5 September 1997



An FAO/WFP Mission was fielded to evaluate the 1997 main Gu season crops and to estimate cereal import requirements, including food aid, in marketing year 1997/98 (August/July). Prior to the arrival of the Mission a production survey was conducted throughout the country by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) of WFP, supported by FAO. The Mission reviewed the findings of this assessment undertaken in July and collected further information through field visits, discussions with field staff, local authorities and NGOs, as well as the donor community serving Somalia out of Nairobi.

The 1997 Gu season started early in most parts of Somalia, being favourable for rainfed crop establishment. The main sorghum and maize producing areas, located in the South, received above-average rains at the beginning of the season (late March - April), which, however, declined to below-normal levels in May - to pick up again in June and early July. Following major increases in cropped area last Gu season, this season’s harvested area decreased by 6 percent over last year’s to 423 000 hectares; this is 17 percent below the pre-strife average (1982-88). Factors contributing to this decline in certain areas included the extremely poor nutritional status of farmers after the previous poor Deyr season diminishing their ability to cultivate fields; in other cases, planted fields were abandoned due to insecurity; or crops were abandoned before reaching maturity due to damage by pests and dry weather. While average yields increased during this Gu season, compensating for the decline in area, they remained below the 1982-88 pre civil strife levels, mainly reflecting moisture stress at the critical point of crop development. There were, nevertheless, substantial yield increases for maize and significant improvements for sorghum in some major producing regions, including Middle and Lower Juba, Gedo, and Northwest .

With a forecast of 241 000 tons, total sorghum and maize production of the 1997 Gu season is about the same as last year’s and the third consecutive well-below pre-war average crop. Of this estimated total, sorghum accounts for 123 400 tons and maize for 117 672 tons. There are considerable variations in regional performance, comparing the current Gu season with last year’s: significant improvements, generally both for sorghum and maize, have been achieved in Lower and Middle Shebelle, Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo and Hiraan, although there are in some cases great variations between districts. Major production decreases are estimated for the important Bay and Bakool growing regions; production is also expected to be lower this Gu season in the Northwest region, where harvesting will take place only in October. Five districts are particularly at risk of food shortages because of poor harvests: two in the Bay region (Baidoa, Bur Hakaba), two in the Bakool region (Xuddur, Tieglow) and one in Hiraan (Bulo Burti). These districts will need special assistance.

As far as the nutrition situation is concerned, malnutrition among children under five continues at high - even alarming - levels in the Bay and Bakool regions and in Mogadishu. However, although in these and other districts a great number of locality-specific surveillance activities are under way, it is impossible at this stage to draw any conclusions on the overall situation.



With the arrival of this year’s early Gu harvest, sorghum and maize prices, which had increased since May 1996, fell sharply between May and late July 1997. The increases in retail prices for sorghum over the past year ranged from 17 to 100 percent (May 1997 over May 1996). Those for maize range from increases of up to over 4 percent to decreases of up to 28 percent. These differences partly reflect marketing difficulties in certain regions due to insecurity. Goat and cattle prices generally declined significantly. Countrywide, the picture of access to food as influenced by market prices varies considerably by product and region.

Assuming an average 1997/98 Deyr season production of 95 000 tons sorghum and maize (to be harvested in January/February 1998), the total cereal deficit for the marketing year August 1997-July 1998 is estimated at 247 000 tons, of which 215 000 tons are forecast to be imported commercially. This would leave a cereal food aid requirement of 32 000 tons. WFP’s current food aid planning for Somalia over the next 12 months is provisionally estimated at some 14 000 tons of cereals. The European Union intends to monetize 9 000 tons of cereals through local traders in Ethiopia’s Region 5 adjacent to Somalia’s severe deficit areas, which is expected to have some spill-over effect on the latter. Prospective food aid from other sources will be of minor importance. This would leave an uncovered food aid gap, the consequences of which would be felt later in the marketing year, unless appropriate provisions are made now. Early planning of food aid is also needed considering that insecurity continues to hamper the movement of food and humanitarian relief in several parts of the country and that therefore commitments can often not be fulfilled on time.


1/ This section draws inter alia on the following sources: Located in the Horn of Africa, Somalia has an area of 637 600 sq. km and the longest coastline of any African country. About 50 percent of the population is nomadic, moving mainly in the central and northern areas, where drought is an ever-present threat and also using grazing grounds on the Ethiopian side of the undefined border at will. Some 30 percent of the population are settled farmers, mostly in the southern areas of the Juba and Shebelle rivers. The balance is urban, largely concentrated in Mogadishu. The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) Human Resource Development Report, 1996 ranks Somalia 172nd out of 174 countries in terms of its human development index, which combines economic factors with achievements in such areas as education, health, nutrition and life expectancy.

Somalia has been devastated by civil war since 1988, and government rule came to an end in January 1991. In the wake of government collapse, fighting among clans for territorial control forced an estimated 800 000 Somalis into seeking refuge in neighbouring countries and internally displaced more than one million people. As of June 1997, 412 000 refugees still live in camps in neighbouring Ethiopia (68 percent) and Kenya (32 percent). In 1991, Somalia’s Northwest region proclaimed itself as Republic of Somaliland, establishing its own government and beginning to rebuild institutional structures; in 1994, it introduced its own currency, the Somaliland shilling (Slsh).

