FEWS Southern Sudan Food Security Update: 16 Dec 2002

Originally published

The annual needs assessment has been completed for most parts of Southern Sudan. The first round of conclusions indicate that a majority of areas have had a reduced harvest compared to average, and that the general situation for most areas remains as reported in the month of November. Currently, WFP is in the process of finalizing food requirements for the coming year. However, there are indications that food required for 2003 will be 20-25 percent higher than the 63,000 tons originally planned for 2002. Final figures will be confirmed by December, 20, 2002.

Areas of Liech, Aweil West, Gogrial, Torit, Pibor, Latjor, Ruweng and Bieh remain highly food insecure as reported last month. Initial estimates indicate at least 600,000 people residing in these areas will require food aid for at least 9- 12 months between October 2002 and September 2003.

WFP provided food aid in the highly food insecure areas in October and November. A total of 200,000 and 225,000 people have been served with 1,650 and 2,250 MT of food in October and November respectively. A higher proportion of the population will be targeted from January next year when the harvest runs out. Significant progress was made in food interventions conducted in November in Liech. This was due to an agreement between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army in October 2002, which allows for unimpeded access.

Prices of the main staple, sorghum, have remained stable in the food surplus areas of Tambura, Yambio, and Maridi since the April- May period, but the populations in the neighboring food insecure areas of Tonj, Rumbek, Yirol and parts of Bahr El Gazal are unlikely to obtain access to the surplus because of the extremely poor road conditions.

Overview of the Current Food Security Situation

First Season Harvest (July-August, September - October)

Households in Bahr El Gazal, Upper Nile Lakes and Jonglei harvest their crops in September and October most years. This year’s harvest was generally late (October - November) and poor compared both to a typical year and to last year. Areas with particularly poor performance compared to the last five years include Pibor, Shilluk and Latjor. The poor performance was due to erratic rainfall and a lack of seed in some areas. Areas with notable improvements include Bor and Wau, where farmers increased the land under cultivation. In Wau, rainfall was timely, while in Bor, crops did well because it is a low lying area where pockets of residual moisture collect. Lowland areas typically do well in years of poor and erratic rainfall. Households in Western and Eastern Equatoria usually harvest in July and August. As is typical of Western Equatoria, crop performance was normal with an expected grain surplus. In Eastern Equatoria, the harvest was far below average in some areas due to poor rainfall, but most households were able to take advantage of the second season.

Second Season Harvest (December - January)

Second season harvests are generally limited to Western Equatoria and the south-western parts of Eastern Equatoria region. Rainfall has been average since the end of September and it is expected that crops will perform well. However, a final statement on the second season will have to wait until results are available from ongoing assessments in the Eastern Equatoria region ( Kajokeji, Juba, Terekeka and Yei).

Agro - climatic Conditions

There has been an improvement in rainfall since the last dekad of September, however, this came too late to benefit sorghum production as it coincided with the start of the harvest. Since the end of September, rainfall has been average to above average in most areas. In particular, areas within the Western Equatoria region have been receiving above average rainfall. Other areas have received more or less average rainfall up through the first dekad of December (Figure 1a).

Improved rains are expected to benefit crops in the second season cropping areas of Western Equatoria, pockets of Eastern Equatoria and the south eastern tip of Jonglei region. Although no updates have been received on the current status of the second season crop, rainfall patterns experienced since the end of September would suggest we should expect at least average to good yields.

Despite improved rainfall between October and December 2002, there are significant pockets with below to slightly below normal vegetation, particularly in Jonglei, Upper Nile, Lakes and Eastern Equatoria regions (Figure 2b). This is due to poor and erratic rainfall during the June to September cropping season. The most affected areas remain Upper Nile and Jonglei regions. Poor vegetation conditions began in the September/October period when pasture became exhausted near homesteads. As a result, livestock moved two months earlier than normal to dry season grazing areas. Lack of access to sufficient pasture for livestock is expected to be more pronounced in the Jonglei region (Bieh area), where access to traditional grazing areas has been constrained by fighting with the neighboring Gawaar (in the Phou area) for the last three years. A reduction in milk production is expected and this could affect 70-80 percent of the population that owns livestock in the area. Milk and meat contribute between 15 to 30 percent for a majority of households in this area.

Update on Findings of the Annual Needs Assessment (ANA)

A multi agency annual needs assessment led by WFP was completed at the end of November in most areas. As illustrated in figure 2, ongoing analysis suggests the situation has not significantly changed since November. WFP is still in the process of finalizing figures and expects to present them on the December 17 for discussion.

