This post was compiled by Kiersten Johnson of USAID based on reportage from GEOGLAM’s Crop Monitor for Early Warning May 2019 Report and FEWS NET’s East Africa Key Message Update for April 2019, and originally posted on Feed the Future's Agrilinks blog.
The Group on Earth Observations Global Agriculture Monitoring Initiative (GEOGLAM) Crop Monitor for Early Warning uses Earth observations data to address the critical need for enhanced early warning of crop production shortfalls in crop production, so as to better inform government and humanitarian responses to disaster. The Crop Monitor for Early Warning May 2019 report was recently issued with analysis highlighting areas of significant concern in East Africa and Yemen.
In central and southern parts of the subregion, planting of main season crops across Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi and northern Tanzania has been disrupted by delayed onset of the March-May rains and severe early-season dryness coupled with above average temperatures. March-April rainfall was among the driest on record and below average rainfall has potential to continue through the start of May.
This below average rainfall was exacerbated by high temperatures since the beginning of March at 3 to 4 degrees above average in most of Uganda and Kenya and 2 to 3 degrees in South Sudan, southern Ethiopia (mainly Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People's Region (SNNP)) and southern Somalia.
If dry and hot conditions persist through May, poor cropping outcomes are likely for much of the region and food security will be of increasing concern. In Kenya, in high potential cropping areas of the southwestern “maize basket”, substantial rainfall deficits at the start of the “long rains” season, with cumulative precipitation in February and March estimated at 45-75 percent below-average, seriously disrupted and delayed planting operations. Below average rains continued into April and there is increasing concern for crops. In bi-modal southeastern and coastal marginal agricultural areas, early season dryness was more severe, with no significant precipitations received so far. Poor harvests will potentially result in a second consecutive reduced output, after the 2018/19 “short-rains” harvest, gathered last February, estimated at more than 60 percent below-average.
Maize prices rose sharply in April and the government of Kenya has already released 1.5 million bags of maize in April to cushion rising prices for maize.
Similarly, in Uganda, southern bimodal areas of South Sudan and some northeastern bimodal areas of Tanzania, delayed rains and dry conditions in March and April have seriously affected planting and establishment of first season crops and substantial cereal crop production shortfalls are expected.”
[Read more here.]
This analysis corresponds closely to the Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) key message update from April 2019, showing that the Horn of Africa in particular is currently experiencing a “stressed” to “crisis” food security situation, with “emergency” classification on the Acute Food Insecurity Phase in areas of South Sudan, Yemen, and Somalia.
Regional reporting highlights that the current situation implies not only food insecurity but water insecurity as well. Charity Ngilu, Governor of Kitui County, Kenya, where the impacts of the current lack of rainfall are already being felt, notes that “It’s not only shortage of food but also serious lack of water for people and livestock.” The United Nations has issued a warning that nearly two million Somalis are currently in desperate need of food.