Population estimates

Population estimates do not escape the uncertainties prevalent in virtually all Somali statistics. Disagreement on the number of Somalis living in the country obviously has serious implications for the assessment of the food security situation. Earlier UN estimates put the population in mid-1995 at about 9 million people. That estimate is now generally discarded. A more recent assessment by the United Nations Development Office for Somalia (UNDOS) arrived at a figure of 5.441 million people in mid-1995. UNDOS itself considers this estimate preliminary. A re-assessment in early 1997 by the Bureau of the Census of the United States Department of Commerce suggests a mid-1995 population of 6.256 million. At the time of the Mission, a UN demographer initiated a fresh attempt to arrive at a generally acceptable estimate.

Economic aspects

For most economic indicators, the latest available information is for 1990. In that year, Somalia’s GDP was estimated at Sosh 1 738.8 billion (approximately US $ 1.6 billion at the 1990 average exchange rate of 1 US $ = 1 055.90 Sosh), of which two-thirds originated from agriculture, some 25 percent from services and close to 10 percent from industry. Livestock is estimated to continue to be the single largest contributor to GDP, possibly around one-half of the total. Together with bananas, it constitutes the principal export and has been increasing in recent years. Major destinations of Somali exports are Saudi Arabia, Yemen and Italy. Somalia’s total external debt stood at US $ 2 616 million in 1994. The principal imports in 1990 were manufactures, non-fuel primary products and fuels, with Kenya, Djibouti and Pakistan as major suppliers.

Currency trends in Somalia present a turbulent picture. Both the Somali shilling (Sosh) and the Somaliland shilling (Slsh) have experienced considerable short-term fluctuations and a dramatic long-term trend of depreciation (Table 1). The former stood at an annual average of Sosh 1 056 per US $ in 1990. By 1995, it had depreciated to an annual average of Sosh 6 531; in mid-1996, the exchange rate had reached some Sosh 7 600, and in July 1997 the Sosh was traded at 8 683. The Somaliland shilling was introduced in October 1994 at a rate of Slsh 1 in exchange for Sosh 100, with Slsh 50 being at parity with US $ 1. By July 1995, the Slsh had depreciated to 160. Its depreciation accelerated with the second issue of Somaliland shillings in October 1995 (Slsh 300), and at the third issue in October 1996, the Slsh plunged to 5 500, coinciding with the introduction of Government price regulations. It recovered in the following months, but without reaching pre-October 1996 level (with the exception of September 1996). In early August 1997, the Slsh/US $ exchange rate was 2 950. The Somaliland shilling is traded in about half of the Northwest region; elsewhere, the Somali Shilling is used, although in some markets both currencies are in circulation.


Crop production is concentrated in the southern part of the country covering the regions of Bay, Bakool, Hiraan, Gedo, Middle and Lower Juba and Middle and Lower Shebelle. Other significant production areas are in the Northwestern region ( Awdal, West Galheed, Jogdheer, Sanaag and Soal). Most food grain crops, mainly sorghum and maize, are rainfed, with small scale irrigation practised along the major rivers of Shebelle and Juba in the south. The Central rangelands and Northeast regions support the larger part of livestock population in Somalia.

The agricultural pattern in Somalia is broadly divided into two main seasons; the Gu, with rains falling between April and June and harvesting in late July/August; and the Deyr season starting in October, with harvesting in January. Along the flood-prone areas of river basins, 'deshek' farming is practised, whereby crops, mainly irrigated maize and horticultural produce, are grown after the receding of the flood water. This minor crop is factored into the Gu season.

Table 1: Exchange Rates in Somalia, 1990, 1994-1997

Year/ Month 
Annual average 1 056 
Annual average 4 907 
Annual average 6 531 
7 629 
7 125 
6 600 
6 907 
7 480 
7 520 
7 614 
7 614 
7 496 
7 677 
7 842 
8 096
8 010 
7 725 
7 433 
7 708 
7 920 
8 158 
8 683 
50 a/ 
300 b/ 
1 000 
1 200 
1 500 
2 000 
3 500 
5 500 c/ 
4 100 
3 600
2 500 
2 200 
2 300 
2 500 
2 600 
2 750 
2 800 
2 950 d/ 
a / First issue
b/ Second issue
c/ Third issue
d/ First week
Sources: UNDOS, WFP/Somalia, FEWS/Somalia, Central Bank Somaliland

1997 Gu Production

Cropped Area

This year’s Gu total harvested area for maize and sorghum is estimated to have decreased by 6 percent, to some 423 000 hectares. This is some 17 percent below the pre civil strife average (1982-88) of 512 000 hectares. The maize area decreased by 11 percent from the 1996 Gu season to 155 633 hectares (Table 2), while the sorghum-cropped area declined by only 3 percent to 267 426 hectares. The decline in the Gu 1997 cereal-harvested areas comes after major area increases in the previous Gu season. According to FEWS Somalia reports, a number of factors contributed to this decline. In certain areas farmers were too undernourished after the previous poor Deyr season to cultivate their fields; in other cases, planted fields were abandoned due to insecurity; or crops were abandoned before reaching maturity due to damage by pests and dry weather.

Yield Levels

1997 Gu rains set in early (late March/early April) in most parts of Somalia, being favourable for rain-fed crop establishment, notably sorghum and maize. However, they fell to below-normal levels in May, causing crop moisture stress at a time of high water requirements. Although in some regions rains resumed to normal to above-normal levels, they could not always compensate for the damage suffered during the preceding moisture stress.

