FEWS Rwanda Food Security Update: 18 Sep 2003

Situation Report
Originally published


This bulletin was prepared in collaboration with Save the Children Fund (SCF-UK) and contains a summary of a food economy survey which was conducted in March-April 2003 in Ruhengeri Province.

Short-term food security is improving in Rwanda, mainly due to two factors: 1) early indications that the harvest from crops grown in the swamps from Season 2003 C (July-October 2003) will be satisfactory; 2) there has been an early start to Season 2004 A (September 2003-January 2004). At national level, a good Season C harvest can provide foodstuffs for nearly two months of consumption and allow a good bridging with the next main harvest of December-January. This optimistic outlook about 2004 A is based on the assumptions that it is not a false start and that the rainfall will remain favorable throughout the season. Climatologists predict for Rwanda an adequate rainfall from September to November 2003, but actual rainfalls may differ from forecasts. FEWS NET, WFP and partners will monitor the actual rainfall pattern as the season progresses. The food crisis affecting the Bugesera Region has not been aggravated during the reporting period. Encouragingly, the affected population believes that with a combination of favorable rainfall, immediate support with acquiring beans and maize seeds, and sustained food aid until December 2003, it will largely overcome the current crisis by January 2004. In other areas of the country containing pockets of food insecurity, key informants there too have stated their belief that the situation is improving. However, even in years of good rainfall, there usually is a hunger period by mid-November in Rwanda, especially in chronically food shortage areas. Food assistance programs should therefore be increased in those areas during that period. This assistance now hinges on the WFP food pipeline situation. Though the latter has markedly improved over the last month, WFP is still 29 percent short of requirements for the continuation of existing programs until end of 2004 and calls for donors to respond to its August 29th Appeal.


A court terme, la sécurité alimentaire s'améliore au Rwanda, principalement pour deux raisons: 1) la récolte 2003 C (juillet-août 2003) dans les marais s'annonce bonne; et 2) le début apparemment précoce de la saison 2004 A (septembre 03-janvier 04). Au niveau national, la production d'une bonne saison C fournit des aliments pour environ deux mois de consommation et permet une bonne jonction avec la prochaine grande récolte de décembre-janvier. L'optimisme quant à la saison 2004 A est basé sur l'hypothèse qu'il ne s'agit pas d'un faux départ et que les pluies resteront favorables tout au long de la saison. Les experts prédisent pour la période de septembre à novembre 2003 des pluies adéquates pour le Rwanda, mais la réalité peut différer des prévisions. FEWS NET, le PAM et leurs partenaires vont suivre l'évolution de la pluviométrie durant toute la saison. La crise alimentaire de la région du Bugesera ne s'est pas aggravée au cours de la période sous revue. La population affectée croit que si les pluies sont favorables, si elle reçoit de l'assistance en semences de maïs et de haricots, et si l'aide alimentaire continue jusqu'en décembre 2003, elle va largement surmonter la crise autour de janvier 2004. Dans les autres régions du pays connaissant des poches d'insécurité alimentaire, nos principaux collaborateurs croient que la situation s'améliore aussi. Toutefois, il y a toujours une période de soudure vers la mi-novembre, spécialement dans les régions à déficits alimentaires chroniques. L'assistance alimentaire devrait donc être accrue dans ces régions durant cette période. Cette assistance dépend surtout du pipeline d'aliments du PAM qui, même s'il s'est amélioré, accuse encore un déficit de 29 percent par rapport aux besoins de ses programmes d'ici fin 2004. Par conséquent, le PAM demande à ses bailleurs de répondre favorablement à son appel du 29 août dernier.

1. Review of Diminishing, Continuous and Emerging Food Crises

In their field assessments during the August 19 -- September 18 period, partners in food security monitoring were not able to include rough estimates of the number of people affected by food crises. Such estimates will be provided in next month's bulletin.

1.1. Diminishing Food Crises

The following two factors are contributing to a general improvement of the food situation in Rwanda:

1. The start of Season 2003 C (July-September) harvest;

2. The early start of rains for Season 2004 A (September 2003-January 2004).

Unless unseasonable rainfall ruins the prospects for a good season 2003 C harvest, short-term food security in Rwanda is expected to improve and remain fairly good until the next main harvest in December/January. In the meantime, the Season C harvest that takes place in October should provide many families across the country with an additional food source (mainly beans and sweet potatoes) for Figure 1: Rainfall almost two months of consumption, i.e. to Aug 11 - 20 November 2003.

Figure 1: Rainfall Estimates, Aug-Sept 2003

FEWS NET, Sept 03

Season 2004 A seems to have already started. While rains are normally well established by the end of September, parts of Rwanda have been receiving sustained precipitations since mid-August (see Figure 1), which led farmers to start planting cassava, sweet potatoes, maize and beans. With the early start of the season, the first harvests of Season 2004 A (mainly of beans, sweet potatoes and maize) should begin in the first half of December. This would reduce the length of the hunger period that stretches from November, a welcome outcome in chronically food insecure regions. This outlook assumes that the early rains received mark the real start of season.

1.2. Continuing Food Crises

Bugesera. There has been no significant deterioration in the food and nutrition crisis in Nyamata and Gashora Districts, Kigali Rural Province since June 2003. This is due in part to food assistance from the Government and various other organizations (see August report). People have largely been coping by cultivating in marshland ("marais"), participating in FFW and selling their labor in the more food-secure areas such as Byumba. Section 3 presents a more detailed update of the situation in Bugesera Region.

