Rapid Assessment Report: Potential Impacts of El Niño on Food Insecurity in Sudan



The El Nino warming for 2015 is currently underway and is driving rain fall shortages and high rainfall variability that have characterized the current rainy season in Sudan. In a report released by the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) in August 2015, seasonal rainfall was reported as having been significantly delayed and cumulative seasonal rainfall was 25 to 80 percent below-average across most of Sudan’s main rain fed agricultural production areas, with delayed planting in many regions. Despite improved rains in August (with near-normal rainfall in most of Sudan’s southern areas), the areas planted in Sudan’s rain fed sector have declined and pasture conditions have not regenerated as expected. FEWS NET also reported that vegetation conditions remain well below-average across the eastern surplus-producing areas of Sennar, Gadarif and Kassala states, as well as across much of the Darfur region and in localized areas of North and South Kordorfan states.

According to the most recent IPC assessment for Sudan, there are approximately 1.3 million people who face acute food insecurity and are in IPC Phases 3 and 4. Additionally, Sudan’s Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for 2015 has identified 4.2 million people overall who are targeted for food security and livelihood support. The most acutely food insecure people in Sudan are in conflict-affected areas of Darfur, South Kordofan, West Kordofan and Blue Nile States. Delayed rainfall, rainfall shortages and intermittent dry spells can significantly limit Sudan’s agricultural and pastoral potential and constrain local livelihoods, with critical food insecurity and nutrition impacts in regions already in Crisis-phase food insecurity (IPC Phase 3).

In order to assess food insecurity risks at this time, close monitoring of crop performance and livestock health is needed in Sudan’s traditional rain fed agricultural areas where El Niño is known to drive rainfall variability. Traditional rain fed agricultural areas are particularly prone to El Niño-related impacts on agricultural and pastoral production and monitoring information should be used to target humanitarian assistance strategies and programmes to regions at increased risk of food and nutrition insecurity. FEWS NET reported that by mid-September, up to 65 percent of cultivation areas were planted, as opposed to only 40 percent planted in August. However, vegetation conditions are well below average, as measured by the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI).

FAO completed a rapid assessment of crop performance and livestock health in traditional rain-fed agricultural regions in order to gain a more complete understanding of the emerging impacts of El Nino and high rainfall variability at the locality-level in Sudan. The results of this assessment are presented in this report. FAO used secondary rainfall and cultivation area data from state ministries and visual observations on crop growth and planting dates collected by field offices. This rapid assessment will enable FAO and its partners to support the coping strategies of small-scale farmers and pastoralists, who make up the majority of the rural poor, by implementing timely and targeted responses to mitigate El Nino’s potential impacts to food insecurity among rural families. This work is a key component of an effective disaster risk management approach and is essential for ensuring that rural families are able to access nutritious local food, including meat and milk, throughout the year.