The coastal areas normally receive post Gu season light showers known as 'Hagai', benefiting the short cycle crops as well as the late planted crops. This year the Hagai rains started in June extending hundreds of kilometres from the coast towards inland agricultural areas. Similar showers locally known as 'Kareen' are common in the Northwestern regions of Somalia. The importance of these showers is seen in the replenishment of soil moisture for both late planted crops but also for long cycle crops such as sorghum particularly during early termination of Gu season rains. The 'Hagai' and 'Kareen' rains are also important in agro-pastoral areas as the showers that follow the end-of-season rains normally rejuvenate the pasture and to some extent improve water supply for the animals.

While average yields increased during this Gu season, compensating for the decline in cropped area, they remained below the 1982-88 pre-civil strife levels. There were, however, outstanding maize yield increases in some of the major producing regions - Middle and Lower Juba, Gedo, and Northwest - reaching 900-1 300 kg/ha as compared to the 300-500 kg achieved in the last Gu season (Table 2). Sorghum yields in these regions also picked up, ranging from 600 to 700 kg/ha as compared to a range of 100-600 kg/ha last year. Yields were lowest in the Bay region - where, at a yield of 50 kg/ha, maize virtually failed - and in Bakool (200 kg/ha).

Estimated Production

With a forecast of 241 063 tons, total sorghum and maize production of the 1997 Gu season is about the same as last year’s (243 738 tons). Of this total, 123 400 tons account for sorghum and 117 672 tons for maize. The regional distribution of production is shown in Table 2. Compared to last year’s Gu season, there are considerable variations in regional performance, as indicated in Table 3: significant improvements in total cereal production have been achieved in Lower and Middle Shebelle, Lower and Middle Juba, Gedo and Hiraan, although there are in some cases great variations between districts. Major production decreases are estimated for Bay and Bakool regions, where four districts are particularly severely affected by crop failure: Baidoa and Bur Hakaba in Bay region, and Xuddur and Tieglow in Bakool. A fifth severely affected district, Bulo Burti, is in Hiraan. Production is also expected to fall sharply in the Northwest region, where the main harvest will take place only in October, unless adequate additional rainfall is realized. The early planted short term cycle maize harvested in July (secondary harvest) and normally accounted for as part of the Gu season failed in that region, while the late planted crops are facing moisture stress. In all but one cases (Gedo), production is well below pre civil strife levels, ranging from -10 percent to -60 percent, with a national average of -37 percent.

Crop Pests and Diseases

Generally, incidence of crop pest and disease outbreaks was relatively low this Gu season throughout the country. In some regions however, the infestation of stalkborers was reported to have caused significant crop damage particularly on maize and sorghum. Such cases have been reported in Bay, Hiraan and Middle Juba region.

In the Northwestern regions, the Regional authorities indicated a potential danger of migratory pests, notably Quelea birds which caused significant crop loss in previous seasons. As the sorghum crop is still at pre-flowering stage, the Quelea problem is not an immediate concern, although its breeding and build-up in the area could cause a significant loss to the crop expected to be harvested from the end of September to late October. Sorghum head smut was also observed during the field assessment in Hargeisa, attacking the early-booting sorghum crops. In the southern regions, the early harvest of Gu cereals has probably rescued the crop from Quelea attack. Table 2: 1997 Gu Maize and Sorghum Production Forecast by Region

Yield 1/ (tons/ha) 
Production (tons) 
Yield (tons/ha) 
Production (tons)
13 100 
4 355 
5 000 
2 250
150 500 
56 020 
11 200 
- 2/ 
11 320 
2 525 
1 600 
Middle Shebelle 
18 150 
7 260 
20 100 
13 950
Lower Shebelle 
22 600 
9 030 
74 640 
56 364
Middle Juba 
10 152 
6 091 
13 220 
12 270
Lower Juba 
13 015 
11 752
23 190 
15 995 
5 460 
6 834
17 610 
15 741 
11 398 
7 979
Others 3/ 
5 900 
5 600
267 426 
123 400 
155 633 
117 672
1/ Rounded
2/ Less than 0.05 tons/ha
3/ Including minor regions/districts not surveyed during the assessment
Source: Food Security Assessment Unit survey 1997

Table 3: 1997 Gu Cereal Production Compared to 1996 Gu Season and Pre-war Average Production (tons)

Region  Total Cereal Gu 1997  Total Cereal Gu 1996  Total Cereal pre-war  % change Gu97/Gu96 
% change Gu97/Pre-war
6 605 
6 220 
14 190 
56 304 
87 990 
90 410 
2 914 
4 989 
5 970 
21 210 
14 650 
53 390 
65 390 
57 380 
127 240 
18 360 
10 140 
20 330 
12 230 
3 030 
18 240 
22 830 
3 534 
17 450 
NW regions 
23 720 
39 000 
35 730 
11 500 
15 805 
241 063 
242 738 
382 950 
Source: Food Security Assessment Unit; official Somali Government statistics 1982-88


Livestock activities prevail in the central rangelands and Northeastern regions where marginal rainfall and poor soils favour grazing over crop production. Indigenous breeds of various animal species dominate the Somali livestock population, with cattle, camel, goat and sheep being the most important. In the rest of the country, agro-pastoral farming systems are widely practiced, which tend to reduce the risks of food insecurity through mixed crop and livestock production. The livestock population was sharply reduced during the civil strife that engulfed the country in late eighties.