Gikongoro IDPs. The WFP VAM unit carried out a rapid assessment from the 2nd to 4th September 2003 among a sample of internally displaced (IDPs) living in six resettlement villages in Mushubi District, Gikongoro Province, in order to understand their current household food security and vulnerability issues. The IDPs are a total of 509 families who were displaced from Gishwati Forest, Gisenyi Province in late 2002. Their food security is fragile as they have been unable to cultivate adequately in the marais or around their homes due to lack of lime, fertilizers and manure (most own no animals). The Ministry of Local Government has been providing them with relief food, but the last delivery was in June 2003, and the WFP Food for Work (FFW) ration is inadequate. The IDPs cope by receiving gifts from neighbors or borrowing food and later using FFW rations to pay it back. Meals are being skipped. Their only source of income is the sale of FFW rations which they use to buy sweet potatoes and cassava. The majority cannot even afford to migrate. They were waiting for some plots, seeds, lime, and fertilizers, promised by Gikongoro provincial authorities, so that they can start planting this season. The plight of the IDPs urgently needs to be addressed because there is evidence, among other things, of increasing malnutrition among infants. The full report is available from the WFP VAM unit.

Still Worrying WFP Pipeline Situation. The WFP food pipeline remains inadequate. Following the WFP appeal for assistance raised in August 29th, WFP has met only 71 percent of the shortfall (of which half has been donated by USAID). Donor response to the WFP Appeal will partially help to meet the food requirement for 32,000 refugees, support to supplementary feeding for under- five children, pregnant and lactating women, and support FFW activities through February 2004. WFP is urging donors to pledge for the remaining 29 percent of requirements so as to meet funding needs for the continuation of existing programs under the Regional Protracted Relief and Refugee Operations (PRRO) until the end of 2004.

2. Food Security Situation and Prospects

2.1. Current Food Security Situation

Key informants in various provinces report that the food security situation is adequate, and that households living in pockets of food insecurity are coping using traditional strategies (off-farm employment, petty trade, etc.) or by working in nearby FFW schemes. The current food security status depends mainly on the last Season 2003 B harvest, which was fair, and on the harvest of season 2003 C (July-September), which should be good.

Markets are fairly well supplied and the cross-border trade with Uganda and the DR Congo is thriving. However, the prices of some commodities, such as rice and sugar, are increasing rapidly.

2.2. Food Security Outlook

With the exception of Bugesera Region and other pockets of food insecurity that have been covered in previous reports, the food security outlook at the national level looks acceptable up until the end of the year. The first harvests of marais are bolstering the remaining stocks from the June-July 2003 harvest. It is worth noting that Season C harvests allow nearly two months of consumption and help bridge the gap between June-July and December-January harvests. Many households will however still feel the impact of the hunger period of November, especially those who had a poor Season B harvest or have limited access to marshlands. Increased support to them with FFW and cash-for-work opportunities should therefore be enhanced in November.

Soon, at the end of school holidays, another factor, school feeding, will play an important and beneficial role. School feeding has become an important component of food security in the chronically food insecure areas of Bugesera Region and of Butare Province. The meal provided with WFP assistance in primary schools at lunchtime removes a heavy burden from poor households. Also, the monthly tin of 3.6 kg of vegetable oil that girls attending levels 4, 5 and 6 take home (in a bid to reduce their drop out rates at those levels) has a positive impact on girls' attendance and on household food security. School will resume on October 6th, and resumption of feeding activities will therefore help the households affected by rainfall shortage in coping with food shortage. WFP assistance to primary education is expected to continue until December 2006 under the approved Country Program for Rwanda (2003-2006). Selected primary schools in targeted food insecure regions of Rwanda will be assisted in providing a daily meal to pupils and a monthly tin of vegetable oil to girls attending Levels 4, 5 and 6.

2.3. The September-November 2003 Rainfall Forecast

Climatologists met from 25th to 27th August in Nairobi and released the Great Horn of Africa (GHA) rainfall forecast for the September-November period. In the last 5 years, such long-range forecasts have been more accurate at estimating total quantities of rain, rather than its distribution in localized areas or across the season. For the current season, experts call for particular caution in the use of the forecast as there are no strong El Nino or El Nina signals. It is worth noting that forecasts are based on global and regional weather conditions, long-term rainfall data (going back at least 30 years) and statistically-based prediction models. They are usually expressed as probability chances of rainfall occurring within the range of the third wettest years of the data set (hence, above-normal rainfall), the middle years (near-normal rainfall) and third driest years (below-normal rainfall).

In the recent GHA forecast for September to November 2003, the western half of Rwanda has a probability of having a 20 percent chance for above normal rainfall, a 45 percent chance for normal rainfall and a 35 percent chance for below normal rainfall (see Figure 2). Western Rwanda has therefore 65 percent chances of having normal or above normal rainfall, against 35 percent of having below normal rainfall. As this part of Rwanda receives abundant rains, even this last occurrence would not mean insufficient rainfall, as it normally receives more than what seasonal plants require. Figure 2 suggests that the eastern half of the country, which includes most of the regions prone to rainfall shortages (Bugesera Region, Kibungo and Umutara Provinces), has a low probability of 25 percent for below normal rainfall. The seasonal forecast is therefore quite favorable for Rwanda.

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