and December and that had already reached maturity, the dry spell will not lower production. For the remaining 40 percent of the crops, which have been planted since December, production may be significantly reduced if dry conditions persist through April.
Harvesting of the vuli crops continued in March in bimodal areas. In the unimodal regions, households have started harvesting green maize, vegetables, and wild foods. Marketing of vuli crops has brought food prices down over the past 3 months. In the Lake Victoria Regions of Mara and Mwanza, which recorded the highest average prices in the country between July 1997 and January 1998, food prices fell 50 percent between January and March. Dry conditions in February and March have facilitated commercial food flows, contributing to lower food prices.
Pasture conditions and water supply have remained good in most areas. The abundant supply of milk following heavy rainfall between November and mid-February has improved pastoralists’ food security. Livestock prices, which dropped sharply in Mara and Mwanza Regions as households sold animals to buy food following last year’s poor harvest, should rebound now that households are harvesting crops. No further incidences of Rift Valley fever have been reported in Arusha and Kilimanjaro Regions, but the quarantine in these Regions remains in effect. If the outbreak is judged to have been contained, the Government will lift the quarantine and there will be very little adverse impact on pastoralists’ welfare.
WFP estimates that 30 percent of the total 58,000 MT of relief food for areas that experienced drought-induced crop losses in 1997 had been distributed by March 28. WFP had planned to complete distributions by December 1997 in bimodal areas and by April 1998 in unimodal areas, but rain and flood damage to infrastructure hampered deliveries by road and rail. With harvesting of vuli crops in bimodal areas and early harvesting of masika crops in unimodal areas, WFP is considering stopping distributions at the end of April.
The FEWS bulletin is published for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Africa Bureau, Assistant Administrator, Disaster Response Coordination (AFR/AA/DRC) by: The FEWS Project, No. 698-0491 (Contract No. AOT-0491-C-00-5021-00), ARD, Inc. Contractor: Associates in Rural Development, Inc., Burlington, VT.
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