The relatively good rainfall received this season provided for adequate pasture and drinking water for herds, which previously suffered from the last Deyr season's drought. Despite the shortage of drugs and veterinary services in most livestock keeping areas, the condition of the animals is reported to be good.

Livestock statistics since the early 1990s are virtually non-existent and whatever information is available consists of patchwork of informed guesses, except for the Northwest region which has resumed statistical services. The pre-Mission survey undertaken by the Food Security Assessment Unit (FSAU) with support from FAO did not provide new statistical information. The pre-war (1982-88) average indicates 42 million head of camel, cattle, goat and sheep. After falling to its lowest level of 27 million head in 1992, the population has started picking up gradually from 1993. There is concern that potential livestock population growth beyond the 1982/88 average of 42 million head may not be environmentally sustainable.

Contributing substantially to the Somali economy, livestock exports to neighbouring countries and overseas have been on the increase in the recent years. Recent export data made available to the Mission indicate that a total of 3 484 785 animals were exported in 1996 to Gulf countries and neighbouring Kenya. Of these, 3 291 104 (94 percent) were sheep and goats, 63 299 camels (two percent) and 130 382 cattle. Although most of the animals were exported through Basaso and Berbera port, livestock - notably sheep and goats - are also exported through numerous small ports along Somalia’s extended coast line. These latter exports go largely unrecorded so that the available export figures must be considered underestimated.




The 1997 Gu season was characterised by timely onset of about normal rainfall which facilitated planting and early development of the major crops mainly sorghum and maize but also, sesame, millet and cowpeas. However, a period of dry and hot weather reversed the situation leading to poor condition as a result of moisture stress. The estimated total area under cereal production this season has dropped 20 percent from last year to 18 100 hectares.

Pests, mainly stalk borers, armyworms, aphids and red mites infested cereal crops causing crop losses due to lack of effective control measures. However, threats from migratory pests notably Quelea birds and locusts were minimal. The production prospects have been further affected by lack of adequate agricultural inputs including fertilisers and improved seeds. The combination of these factors with the poor rainfall performance resulted in reduced yields, although higher than last season.

The regional total cereal production is estimated at 6 605 tons, of which 4 355 tons of sorghum and 2 250 tons of maize. This corresponds to an increase of 16 percent over last year’s Gu season, but is still well below the pre-war average.

The livestock sector in the region contributes significantly to the household food security and income. The reported availability of good pasture is associated with the observed healthy condition of camels and cattle, although small ruminants are infested with a number of ecto-endo parasites including ticks and worms. The latter has caused an increase in the mortality rate estimated at 5 percent. Overall, improvement in the availability of livestock products was reported, with a positive impact on the household food security.


The region comprises five districts namely Baidoa, Qansax Dheere, Dinisoor, Baydhabo and Buur Hakaba. Bay remains the largest sorghum producer in the country. The 1997 Gu season was fairly good at the beginning but erratic rainfall that occurred at later stage of crop development reduced significantly the production prospects. Total cropped area this season is estimated at 161 700 hectares, close to the last Gu harvested area of 169 000 hectares,

The regional cereal production figure stands at 56 304 tons, with sorghum accounting to over 99 percent of the output. Maize production failed, with merely 300 tons harvested against the previous season level of about 8 000 tons. Sorghum output declined 30 percent to 56 304 tons.

Livestock, an important aspect to the household food security of the farmers and the overall economy of the region, was badly hit by the drought in the last Deyr season, which reduced the quality and quantity of both live animals and their products. Following the improved pasture availability this season, the animals mainly cattle, camel and small ruminants were reported to be in good health. However, effort by the farmers to restock the animals has been hampered by lack of veterinary services.


Bakool region is situated between Shebelle and Juba rivers, to the border with Ethiopia; it comprises Xudur, Tayeglow and Wajid districts, the major agricultural areas in the region. The 1997 Gu rains came on time and were well distributed both in the agricultural and rangelands during the crop establishment. However, crop performance remained poor due to a dry spell in the critical development stage. Sorghum commonly intercropped with cowpeas was substantially affected; production is estimated at 2 525 tons, around half of the 4 474 tons harvested last Gu season. Maize, the second important crop showed similar decline in production with only 389 tons expected this season against the 515 tons recorded last year.

Bakool being one of the major pastoral areas in the country, the livestock economy has been contributing significantly to the household economy through exports and local marketing of live animals and their products. Despite the availability of grazing pasture this season, rampant looting of animals particularly in Huddur and Wajid districts and outbreaks of parasitic diseases coupled with lack of effective control practices, hampered the development of livestock in the region.

Middle Shebelle

Situated in the middle of Shebelle river, both rainfed and irrigated agriculture have been practised in the region with major crops being sorghum, maize, sesame, beans and rice. With Balad and Jowhar producing the bulk of the maize and sorghum grown in the region, the 1997 Gu sorghum production has been estimated to have doubled to 7 260 tons, which is slightly higher than the pre-war average level. Maize output, estimated at nearly 14 000 tons, also increased, but remains well below the pre-war average.

Despite the efforts made by donors, in collaboration with the local community, to rehabilitate some irrigation canals in the region, a large part of these facilities still needs proper improvement. Rice production, which has been increasing in recent years, has been much affected by the poor watering system in the region. Horticultural and other short-cycle crops are equally affected.