Click here to view MAP: Southern Sudan - Food Security Situation by December, 2002

Highly Food Insecure Areas

Highly food insecure areas include Aweil West, Gogrial, Pibor, Bieh, Latjor, Torit, the northern parts of Liech and Ruweng. Except for Pibor and Latjor, all other areas experienced high levels of insecurity that extended into the cultivation season. These same areas have also been highly food insecure in the last two to three years. An estimated 600- 700,000 people (30-40 percent of the total population) are expected to require food aid in the coming year, compared to about 400,000 that had been expected to need food aid this year. This population will require food aid for 9-12 months. A poor harvest and the reduced production of wild foods and milk production due to poor rainfall are the main factors contributing to household food shortages in these areas, further worsened by insecurity and poor access to markets. The total population in the highly food insecure areas is about 1.7 million people.

Moderately Food Insecure Areas

These areas include parts of Phou, Kapoeta, Shilluk and Aweil East. The main factor contributing to food insecurity in these areas has been poor rainfall; however, the Phou area has been more affected by the loss of access to markets than rainfall as a result of political changes in the area. While it is highly unlikely that households in these areas will meet their total annual food needs, the situation in Kapoeta will need to be reassessed to determine the level of access to grain from Kenya through trade before food aid is delivered to the area.

Areas with Pockets of Food Insecurity

As reported last month, areas with pockets of food insecurity include Rumbek, Cuibet, Tonj, Bor and Twic. A recent addition to this list is Yirol. Within these areas, recently displaced households from Liech and newly returning households from areas like Bor are still expected to be food insecure. Although the general population will be able to meet its own food needs, a small proportion of the host populations is also is expected to rely on food aid next year. However, the food security situation in these areas has continually improved since 1999 and free food interventions may no longer be the best means for these small pockets of people in need while at the same time encouraging the significant level of recovery that has been achieved.

Food Secure and Surplus Areas

Food secure areas include Pochalla and Wau. Yambio, Maridi and Tambura in the Western Equatoria region will produce surplus food this year, as expected. In 1999 and 2000, these areas produced an estimated 30-40,000 MT of surplus grain each year. This surplus was sufficient to cover the deficits of Lakes and Bahr El Gazal in both years, but roads are too poor to allow for the transport of these surpluses within the country. This situation has not changed. Since 2000, the surplus has declined in Western Equatoria, reportedly because farmers cannot sell off the excess. Despite the reduction in crop production, there are still significant amounts of surplus food. For instance, Tambura area alone is estimated to have a surplus of 8,500-9,000 MT of sorghum, maize and groundnuts, combined. This year, it is unlikely that significant amounts will be accessible to households in the neighboring deficit areas of Yirol, Tonj, Rumbek and parts of Bahr El Gazal, even though many of these households have the means to purchase food. Improving the main roads that link surplus and deficit areas could be the best way for achieving sustainable food security in the short and long term, particularly in the Lakes region where there are fewer households facing food insecurity.

Areas where Assessments are Ongoing

A harvest assessment for the second season crop is currently being conducted by Norwegian Peoples’ Aid (NPA) in Juba, Terekeka and Kajokeji. The assessment will be completed by December 20. Preliminary findings indicate that crops, including sorghum, cowpeas, groundnuts and cassava, had germinated well between September and October. The first season harvest in this area, which occurred in September, was poor because of erratic rains during the growing period, compounded by pest infestation. Termites affected sorghum, groundnuts and sesame in Juba and Terekeka; gall midge attacked sesame, stock borer attacked maize in Kejokeji; groundnuts were affected by rosette virus in Terekeka, and snails attacked cowpeas in parts of Juba. Other pockets were infested with cassava mosaic and striga weed, which affects sorghum. The poor rains and a subsequent dry spell apparently helped multiply the number of pests in the first season. This resulted in a very poor harvest that was projected to contribute not more than 10 percent to the annual food basket on average, from all crops. Performance of the second season crop will, therefore, determine the food security situation next year. Other areas expecting a second season harvest between December 2002 and January are Pochalla, Yambio, Maridi and Tambura. These are the same areas that tend to have surplus food year every year.

Market Conditions

The price of sorghum has generally been stable in the Western Equatoria markets. (See Figure 3). However, maize prices declined in these markets since July, possibly because there is less demand for maize compared to the main staple food of sorghum.

Prices of sorghum in markets located in food insecure areas have been fluctuating. In areas where sorghum performed poorly, such as Kapoeta, the price of sorghum has increased in the main market of Narus since July. Prices stabilized between August and September, when WFP delivered a total of 550 MT of food to the area. Despite the poor harvest in crop growing areas of Kapoeta, it is possible that grain prices will decline once the harvest in Kenya’s Rift valley region is completed in December and January. Kapoeta is linked to Kenya by relatively good roads, and grain flows across the border readily. However, this requires close monitoring.

