Rapid Agriculture Needs Assessment in response to the El Niño effects in the United Republic of Tanzania


As results of the heavy rains attributed to El-Niño event, since October 2015, more than 25 000 households have been directly affected by floods in six assessed regions of the United Republic of Tanzania namely Arusha, Dodoma, Mara, Morogoro, Mwanza, and Shinyanaga. This has had severe repercussion on the livelihood of the affected population who have lost crops, agricultural inputs and tools, animals, pasture land and other sources of income such as agriculture casual labour, in addition to houses properties.

In order to estimate the damages and losses occurred in the agriculture sector and sub-sectors, thus assess the impact on the agricultural livelihoods and come out with necessary emergency response interventions, the Ministry of Agriculture Livestock and Fishery (MALF), the President’s Office Regional Administration and Local Government (PO-RALG), the Disaster Management Department (DMD) with technical and financial support from FAO, jointly conducted a rapid agriculture needs assessment in the aforementioned most affected regions.

The key findings of the assessment show that floods have been the most devastating natural hazard. Despite this, heavy rains coupled with incidences of storms and hails led to additional problems resulting in water-logging of large agricultural and pasture areas, spread of animal diseases, accumulation of debris on agricultural land, mainly silt and stones, as well as collapse of animal shelters and storage facilities.

The crop sector has been the most affected with rice and maize cultivated areas resulted to be the most impacted, followed by cassava, pulses and vegetables. Many of these affected areas were totally destroyed by the effects of the floods or have resulted in reduction of production especially among important staple crops such as rice, maize, cassava, sorghum and millet, leading to decreased yield by approximately 41 percent, 57 percent, 30 percent, 58 percent and 38 percent respectively. Agricultural inputs and storage / shelter facilities were also lost or damaged with 57 percent of respondents reporting loss of seeds, 27 percent loss of fertilizer, 12 percent loss of hand tools, 16 percent loss of shelter and others reporting on loss of food and inputs storage facilities. The effects of the floods also led to blockage of irrigation schemes, mainly due to deposition of mud and silt, collapse of channel in-lets and damages on pipes and other equipment. Nonetheless, irrigation access was reported to be very low among the communities interviewed, resulting in a less severe impact on this sub-sector.

On the other hand, livestock, considered as the most important productive assets and source of animal proteins across all six regions visited, were also affected but to a less extent compared to the crop sub-sector. Most of the respondents indicated loss of chickens (35 percent), followed by ducks (15 percent), goats (5 percent) and sheep (2 percent). Generally, bigger animals such as cattle were rescued in time, therefore resulting in negligible losses. In addition to animal losses, an increased outbreak of animal diseases was reported due to the fact that many areas were still flooded, resulting into prevalence of water-borne disease.

Changes in market prices, in relation to food commodities, were also underlined by the majority of the population affected across all regions. On average, prices of staple crops such as cassava, maize, sorghum and rice have raised by 60 percent, 40 percent, 37 percent and 18 percent respectively since the occurrence of the flood. Whereas for other food commodities such as green gram and sweet potatoes, prices have decreased by 48 percent and 10 percent respectively due to recent harvest. The Average of live animal prices have also increased in areas without destocking since the beginning of the flood, especially for pigs (22 percent), cattle (13 percent), chicken (7 percent) and ducks (9 percent). Contrarily, most of the average live animal prices in areas of destocking have decreased compared to prices before the floods. The price of pigs decreased by 46 percent, goats (37 percent), sheep (35 percent), cattle (32 percent) and chicken (17 percent). Destocking is a clear sign of asset depletion triggered by failure of crops and the necessity to purchase food, new agricultural inputs and address other basic needs such as paying school fees, buying medicine, etc.

Crop production, followed by animal rearing and agricultural casual labor are considered the three most important sources of income for the communities assessed in order of importance. Considering the loss of crops and the impact on the livestock sub-sector, most of the vulnerable households, especially women, will need to still rely on casual labor to generate income. However, due to the effects of “El-Niño”, the demand to carry out agricultural labor activities such as weeding or harvesting has diminished, leading to reduced possibility of income generation affecting the most vulnerable households.

Engagement in distress copying mechanisms was generally reported among the regions assessed, especially among women. Reducing the amount of meals per day was indicated as the most commonly used coping mechanism by 90 percent and 73 percent of women and men respectively, followed by purchasing food on credit (53 percent of women) and (36 percent of men) and relying on less preferred food (54 percent of women) and (49 percent of men).

In order to support the rehabilitation of the agriculture sector and its sub-sector, a set of recovery interventions are required in the short, medium and long term. The most urgent interventions (next six months) should mainly consist of the provision of crop and vegetable seed packages including hand tools. Restocking of poultry, together with provision of animal feed and vaccines especially to women vulnerable groups should be also considered. Delivery of food assistance to the most affected households is also necessary based on the results of the assessment. Whereas, medium-long term interventions should enhance the capacity of farmers and animal keepers to generate higher productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, increase their access to irrigation and mechanization, as well as aiming at increasing accessibility and marketability of both animal and agricultural products.

Monitoring of the agro-meteorological situation in relation to the upcoming main agricultural season is imperative in order to estimate the final implication of the El-Niño’s effect on the livelihood of the population already affected and for those additionally exposed. A more in-depth food security and nutrition assessment at the end of the agricultural season (Jun / July 2016) is also needed to determine the situation in these areas. In fact, at present, the combination of the report’ findings are already indicating a higher likelihood of food insecurity and malnutrition, especially in the affected areas.