Pastoral activities account for about one-third of the incomes in the region’s households. They are mainly confined to Mahadai district, but also in Jowhar and Balad. Livestock is in good condition following improved pasture availability after recovering from the past two drought-affected seasons. Like most pastoral areas in Somalia, the lack of animal drugs and other veterinary services affects the treatment of the various livestock diseases commonly found, notably the tse tse fly transmitted trypanosomiasis. The recent improvement in security in the region has reduced the incidence of animal looting as well as facilitating local marketing of livestock.

Lower Shebelle

The Lower Shebelle region with seven districts, has potential for maize production mostly grown under irrigation. An estimated 56 364 tons, or nearly half of the total maize produced in the country this Gu season, comes from the districts of Merca, Qorioley, Afgoi and Kurtunwarey in the region. Sorghum production is estimated at 9 030 tons with over 90 percent coming from Wanley-Weyne district.

The Gu season started well with early onset and well distributed rainfall favouring crop establishment. However, a premature decrease of the rains resulted in moisture stress that caused reduced yields particularly of rain-fed maize crop in Afgoi and some parts of Merca districts. Production prospects for maize further dwindled following heavy rains since May that inundated an extended river basin, affecting maize crops at post flowering stage. Significant crop and housing losses were experienced in Arboherow, Hakay-Dumis, Bulo-Harer and Jenale. Further field report indicated the flood receding areas to have been planted with maize.

The irrigated banana crop is increasingly becoming an important substitute for cereals due to its export potential. Production of short cycle crops such as sesame, cowpeas, groundnuts and horticultural crops has also been on the increase as a way to diversify the cropping system in the region.

The improvement in the availability of pasture and drinking water this season has revived the livestock sector which previously suffered from the drought that hit the region during the Deyr season. Although animals are seen healthier, cases of diseases have been reported affecting cattle and camels. An outbreak of Black quarter, Trypanosomiasis and Haemorriaghic saup (H.S) have been reported in the districts of Kariole, Merca and Kurtunwarey.

Middle Juba

Middle Juba, which comprises Sako, Buale and Jilib districts, is one of the regions where irrigation is widely practised, giving farmers opportunities for crop diversification. Maize is extensively grown, commonly intercropped with short-cycle legumes; sesame and cowpeas. Bananas and horticultural crops have been grown under irrigation with better production than in rainfed areas. Along the flooded areas in the river Juba basin, ‘deshek’ farming normally takes place on the receding flooded land.

The 1997 Gu rains started in the region as early as the end of March with cumulative figures showing a good and well distributed amounts up to the end of May. Maize, the most important crop in the region increased by some 59 percent from last season to 12 700 tons, close to the pre-war (1982-88) average figure of 13 380 tons. Sorghum production doubled to 6 000 tons this season.

The widespread drought that hit the region last Deyr reduced pasture and drinking water for the animals, forcing the keepers to move long distances in search of better feeds. Parasitic diseases have been one of common problems of livestock, with the severity exacerbated by the indiscriminate movement of animals.

Lower Juba

Lower Juba is a predominantly pastoral area in the far south of Somalia. The agricultural area is mainly found in the Jamama district where maize is the major crop. During the 1997 Gu season, production of maize was estimated at 11 752 tons from about 13 000 hectares, the latter having increased by over 50 percent from last season. About 483 tons of sorghum was produced this Gu season.

The sharp rise in maize production this season is mainly attributed to the expanded area cropped and favourable rainfall received in the Jamama district, which resulted in a relatively high yield. Other factors related to this favourable outcome include the only marginal incidence of pests and diseases notably stalk borer, aphids, Quelea birds and armyworms, which in previous years caused significant crop losses.

The floods that affected some areas in Buali district did not damage crops; the area has been planted with maize as a 'deshek' crop. Field reports shows a total of 300 hectares planted after flood water receded and the crop is at pre- flowering vegetative stage and in fair condition.

Livestock is an important activity in the region, mainly in the districts of Kismayu and Mmadow. Facilitated by the Kismayu port, livestock exports have been a major source of income to the people of Lower Juba. The number of livestock in the region however has remained below the pre-war level due to looting in times of insecurity, frequent drought and a lack of drugs and veterinary services.


The Gedo region is situated in Southwest Somalia with six administrative districts which are Garbaharey, Bardera, Lugh, Balet Hawo, Dolow and Elwak. Sorghum and maize are the main staples in the region, but with the increasing crop diversification, tobacco, sesame, cowpea and horticultural crops are gaining importance. Livestock production is equally important in the region.

The Gu season started in a timely fashion with adequate and well distributed rainfall received, which favoured early crop establishment. The total area cropped this Gu season has been estimated at 28 650 hectares, an increase of 21 percent over last year. Cereal production is estimated at about 23 000 tons, with over 21 000 tons or 94 percent of the total coming from Bardera Dheere, the most important agricultural area in the region.

Cases of pests and diseases were low this year, except in Dolow district where an outbreak of stalk borer and aphids was reported to have caused significant crop damage. In Bardera, Quelea birds and wild animals attacked crops but the early harvesting of cereals reduced the loss. The state of insecurity that prevails in the region meant that some crops were abandoned before harvesting. This situation has also affected the livestock keepers who have been moving their stocks to safer areas. The favourable weather this season has favoured adequate supply of pasture and water. Although animals are in good condition, low productivity of the animals have been common due to an inadequate supply of drugs.


