FEWS Southern Sudan Food Security Update: 09 Jan 2003

Food security projections for 2003 indicate a 25 percent increase in food aid requirements compared with 2002. An estimated 1.7 million people will require 80,000 MT of food aid.

Priority areas remain the highly food insecure areas of Gogrial, Pibor, Aweil West, Bieh, Torit, Latjor, Liech and Ruweng, as reported in November. A total of 800,000 people residing in these areas require food aid to help them survive until the next harvest in September.

Based on the ANA findings, FAO estimates that 40-45 percent (117,000 households) of all food insecure households will require seeds in 2003. Cereals (sorghum and maize) and groundnuts will be priority, making up 70 and 25 percent, respectively, of the 1,800 MT required this year. The highest proportion of seeds will be targeted to Upper Nile and Bahr El Gazal regions

Despite a poor harvest in October for most parts, sorghum prices have dropped in a number of moderately food insecure areas between September and November. This may be an indication that the situation may not be as bad as initially projected. However, close monitoring is required since grain is expected to run out in January or February in most of the areas.

1. Overview of Food Security Trends

The food security situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming months, and 2003 could be the worst year since 1999-2000. Poor rainfall and insecurity are the main factors contributing to the worsening situation, particularly in the Upper Nile and Jonglei regions.

Food shortages have been increasing in Bahr El Gazal since 1999 despite the improved security situation and near normal rainfall patterns, particularly in 2000 and 2001. The worsening food insecurity in this region is a cause for concern given that the region has been relatively peaceful compared to previous years and to other regions while, at the same time, there has been a steady increase in food aid each year since 1999. Although increased food insecurity has been attributed to incidences of civil insecurity and lack of sufficient agricultural inputs such as seeds, these may not be reflecting the true situation.

The food security situation has gradually deteriorated in Upper Nile Region and parts of Jonglei region because of civil insecurity related to increased oil operations by the Government of Sudan. Although food insecurity has worsened in the two regions, this has not always been reflected in food aid figures due to controversy over population figures and limited access as a result of civil insecurity. Nevertheless, compared with last year, a 70 percent increase in food aid for Upper Nile and Jonglei is projected for 2003. Although the food security situation had improved in most of Eastern Equatoria in 2001, the gains were lost last year due to extremely poor rainfall and insecurity in the most agriculturally productive areas.

2. Agro - Climatic Conditions

Rainfall has been normal to above normal in all parts of southern Sudan during December (Figure 1a). Above normal rains were received in the extreme south east of Eastern Equatoria, an area that had experienced drought conditions during the April -July rainy season. Since October, rainfall returned to normal levels, resulting in improved vegetation, particularly in the Lakes Region and most of Eastern Equatoria Region (Figure 1b). Livestock are likely to benefit from improvements in pasture during this year’s dry season (January and April). Poor vegetation conditions have persisted in the south and central parts of Jonglei Region, where conflicts over grazing and water may emerge given that the area’s households depend heavily on these diminishing resources to meet their food needs.

3. Conclusion of Annual Needs Assessment (ANA)

The ANA concluded in the last week of December. The poor 2002 harvest is projected to raise food aid requirements for 2003 by 25 percent above last year’s requirements. In total, WFP estimates that around 80,000 MT of food aid will be required. The FAO Crop Supply Assessment provides a different estimate (139,000 MT), which includes the needs of households serviced in areas under the Government of Sudan (GOS) and by food aid agencies other than WFP, such as the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and Norwegian Peoples Aid (NPA) (Figure 2). FAO has also taken into account a surplus of 34,000 MT. FAO estimates, excluding GOS areas in southern Sudan, translate into 84,000 MT, suggesting that WFP food estimates may be higher by 10-20 percent since they do not include the food aid provided by other agencies. Significant differences between the WFP and FAO figures are also apparent in the geographic areas targeted for assistance, particularly with respect to Bahr El Gazal and Lakes region. These differences reflect the urgent need for joint and close monitoring of the food security situation and a clear and common vision of what role food aid should play in meeting the identified needs.

Figure 2: Food Aid Estimates for 2003 from WFP, ANA and FAO Crop Assessment Mission
WFP Food (MT)
FAO Food (MT)
Upper Nile/Jonglei
32, 286
Bahr El Gazal/Lakes
South Blue Nile

FAO projects that a total of 117,000 households (41 percent of the total food insecure households) will require 1,825 MT of seeds (mainly sorghum, maize, sesame and groundnuts) during the 2003 cropping season, which starts in May and June. Cereal and groundnut seeds make up 70 and 25 percent of total seed requirements, respectively. Most of the seed will be targeted to Upper Nile and Bahr El Gazal, where significant pockets of food insecurity are found (Figure 3).

At the moment, agencies are attempting to acquire seeds locally; however, as these inputs are time-sensitive and need to be in place by May, successful seed interventions will depend on securing funding quickly.

4. Market Conditions

Since September, sorghum prices have declined or stabilized in several food insecure areas as new supplies enter the market following the October/November harvest. In Narus (Kapoeta County - moderately food insecure) and Mapel (Wau County - food secure), sorghum prices have declined steadily since September 2002. Prices in Narus escalated rapidly during the March - April period. This is explained in part by normal seasonal fluctuations, as this marks the traditional food gap in the Kapoeta area. However, the extreme jump was due in part also to fighting in the Kapoeta area which curtailed the flow of grain from the main town to the rural areas. This meant that the entire population increased its reliance on the Narus market. The prices declined rapidly between April and May when fighting stopped and the population had access to grain that was looted from stores in Kapoeta town. Prices increased again after the grain was exhausted in July, followed by the failed July/August harvest. Prices stabilized again in August/September, possibly due to 550 MT of food that was provided by WFP, and then declined between October and November, possibly due to inflows of grain from Kenya’s Rift Valley region where harvesting started in the same period.

Sorghum prices in Mapel had been stable in the early part of the year, but escalated during the cultivation period (April-June). Prices rose higher than in other markets during this time because of fighting that resulted in the displacement of households (increasing demand on the market) during the early part of the year (February - April). Prices started to decline in September as the harvest came in. In Warwar market (Aweil East County -moderately food insecure), sorghum prices remained relatively stable throughout the year, and have fallen since the September harvest like in the other areas.

In general, a look at the annual fluctuation in sorghum prices (the main staple) indicates that the food situation may have been stable by the start of December 2002, despite the poor harvest. However, the situation in highly food insecure areas still remains unclear and requires close monitoring.

5. Trends in Food Interventions

Figure 5 illustrates the trend in food aid delivered by region in relation to the amount needed over the past 3 years. The trends show that food aid requirements have not been fully met for Upper Nile (2001-2002), Equatoria (2001-2002) and Nuba (2002) regions. Food deliveries to Upper Nile and Nuba were seriously constrained by insecurity and restrictions on access placed by the Sudan Government. Although civil insecurity affected deliveries in Equatoria, the lack of appropriate food aid targeting mechanisms in this area also played a significant role in the discontinuation of food aid. The problems of limited access and food aid targeting resulted in a downward adjustment of food requirements, without a concomitant investigation of the coping strategies that households utilized in dealing with the lack of food aid. The consistent gap between stated food aid requirements and actual deliveries in some of the regions may imply that (a) coping strategies have been underestimated, (b) projected food needs may have been overestimated, or (c) population figures may have been overestimated. The disparity between requirements and deliveries indicates the need for improved monitoring and evaluation of the accuracy of projected deficits, the possible changes in coping capacity and the effectiveness of food aid in meeting stated needs.