The reverse has been the case in Rumbek. The price of sorghum has been steadily declining since July. July and August comprises the traditional food gap period, when grain tends to be scarce in markets, with prices naturally rising at this time. The difference this year may be due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Consumption of early maturing varieties of groundnuts, maize and sorghum in some areas may have reduced the demand for grain.

  • WFP distributed about 1000 MT of food in August and this may have influenced the price of grain in the market.

  • A little of the harvest from Western Equatoria region may have been accessible to some households in Rumbek area or may have found its way into the Rumbek market.

Prices in Narus (Kapoeta) suggest that the impact of "the nearly failed harvest" may have started to affect households, but this is expected to improve when the harvests are completed in Kenya’s Rift valley region in January. Although the price of grain has remained stable in Western Equatoria, the reason for higher sorghum prices in Tambura compared to other markets has not been established. It is likely that Tambura’s prices are influenced by the presence of 20,000 displaced people from Raga who are residing in a displaced camp near the town. The market situation in the highly food insecure areas is currently unclear, but it is possible that the price of grain will rise earlier (January - February) than in the traditional April-May period as a result of the poor harvest.

Food Interventions

Initially, food interventions were expected to significantly decline after the main harvest in September. However, this did not happen because crop performance was so poor in a number of areas, as explained above. As a result, in comparison to planned interventions, actual food deliveries have increased between 65 and 100 percent. (See Figure 4). This trend has been more notable for areas of Aweil West, Gogrial, Bieh Latjor, Torit, Pibor, Liech and Ruweng, where households are likely to remain food insecure until next year’s harvest in September. (See Figure 2).

A total of 2,250 MT of food has already been provided to over 225,000 people since September. The number of people in need is expected to increase by over 50 percent in January and February.

Notable improvements have been made in reaching needy households in the Liech area. This is due to an agreement signed in November 2002 between the Sudan Peoples liberation Army (SPLA) and the Government of Sudan (GoS), which secures unimpeded access of humanitarian agencies to all areas. Previously, access to some areas in Liech and Ruweng had been consistently denied. As a result of the improved access, WFP has been able to reach an additional 200,000 beneficiaries.

Special Feature: Situation Improves in Nuba Region

The Nuba region is not part of southern Sudan administratively, but there are sections of the region still considered to be part of the south in political terms. The total population in SPLAheld areas of the Nuba Region is estimated to be 370,000 people. Like the rest of southern Sudan, fighting between the Government of Sudan (GOS) and the Sudan Peoples Liberation Army (SPLA) has occurred in the Nuba Mountains for many years. Traditionally, the region has been self sufficient in terms of crops with pockets of surplus production.

Nuba households, particularly those in SPLA controlled areas, became significantly food insecure during the last three years because fighting in the area escalated, and people were driven away from the most productive areas in the plains and other areas became inaccessible because of land mines. In addition, insecurity restricted free movement and access to markets. This resulted in over 50 percent of households losing 20 - 30 percent of their food income within this period. This gap was difficult to fill because people’s movement was restricted, and humanitarian agencies were denied access to these areas by the Government of Sudan. Access for humanitarian agencies was only improved last year as a result, in part, of a steady advocacy campaign. This bore fruit when a cease-fire agreement was made effective between January and December 2002. Humanitarian agencies were able to gain access to implement much needed humanitarian programs.

A multi-agency annual needs assessment led by WFP and conducted in October-November 2002 concluded that the ceasefire has improved the food security of households in the region in the following ways:

  • WFP has gained access to all affected areas and delivered 9,200 MT (or 70 percent of the 13,200 MT required) between December 2001 and September 2002. This food aid helped over 50 percent of the population (195, 000 people) to take full advantage of this year’s agricultural season, providing them with energy to plant.

  • Around 23, 000 people have returned from displaced camps in Government-held areas.

  • The cease- fire lifted the constraints on free movement, allowing people access to more land for cultivation and to markets. This has increased crop production and exchange opportunities.

  • Improved access to markets and has significantly improved food security. This improvement will likely reduce the need for food aid by 50 percent compared to 2001- 2002 period.

Specific factors contributing to this improved food security include increased exchange opportunities, such as labor and petty trade; increased crop production; and improved access to wild foods. Although households have not yet become fully self sufficient, they will require food aid for only 4 months this year, compared to 8 - 12 months of food needs during 2002.

Currently, land mines pose the biggest threat to both lives and productivity. While improved agricultural production and short term food assistance is an immediate priority, de-mining activities need to be carried out as well if the Nuba region is to be able to fully recover from the war and maximize its potential productivity.