The north-west area of Somalia, comprises Awdal, West Galbeed, Jogdheer, Sanaag and Soal regions. Sorghum and maize are the main crops grown mainly under rainfed agriculture, relatively small areas are under irrigation. The most important agricultural areas are found in Baroma, Lughaya and Baki districts in Awdal region and Gabiley and Hargeisa districts in the West Galbeed region. Pastoral activities are confined to the regions of Sanaal, Jogdheed and Soal where weather and soils are less favourable for agricultural production.

In recent years, an increased area has been devoted to "khat", a mild narcotic leave, to reduce imports of these from neighbouring countries. Although the mission could not establish the current area under "khat" production, there has been a concern on the shift in areas grown with food crops to "khat" which might affect food supplies in the region.

North-western parts of Somalia have a distinct rainfall pattern, with Gu rains from May to June and 'Karen' rains between August and mid-September. Consequently, as the harvesting was almost completed in the south of Somalia, slightly earlier than normal, crop in the north-western parts were still at advanced vegetative to flowering stages at the time of the Mission.

The Mission visited West Galbeed region and assessed field crops in Gabiley district covering the villages of Arabsiyo, Ged Abera, Hidhim, Taysar and Ijar. Other villages visited include Boger, Gallollay and Gabiley. Field observations revealed a mixed crop conditions with early planted maize showing poor condition with low production prospects. Sorghum, mostly the long cycle varieties preferred for better yields and livestock feeds, was seen to perform better at heading stage but in need for more rains to reach physiological maturity.

Farmers in the region complain about the poor soil fertility as fertilisers are no longer available; they also lack farming equipment as tractor hiring costs keep increasing. The North-western regions of Somalia are susceptible to a number of crop pests including armyworms and Quelea birds. With the crops still at vegetative to flowering stage, birds damage to crops is negligible so far. However, with the breeding cites found in larger parts of the region and neighbouring Ethiopian a potential danger of attack from the birds still exists, until the crops come to maturity in late September.

As a result of the poor performance of early planted maize, production this season declined some 30 percent from last season to 8 000 tons. A slight decrease is also forecast in sorghum with production falling to about 16 000 tons against a total of 18 000 tons harvested last Gu season, and 31 000 tons in the a pre-war period (1982-88).

Livestock, as a major export commodity, earning the region and the country in general foreign revenue, is important in Sanaal, Soal and Togdheed. It is estimated that in 1996, the Northwestern regions had a total herd of 12.5 million animals comprising 1.5 million camels, 0.35 million cattle, 5.8 million sheep and 4.8 million goats. Berbera and Basaso are by far the major livestock exporting ports, in 1996 recording an export figure of 2.4 million sheep and goat, 0.6 million cattle and 0.4 million camels. About 85 percent of the total goat exports comes from this region. In addition, there are a number of ports along the coastline where an additional 10 percent is estimated to be exported. The Mission further noted that part of the cattle exported through the two ports includes a significant number of cattle from Ethiopia being in transit to the major importers: Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

At local levels, the livestock sector contributes to the household food security and sustainable livelihood, but oxen are also used for farming activities, particularly for weeding. The livestock condition during the assessment were in good condition.



Estimated total cereal production for the 1997/98 marketing year

Estimates of the total outcome of the 1997/98 marketing year depend inter alia on assumptions concerning the upcoming Deyr season. The Deyr season, which generally lasts from October to January/February, is of secondary importance in annual cereal production. In an average marketing year (August/July), it produces about 20 percent of the cereal output. At the time of the Mission, it was impossible even to estimate farmers’ intentions as to the prospective size of the area to be planted to maize and sorghum in the upcoming season, let alone to speculate about yields and production. In order to arrive at an approximate estimate of total cereal production for 1997/98, the Mission assumed a pre-war normal Deyr production of 95 000 tons. That amount is 15 000 tons less than the good 1995/96 Deyr production - but it would also be twice the quantity of the disastrous 1996/97 Deyr season. With an estimated 241 063 tons of cereals produced in the 1997 Gu season, total 1997/98 cereal production has been tentatively forecast at 336 000 tons or some 16 percent above 1996/97.

Commercial cereal imports

Commercial cereal imports consist predominantly of cereals and cereal products not produced in the country, i. e. rice, wheat flour and pasta, the bulk of them entering through the northern ports of Berbera and Bosasso. They have been extremely high over the past two years, amounting to some 211 000 tons of cereal equivalent during the 1996/97 marketing year (Table 4). Rice, the preferred cereal of the Northwestern people, accounted for almost one half of all commercial cereal imports. Some re-export, especially of wheat flour into neighbouring Ethiopia, occurs. At the same time, the imports registered at the main ports may understate actual import volumes, as the security situation or actual closure of some of them diverts smaller shipments to informal landing places along Somalia’s coastline. In addition, refugees in camps in Eastern Ethiopia, close to the border with Somalia’s Northwest region, "monetize" sizeable amounts of their food aid allocations by sending them across the border, above all to the Hargeisa market. A comparatively small amount of sorghum and maize is traded in transborder transactions with Ethiopia and Kenya. The net flow of these transactions depends on seasonal price fluctuations in the region, and in the longer term all transborder inflows and outflows are estimated to be in balance.

Commercial cereal imports are expected to continue to play a major role in Somalia’s 1997/98 food supply situation.

