FAO/WFP assessment of the impact of 2007 floods on food and agriculture in eastern and northern Uganda



- Excessive rains in the period July-September 2007 caused extensive flooding in certain areas of Uganda, particularly in Amuria and Katakwi Districts of Teso sub-region, where crop losses, both preand post-harvest, were very high.

- An FAO/WFP mission assessed the food security conditions in the worst affected areas of Teso, Lango, Karamoja, and Acholi sub-regions (1).

- It found that there is a looming food crisis in Katakwi and Amuria Districts and in parts of neighbouring ones, which requires immediate action to avert impending human suffering and possible loss of life. Food prices in some rural markets are rising fast and are double their levels a year ago.

- The mission noted that 312 118 people in the worst affected sub counties in Teso, Lango and Karamoja received a one-month food ration during September-November 2007.

- For Amuria, Katakwi, Bukedea and Soroti Districts in Teso and Lira District in Lango, the mission recommends immediate implementation of General Food Distribution to 219 915 people living in the worst affected sub counties until the next harvest or full market recovery.

- The mission further recommends that well before the start of the next planting season in March 2008, seeds, cassava cuttings and sweet potato vines should be distributed to targeted households in these areas.

- For Karamoja, the mission also recommends General Food Distribution to 100 999 people in specific sub counties, beginning in March/April 2008. It is important to note that flood damage is only one factor contributing to food insecurity in Karamoja. In that sub-region, the food security problems stem mainly from prolonged insecurity, drought in 2006, a late start to the 2007 cropping season, falling livestock prices and a severe attack of honeydew on sorghum, the main staple.

- In Acholi, the impact of floods on agriculture was not significant, being confined to localized low-lying swampy areas and river courses. Second season planting has been normal, and long-cycle sorghum and pigeon peas planted during the first season are due for harvest in January 2008. Therefore, no additional food assistance is necessary over and above the ongoing assistance to IDPs. Cash for work may be explored as a possible means of providing this ongoing assistance where the market is stable and the intervention will not interfere with activities for the agricultural season.

- Overall, then, 320 924 people will require fresh assistance in 2008, (at least partly) as a result of the floods.

- In the medium to longer term, the mission recommends restocking in Teso, a nation-wide programme to improve on-farm food storage and one to improve the collection of agricultural statistics which are grossly inadequate and unreliable at present (see Section 7.2).


Eastern and Northern Uganda experienced heavy rains during the three months of July, August and September 2007 that resulted in severe floods in many locations. At the height of the floods in September, many rivers burst their banks and could not be crossed on foot, some bridges were washed away and roads became impassable. In the worst affected areas some schools, health centres, homes and other infrastructures were destroyed or badly damaged and many families were displaced and forced to seek shelter in school buildings on higher ground. Emergency responses by the Uganda Government and humanitarian agencies included provision of temporary shelter, food, drinkable water, sanitation facilities, medicines, and even helicopters and boats to assist those stranded. As the floods began to subside and movement improved, however, it was felt by the Government and its development partners that there was an urgent need to ascertain the extent of flood damage to the food and agriculture sector. For this reason, the Government requested the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in late September to assist in carrying out an assessment of the impact of the floods on food production and household food security in the affected areas. The target areas were to be Eastern and Northern Regions.

In response, the two agencies jointly fielded a three-week crop and food supply assessment mission (CFSAM) to Uganda, starting on 23 October 2007. The mission was joined by an officer from the Office of the Prime Minister (OPM), another from the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) and two officers from the USAID-funded Famine Early Warning System (FEWS-Net). In addition, FAO's Country Office seconded two staff members to the mission. All these officers participated fully in the assessment and their contributions are gratefully acknowledged. At district level, local staff of the Department of Agriculture, as well as local FAO Emergency Coordinators, accompanied the mission on field visits.

The first four days were spent in Kampala collecting secondary data, planning field visits and meeting relevant officials from government, UN agencies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In the field starting on 28 October, the mission commenced with Teso sub-region, then moved on to Lira District where it divided into two after the assessment, with one sub-team going to Karamoja sub-region and the other sequentially covering the districts of Pader, Kitgum and Gulu.

