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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 20-June-2017


  1. Above average rainfall in May improves prospects for 2017 “belg” crop production and benefited planting and germination of 2017 “meher” crops

  2. Prolonged drought severely affecting livestock conditions and productivity in southern pastoral areas

  3. Cereal prices on the increase and at high levels

  4. Prices of livestock declining to very low levels in drought-affected southeastern areas due to deteriorating animal body conditions

  5. Food insecure caseload increased from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 7.8 million in May mainly due to drought in southern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas

  6. Results of recently completed “belg/gu/genna” season assessment expected to indicate further increase in caseload of people in need of humanitarian assistance for second half of the year

Above average rainfall in May improves prospects for 2017 “belg” crop production

Green harvesting of secondary “belg” season crops has just started and the production outlook is mixed. The February-to-May rainy season had a good performance in the highlands of eastern Amhara and southern Tigray regions. By contrast, in eastern Oromia and eastern SNNPR, a timely onset of seasonal rainfall in February and near-average rainfall amounts in March were followed by poor rains in April. The most severe rainfall deficits were recorded in Wolayita, Gamo Gofa, Gedio and South Omo zones in eastern and southeastern SNNPR, where cumulative rainfall between February and April was up to 33 percent below average. Subsequently, abundant precipitations in May lifted crop prospects in the areas affected by poor rains. Only in some areas of eastern and southeastern SNNPR, the recent improved precipitations were not sufficient to completely offset the severe moisture deficits and poor crop conditions (see red and orange areas in the ASI map).

Planting of the 2017 main “meher” season crops, for harvest from October, is well underway in key-producing areas of western Oromia, Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz regions. An early onset of seasonal “kiremt” rains, with abundant precipitations received in May, benefited planting activities and germination as well as the establishment of long-cycle crops, including maize, sorghum and millet (see green areas on the ASI map). According to the latest weather forecast by the Greater Horn of Africa Climate Outlook Forum (GHACOF), the June-to-September rains are likely to be generally favourable, with average to above-average amounts expected in most major cropping areas.

Fall armyworm infestations, mainly affecting maize and sorghum crops, have been reported in 233 districts (woredas) of the six major regions of Ethiopia. The Government, with the technical and financial support of FAO, is undertaking monitoring activities and applying appropriate control measures.

Prolonged drought severely affecting livestock conditions in southern pastoral areas

Prolonged drought conditions are severely affecting pasture, browse and water availability in most southern and southeastern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas of SNNPR, southern Oromia and southern Somali regions. The failure of the 2016 October-December “deyr/hageya” rainy season was followed by a harsh dry season, characterized by higher-than-normal land surface temperatures. Subsequently, a poor performance of the 2017 March-May “gu/genna” rainy season has caused a further deterioration of rangeland conditions to extremely poor levels. In some areas of Southern Somali Region (Liben, Gode and Korahe zones), significant rains were received only in the last dekad of April and in the first dekad of May, and the cumulative seasonal rainfall was up to 60 percent below average. Although late-season rains had a positive impact on forage and water resources, vegetation conditions remain poor (see NDVI anomaly map). In addition, improvements are expected to be short-lived as rains tapered off from mid-May and the dry season already started in June. The severe forage and water deficits resulted in extremely poor livestock body conditions, high animal mortality rates and a sharp decline of milk production. With the next rainy season starting in October, rangeland and livestock conditions are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months.

In northern pastoral areas of Afar Region and in Sitti Zone in northern Somali Region, the March-May “diraac/sugum” rains had an erratic temporal distribution, with a prolonged dry spell in April which had a negative impact on rangeland conditions (see NDVI anomaly map). However, pasture availability is set to improve in the coming weeks due to the abundant rains received in May. According to the latest GHACOF weather forecast, the July-to-September “karan/karma” rains are likely to be near average over Northern Somali Region, but below average in Afar Region.

Prices of cereals on the increase and at high levels

Prices of maize surged in all monitored markets by 20-45 percent between February and April as seasonal increases were compounded by concerns over the performance of the upcoming “belg” harvest. The sharpest price spike was recorded in Diredawa market, located in a “belg”-dependent deficit area. In May, prices continued to increase but at slower rates as crop prospects improved due to recent abundant precipitations. Prices in May were up to 63 percent higher than those a year earlier. Prices of teff followed similar patterns, increasing by up to 25 percent between January and May, when they were up to 30 percent higher than in the same month of the previous year. Similarly, prices of wheat, partly imported, increased by 18 percent in the same period, but remained slightly below their year-earlier levels reflecting adequate imports and a good 2016 output.

In drought-affected southeastern areas, prices of livestock have declined to very low levels as animal body conditions have substantially deteriorated and pastoralists have been forced to reduce their herd sizes. In Warder market, located in Dollo zone in Southeastern Somali Region, prices of shoats declined by 20 percent between February and March when they were about 50 percent lower than in March 2016.

Food security deteriorated in drought-affected southern areas, urgent livelihood support required

The food security situation has deteriorated in recent months, with the estimated number of food insecure people increasing from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 7.8 million in early May 2017. The areas most affected by food insecurity are SNNPR, southern Oromia and southern Somali regions. In these areas, the cumulative impact of the failed October-December 2016 “deyr/hageya” rainy season and the poor performance of the 2017 March-May “gu/genna” severely constrained food availability and access where severe water and fodder shortages have negatively impacted crops and livestock. Food availability was further constrained by localized 2016 “meher” production shortfalls in parts of Oromia (Borena, East Hararge, Guji, West Guji and Bale zones) and SNNP (South Omo zone) regions due to erratic and below average rainfall and low temperatures leading to frost damage to crops.

A timely and effective support to the agricultural sector is required to mitigate the extent of the impact of the prolonged drought on pastoralist and agro-pastoralist livelihoods. To respond to the needs of the crisis-hit herders and farmers, FAO aims to assist 1 million households in 2017, appealing for USD 20 million. As of May 2017, USD 5.6 million (28 percent of the requirement) were funded.

Ethiopia is among the largest refugee‑hosting countries in Africa, with about 840 000 registered refugees and asylum seekers estimated in late May, mainly originating from South Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea. Financial constraints have seriously limited the level of humanitarian assistance so far and the environmental degradation in camps, the fragile eco-system and the scarcity of resources have led to tensions between host communities and refugees in some locations.