Table 4: Commercial Cereal Imports July 1996-June 1997, Tons of Cereal Equivalent

Month/  1996  1997 
Commodity  Jul  Aug  Sep  Oct  Nov  Dec  Jan  Feb  Mar  Apr  May  Jun  TOTAL
7 645 
1 347
4 831
1 192 
2 995
3 353
1 068 
8 033
10 426
3 662 
21 491
8 100
1 852 
8 403
2 298 
5 112 
5 640
7 866
1 654 
16 120
7 444
1 686 
2 459
11 504
6 876 
8 370
9 758
1 990 
12 135
6 570
1 690 
8 284
6 772
102 032
80 269
28 102
TOTAL  9 716  6 480  7 416  22 821  31 443  15 813  15 175  25 250  20 839  20 118  20 395  15 652  211 118
Note: Cereal equivalent conversion factors: wheat flour = 1.33

pasta = 2.00

Source: Mission estimates based on Food Security Assessment Unit statistics

Market Prices

Most recent price developments monitored weekly in Southern Somalia show - wide weekly fluctuations apart - a short-term trend of generally sharply declining prices for sorghum and maize, reflecting the arrival of the early Gu harvest on the markets. Table 5 illustrates these recent changes for a few markets.

Retail prices for cereals and livestock in Somalia are extremely variable over time and space and difficult to interpret given the substantial currency fluctuations and the changing security conditions that affect market flows. In May 1997, prices for local sorghum were substantially higher throughout the country compared to May 1996, with increases ranging from 17 to 20 percent in Bosaaso and Mogadishu (both Bakaara and Kaaran markets) to 53 percent in Beletweyne and 100 percent in Bardera. The exception was Hargeisa, where sorghum prices decreased by 13 percent. The picture is different for maize with a general trend of decreasing prices in the year to May 1997, ranging from -6 percent to -28 percent, except for Bardera and Jowhar where maize price increased by more than 45 percent and 50 percent, respectively. Prices for local breeds of goats (per head) decreased by some 15-25 percent, with the exception of Jowhar, which recorded a 10 percent increase. Price decreases were even more marked for local breeds of cattle: 25-30 percent in Mogadishu (Kaaran), Jowhar and Beletweyne up to 54 percent in Bardera.

Table 5: Prices for Sorghum and Maize, May 1996, May 1997, July 1997 in Selected Markets (Sosh/kg)

May 1996 Price  May 1997 Price  Mid-/Late July 
1997 Price 
% Change May 1997 
/ May 1996 
% Change Jul 1997 
/ May 1997
Afgoi (L. Shebelle) 
2 114 
2 667 
1 500 
Baidoa (Bay) 1/ 
1 300 
3 500 
950-1 000 
-71 - -73
Qansax Dhere (Bay) 
2 800 
1 000 
3 345 
2 900 
2 500 
- 23 
Jowhar (M. Shebelle) 
2 125 
3 185 
1 500 
Qansax Dhere 
3 000 
1 100 
1/ Kg prices converted from price quotations per quintal for May and July 1997
Sources: Mission and FSAU

Given Somalia’s unstable, dual currency system, an analysis of local terms of trade (TOTs) can be a useful means of interpreting price changes. The TOTs for herders expressed as the amount of sorghum obtained per head of local breeds of goat were, throughout the country, sharply down in May 1997 as compared to the same month a year ago: sorghum/goat TOTs decreased between 34 and 57 percent, reflecting the increase in nominal prices of sorghum and the decline of goat prices. A particularly worrisome development from a food security viewpoint is the deterioration of the TOTs for unskilled labourers, expressed in the quantity of sorghum obtained with a daily wage. In May 1997, the daily wage bought between 2.6 kg of sorghum (Bardera) and 6.0 kg (Afgoi) in the Somali shilling markets, corresponding to a decline of the sorghum/daily wage TOTs between 16 and 64 percent over the previous year. The situation is sharply different in the Somaliland shilling markets, where the daily wage of an unskilled labourer bought 20-25 kg of sorghum in May 1997.

Food Supply/Demand Balance Forecast for 1997/98

The Mission’s estimate of the cereal supply/demand balance and respective import requirements are summarized in Table 6. It is based on UNDOS’s mid-1995 population figure and the application of an annual three-percent growth rate. It also includes a provision for the return of 40 000 returnees from refugee camps in Kenya and Ethiopia this year, based on UNHCR information. Given recent estimates from other sources, as noted in the socio-economic section above, this population estimate may err on the low side. It will have to be reviewed once the UN demographic assessment now in progress has been completed and a consensus has been reached among all parties concerned after a comparative analysis of the various estimates.

Table 6: Somalia - Cereal Supply/Demand Balance, August 1997/July 1998 (000 tons)

Population 31/1/98 (' 000) 5 913

Total Cereals
Domestic availability  354
Opening stocks (1.8.97)  18
1997/98 production  336
1997 Gu  241
1997/98 Deyr  95
Total utilization  601
Food Use  532
Feed Use  5
Seed/losses  34
Closing stocks  30
Import requirements  247
Est.commercial imports  215
Food aid  32
After the disastrous 1996/97 Deyr harvest early this year, opening stocks are presumed to consist mainly of food aid stocks and commercial import stocks at ports or in the pipeline to markets, with a minimal allowance for generally depleted on-farm stocks. Although the Gu harvest began exceptionally early this year - and so its marketing and consumption - all Gu production is considered as belonging to the marketing year starting on August 1. Cereal production figures refer to sorghum and maize; rice and millet production has been negligible. An average cereal consumption of 90 kg per caput and year has been assumed, including imported rice and wheat. It has to be stressed that this figure varies according to region and specifically to different food economies. Seed use and losses are estimated at a combined 10 percent of production. Use of cereals as animal feed is minimal. Closing stocks assume similar food aid and commercial stocks as at the opening of the marketing year, plus a modest rebuilding of on-farm stocks, assuming a more or less normal 1997/98 Deyr season. Commercial imports are estimated to increase only slightly; otherwise, the observations made in the commercial imports section above apply.