The method of work was as follows. At each district headquarters the mission first held a meeting with the political leadership, i.e. the Local Council V (LCV) Chairman often accompanied by the Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) and senior technical staff such as the District Agricultural Officer (DAO) and District Veterinary Officer (DVO). Here the mission obtained an overview of the impact of floods in the district, with a ranking of affected sub-counties from worst affected to least affected. This was followed by a meeting with staff of UN agencies and NGOs resident in the district. Then, accompanied by the DAO and local emergency coordinators, the mission divided into sub-teams and travelled to the sub-counties. The first meeting at that level was held with the sub-county chief together with the Local Council III (LCIII) chairman accompanied by local councillors. A local briefing was received and a first general interview was conducted. The teams then fanned out to interview farmers at random and to inspect crops. Common checklists/questionnaires were used as instruments for collecting information. Furthermore, price data was collected from local markets. On returning to Kampala, a debriefing meeting was held on 14 November attended by representatives of the government, the donor community, UN agencies and NGOs.

The main findings of the mission are summarized below:

Commodity price analysis leads to the main conclusion that from an agricultural and food security standpoint and as far as the impact of 2007 floods is concerned, Amuria and Katakwi Districts in Teso sub-region were the worst affected and urgently need assistance. The two districts are extensively covered by swampy and low-lying areas and are generally of flat terrain. As a consequence, they serve as a water 'sink' for water flowing from surrounding higher areas of Kabong, Moroto, Kotido and Nakapiripit districts in Karamoja sub-region. Moreover, their soils are of low water permeability, which maintains high ground water levels. Thus, with the excessively high rainfall in 2007, serious flooding was inevitable.

Karamoja is next in need of assistance, but not mainly because of floods. The sub-region has been in the grip of insecurity for some time, which has curtailed cropping and livestock activities. Moreover, harvests in 2006 were poor due to drought. A severe attack of honeydew this year on the main staple, sorghum, and falling livestock prices due to unfavourable supply/demand conditions have compounded the food security problems. Thus, where they occurred, floods only aggravated an already precarious food security situation. The suggestion for food assistance for Karamoja, in this document, is only for areas where people's vulnerability worsened due to floods. There might be relief food needs beyond these areas in Karamoja, for which a separate needs assessment should be undertaken.

Flood damage in the Northern Region, as far as food and agriculture are concerned, was not significant. Crop damage was limited to edges of swamps and rivers and was quite localized. Planting during the 2007 second season has been normal, with increasing numbers of returnees engaged in crop production since early 2007. Food prices are stable or declining compared to last year, reflecting increased supplies on the market, particularly in Acholi sub-region. The Northern Region therefore does not require additional food assistance over and above the ongoing food aid programmes for IDPs. However, certain parishes in the sub-counties of Abako, Omoro, Aloi, Apala, Oromo, Olilim and Okwang in Lira District need food assistance for immediate relief and at the same time close monitoring in the coming months would suggest future response strategy, based on market recovery and the extent of second harvest (in January-February 2008), particularly in these worst affected sub counties.

Food balance sheets for Amuria and Katakwi for the period July 2007 to June 2008 indicate that Amuria would have a deficit of 16 419 tonnes of cereals, 27 743 tonnes of roots and tubers while Katakwi would have a cereal deficit of around 3 315 tonnes but small surpluses in roots and tubers and pulses. The shortfalls are relatively small and can be imported by businesspeople from other districts, but the crucial limiting factor will be the purchasing power of the local population. Many households in both Amuria and Katakwi suffered total losses of some crops, especially cassava, sweet potato and groundnuts, and need to be immediately identified and targeted for assistance. Food assistance, in the form of General Food Distribution (GFD) is suggested as an immediate need for the survival of the people in the worst affected sub counties. Cash and food for work activities could be implemented in Acholi where market supplies are stable. These activities should target the flood affected returnees and those in transition to facilitate the return process. Cassava cuttings, sweet potato vines and some seeds (especially groundnuts) will need to be provided directly to targeted families.


(1) An emergency food security assessment (EFSA) simultaneously examined the conditions and needs in all flood affected areas, whether they were categorized as 'worst affected' or 'moderately affected' (see Annex 3 for a list of sub counties covered by the assessments and Annex 4 for a map).