Onset of the 2019 Gu season delayed across most of Somalia
The onset of Gu rainfall, which normally begins in April across parts of Somalia, was delayed. Most regions remained dry during the April 1-10 and April 10-20 periods, with the exception of highly localized areas in the northwest (Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Togdheer and Sool) and in the South (Gedo, Bay and Bakool). According to local information and remote sensing data, these specific areas received 10-50 millimeters (mm) of rainfall during the April 10-20 period (Figure 1). As a result, precipitation amounts during the second dekad of April ranged 25 to 150 mm below the short term mean (STM) across the South and 10 to 50 mm below the STM in central Somalia and localized areas in the North (Figure 2). However, satellite images suggest rainfall was climatologically average in the Northeast and in eastern parts of the Northwest during the same dekad. Water levels in the Shabelle and Juba rivers are significantly below average, although forecast precipitation in the Ethiopian highlands in the coming weeks are expected to somewhat improve river water levels.
In the Northwest, localized light to moderate rains were reported in localized parts of Hawd Pastoral, Northwestern Agropastoral, West Golis Pastoral, and Northern Inland Pastoral (NIP) livelihood zones in Awdal, Woqooyi Galbeed, Sool, and Sanaag during the April 10-20 period.
However, parts of NIP and West Golis livelihood zones were reported to have received only light rains. Although the rains are expected to bring a little relief in terms of water and pasture access, cumulative rainfall remains significantly below average levels. No rainfall was reported at all along the coast of Guban Pastoral zone, but this is typical at this time of season.
In the Northeast, conditions remained atypically dry in most parts of Bari, Nugaal, and northern Mudug, with little to no rainfall received to date. The only exception is in parts of Hawd Pastoral livelihood zone of Nugaal region, where localized light showers were received in the April 10-20 period. As a result, pasture and water resources are extremely below normal levels across Northern Inland Pastoral and Addun Pastoral livelihood zones. Households are relying on water trucking and livestock hand-feeding.
In the central regions, most of southern Mudug and Galgaduud regions remained dry during the April 10-20 period. No rainfall has been reported in most livelihood zones, including Hawd Pastoral, Addun Pastoral, Cowpea Belt Agropastoral, and Coastal Deeh Pastoral and Fishing.
Only in localized coastal and central (cowpea) areas of Hobyo district were localized moderate to light rains reported. As a result, rangeland conditions (pasture and water) are precarious and in need of rainfall in almost all livelihood zones of Galgaduud and Mudug.
In the South, most regions experienced delayed Gu rains, including the key crop producing areas in Middle and Lower Shabelle and Bay regions.
Gu rains were expected to begin from mid-April, but remote sensing imagery and field reports indicate no precipitation occurred in the April 1-20 period in any part of Hiiraan, Lower and Middle Shabelle, and Lower and Middle Juba, as well as in most parts of Gedo and Bakool. However, highly localized light to moderate rains were reported in a few areas of Gedo (Elwak and Bardhera districts), Bay (all districts), and Bakool (Huddur and Elbarde districts). Rain gauge stations recorded 5 mm in Baidoa (Bay), 1.3 mm in Dinsor (Bay), 25.5 mm in Hudur (Bakool), 14 mm in Elbarde (Bakool), 0 mm in Beledweyne (Hiraan), and 0 mm in Sakow (Middle Juba). In general, the delayed rainfall in the country as well as in the Ethiopian highlands has had negative impacts, including lack of seedling emergence and germination, reduced pasture availability, and the extreme reduction of the Juba and Shabelle river water levels. Although river water levels have risen slightly in the last week or so due to precipitation in the Ethiopian highlands, river water levels are extremely below typical levels. According to FAO/Swalim, observed river levels at seven observation stations range from less than one meter to up to three meters.
The satellite-derived eMODIS Normalized Vegetation Index (NDVI) for the April 11-20 period shows poor vegetation conditions across most of Somalia (Figure 3). More extreme deficits are observed in the southern regions, where most of the country’s cereals and other vegetable and fruit crops are produced. The Climate Prediction Center’s seven-day weather forecast through April 30th predicts moderate to heavy rainfall ranging from 20 to 80 mm across southern and central regions and localized pockets of the northeast and northwest (Figure 4). Average to above-average rainfall in Ethiopian highlands over the coming week is also expected to improve water levels in the Juba and Shabelle rivers.