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



The 2015 rainy season in Sudan’s traditional rainfed agricultural areas has been characterized by delayed start of the rainy season, below-average rains and intermittent dry spells from June through September. The rainfall shortage experienced throughout the 2015 rainy season in Sudan has led to unusually low availability of good-quality forage in wet-season grazing areas across the country, and pasture and water are likely to be less available than usual from now through to June 2016 (the start of the next rainy season), both due to the seasonal decline and the below-average rainfall. The mid-season assessment for September 2015, released by the federal Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry and supported by FAO, FEWS NET and WFP, described the body conditions of livestock across Sudan as below-average to average due to the relatively poor pasture in many regions affected by the rainfall shortage. The lack of pasture has also prompted early migration of livestock to dry-season grazing areas in the South.

Livestock farming is an important source of essential protein (from meat and milk) and income for rural families to meet their basic needs. Annual rainfall is an important determinant of animal health and production through its direct impacts on the quantity and quality of pasture and water supplies for free grazing, which is the most common form of feeding for livestock in Sudan from August – December. High rainfall variability can have disastrous impacts on both the livestock sector and the food and nutrition security of rural families. Even in a year with normal rainfall, the onset of the dry season makes the quantity and quality of the pasture herbage decline significantly, often failing to meet the water and food needs of grazing animals. An extended dry season can lower the nutritional content and availability of pasture and threatens the health of local animals in terms of weight, milk production and vulnerability to disease.


In October 2015, FAO conducted an initial rapid assessment on crop and livestock conditions using data collected to 10 September, in order to determine the effects of observed rainfall shortage, planting delays and dry spells on crops, pasture and water availability across Sudan’s traditional rainfed agricultural zones. The potential outcomes of the observations detailed in this previous assessment were dependent on whether affected areas received sufficient rainfall over the rest of September through to the end of October. Given that cumulative rainfall remained below-average in September and October and the importance of livestock on food security in Sudan, FAO has recently completed this rapid assessment focusing on livestock conditions in order to gain a more complete understanding of the emerging impacts at the locality-level of El Nino on the livelihoods of vulnerable pastoral families in affected areas. FAO used secondary data on rainfall, pasture, water source and livestock health data from state ministries and visual observations by FAO field offices to complete this assessment. Assessment findings are presented by state and can be found on pages 9-16. A complete list of localities found to be at increased risk of livestock losses due to El Nino impacts can be found on page 17.

These rapid assessments will enable FAO and its partners to support the coping strategies of small-scale pastoralists by implementing timely and targeted responses to mitigate El Nino’s potential impacts to food insecurity among rural families pursuing livestock-based livelihoods. 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, even when facing climatic shocks.