Sudan + 4 more

EXECUTIVE BRIEF: La Niña and Food Security in East Africa August 2010


Key messages

- A La Niña event has been declared based on the cooling of sea surface temperatures (SST) in the central Pacific Ocean. La Niña events are associated with drier-than-normal conditions during the October-December rainy season in the eastern sector of East Africa, and with wetter-than-normal conditions in the western and northern sector (Sudan, western Ethiopia, and western parts of Kenya). La Niña events can also result in poor March?May rains in the eastern sector of the region.

- The main areas of concern are those that depend on the short rains for crop and pasture production, including Somalia, the northeast pastoral and southeastern marginal agricultural areas of Kenya, the Somali region of Ethiopia, and northeastern Tanzania. In pastoral areas, below-average rains could lead to rapid depletion of resources, livestock clustering in permanent water points and limited dry-season grazing areas, and reduced livestock productivity and value, thereby gradually reversing substantial recent food security gains. In cropping areas, poor October to December rains would negatively affect agricultural labor opportunities, food availability, prices, and income beginning in February 2010 with the short rains harvest.

- The impacts of a La Niña event in the northern and western sector of the region are likely to be less severe. Aboveaverage rains could improve crop and livestock conditions, though they could also increase the risks of flooding, soil erosion, and seasonal disease prevalence.

- Although the La Niña event is considered to be moderate at this time, the severity of the event will depend on the response of sea surface temperatures in the Indian Ocean. If the warming trend in Indian Ocean SSTs continues, it will moderate the precipitation impacts of the La Niña in East Africa, whereas cooling temperatures could exacerbate the trends described above. FEWS NET will issue a follow?up brief pending the outcome of the regional Climate Outlook Forum.