With these assumptions, the Mission estimates a total 1997/98 cereal production of 336 000 tons and a cereal deficit of 247 000 tons. From this, 215 000 tons could, in the Mission’s analysis, be met by commercial imports, leaving a cereal food aid requirement of 32 000 tons.

Food supply/demand balances provide a macro-level view of the order of magnitude of food shortfalls. They serve to alert the international community to potential food aid requirements. But the actual deployment of food aid and/or other assistance requires further fine-tuning, based on an understanding of the food economies of affected households. Households may be able to compensate a shortfall in cereals by increased consumption of other foods in their usual food basket, such as pulses, roots and tubers, bananas, livestock and fish. Moreover, in times of extreme food crisis, households may turn to wild foods: be it game (e.g. dik-dik and antelope in Somalia’s Buale region), wild birds (e.g. guinea fowl and francolin), wild honey, roots and grains. They may migrate in search of work within the country or across the border. Both substitution within the usual household food basket and recourse to other food (and economic) sources are at the core of what has been termed "coping strategies". In many cases, Somalis have proven an ability to cope with little food, but the absolute lack of water forced them to move elsewhere. The options available to households and the nature of their coping strategies depend on the characteristics of their food economies as well as traditional behavioural patterns. However, following three consecutive reduced cereal crops, coping mechanisms are becoming exhausted and, above all, the long-term nutritional status of the population continues to deteriorate.

Nutrition Situation in children under five

A large number of locality-specific surveillance activities are under way to assess the nutritional status of children under five years of age. While it is impossible at this stage to draw any generalized conclusions concerning the current situation in Somalia, the following observations can be made: malnutrition among under-fives continues at high - even alarming - levels in Bay and Bakool regions and in Mogadishu. In some locations in the Bay region, moderate and severe malnutrition was found in 60-70 percent of under-fives (Baidoa town, Dinsor) during the month of May 1997. In Mogadishu South the situation is reported as critical and worse than at the same time last year. Malnutrition levels also increased in localities in Lower Juba region in recent months (to over 50 percent in Dobley and to over 40 percent in Afmadow). However, the record is not uniformly bad. Several localities also report recent or even longer-term improvements. For example, the Shaquaalaha (Kismayo) MCH centre in the Lower Juba region reports steady reductions in the incidence of under-five malnutrition since 1995; and UNICEF surveys in Northwest and Northeast regions in early 1997 show low under-five malnutrition rates of 6-11 percent, with a concentration in younger children.

Emergency Food Aid

In the course of 1996, WFP distributed 16 000 tons of food commodities, of which 12 500 tons were of cereals. Of the total amount of food distributed, 22 percent went to the relief sector and the remaining 78 percent were allocated to rehabilitation activities. Altogether, WFP’s programmes reached some 1.3 million beneficiaries.

In the first half of 1997, cereal and non-cereal food aid by WFP amounted to 4 500 tons benefiting 400 000 people, of which 170 000 were women. One-third of the food distributed went to relief activities, the other two-thirds to the rehabilitation sector. In addition to its regular programmes, WFP met emergency needs of 300 000 beneficiaries in southern Somalia by distributing 3 300 tons of cereals prior to the Gu harvest. This emergency operation was in response to the disastrous results of the 1996/97 Deyr season.

WFP’s target of distributing some 20 000 tons of food aid during 1998 are currently under review as the WFP is re-assessing its overall programming for the remainder of 1997 and for 1998. In this context, the particular difficulties of forward planning in an extremely volatile environment such as the one prevailing in Somalia must be borne in mind. Moreover, WFP is in the process of assessing further emergency needs in the five districts in Bay, Bakool and Hiran regions and how to address them most effectively. Apart from emergency interventions, WFP will monitor and seek to support, wherever possible, vulnerable groups, including those in urban areas. Wherever feasible, it is prepared - within its mandate and procedures and in co-operation with its international partners and local communities - to support rehabilitation activities through food for work in food deficit areas. Likely implementation constraints will be the availability of implementing partners and security-related restrictions, as well as the lack of a central government and local administrative structures.

WFP will continue to pursue in-country monetization of food commodities, which is expected to raise U.S.$ 2 million to be used mainly for the provision of needed non-food inputs for agricultural rehabilitation projects. In addition, local/regional food procurement will continue provided there are food surplus areas.

Smaller amounts of amounts of food aid are also provided by NGOs. The International Committee of the Red Cross(ICRC), in co-operation with Somali’s Red Crescent, distributed 1 500 tons of food in 1996 and expects to make a similar amount available in 1998.


This report is prepared on the responsibility of the FAO and WFP Secretariats with information from official and unofficial sources and is for official use only. Since conditions may change rapidly, please contact the undersigned for further information if required. 
Abdur Rashid 
Telex 610181 FAO 
Fax: 0039-6-5705-4495
Mr. M.Zejjari 
Director, OSA, WFP
Telex: 626675 WFP 1 
Fax: 0039-6-6513-2839 
E-Mail: Mohamed.Zejjari@WFP.ORG
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