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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 22-November-2017


  1. Favourable prospects for 2017 main “meher” season

  2. Output of 2017 “belg” secondary season harvest estimated at below-average levels due to erratic rainfall

  3. Fall Armyworm infestations affected crops in 65 percent of country’s districts; Government, with technical and financial support of FAO, undertook appropriate control measures

  4. Prolonged drought severely affecting livestock conditions in southeastern pastoral areas; current vegetation conditions still very poor despite 2017 October-December “deyr/hageya” rains have been so far erratic but above average

  5. Prices of cereals at very high levels due to poor performance of “belg” harvest and concerns over impact of Fall Armyworm infestation on main “meher” crop

  6. Food insecure caseload increased from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 8.5 million in August 2017, mainly due to prolonged drought in southeastern pastoral areas

  7. Area of major concern is southern Somali Region, where about 2.3 million people estimated to be severely food insecure

Favourable prospects for 2017 main “meher” cereal crop production

Harvest of the 2017 main “meher” season crops is well underway and prospects are generally favourable. In key-producing areas of western Oromia, Amhara and Benishangul Gumuz regions, an early onset of seasonal June-September “kiremt” rains, with abundant precipitation received already in May, benefited planting activities and germination as well as the establishment of long-cycle crops, including maize, sorghum and millet. Subsequently, rainfall continued at above-average levels in most cropping areas over the remainder of the cropping season, with a positive impact on yields. However, lower yields are expected in the lowlands of central and eastern Oromia Region and in SNNPR, where “kiremt” rains had a late onset and an erratic distribution. In addition, a substantial delay of the 2017 “belg” harvest in SNNPR delayed the planting of “meher” crops and, as the period for crop development was shortened, farmers were forced to reduce plantings of long-cycle, high-yielding maize, sorghum and millet.

Earlier in the year, the February-to-May “belg” rainy season was characterized by an erratic distribution and below average amounts over most “belg”-receiving areas in eastern Amhara, eastern Oromia and northeastern SNNPR. A late onset of seasonal rains in the third dekad of March was followed by poor rains in April, up to 70 percent below average, which forced many farmers to re-plant or delay planting until late April. Abundant rains in May had a favourable impact on the establishment of crops, but as the rains tapered off earlier than usual in June, crops were not always able to reach full maturity, with a negative impact on yields. As a result, harvesting of the “belg” crops, normally commencing in June, started in August and production is estimated at below-average levels.

Fall Armyworm infestations, mainly affecting maize and sorghum crops, were initially reported in SNNPR in February 2017, subsequently spreading to the key-growing areas of the western highlands. As of early September, about 550 000 hectares of “meher” season maize crops (about 27 percent of the total planted area) across the country were reported to be infested. The Government, with the technical and financial support of FAO, has undertaken monitoring activities and applied appropriate control measures. As of early September, 43 percent of the infested area was treated with chemicals and 57 percent had been treated culturally through handpicking and killing.

Prolonged drought severely affecting livestock conditions in southeastern pastoral areas

Prolonged drought conditions are severely affecting the livelihoods in most southern and southeastern pastoral and agro-pastoral areas in southern Oromia and southern Somali regions, where pasture, browse and water availability have declined to extremely low levels. Two consecutive failed rainy seasons (2016 “deyr/hageya” and 2017 “gu/genna”) caused critical forage and water deficits which resulted in severe livestock emaciation and mortality rates as well as a sharp decline in milk production. The areas most affected by the prolonged drought are the southern districts of Somali Region (Korahe, Shabelle, Liben, Afder and Dollo zones), where herd sizes were estimated in June to be significantly below average and milk production has virtually ceased.

The 2017, October-December “deyr/hageya” in southern Oromia and southern Somali regions had so far an erratic temporal and spatial distribution, with a delayed onset and scattered coverage, but the cumulative amounts were above average. However, the rains received to date have not yet been sufficient to offset the moisture deficits accumulated over more than one year of dryness and current vegetation conditions are still very poor.

Prices of cereals at very high levels

Prices of maize surged between January and September, doubling on average in all monitored markets and reaching record highs, as seasonal increases were compounded by the poor performance of the “belg” harvest, by concerns over the impact of the Fall Armyworm infestation on the main “meher” crop and by sustained exports to Kenya. Subsequently, prices of maize levelled off or began to decline in October with the start of the “meher” harvest. However, they remained up to 55 percent higher than one year earlier. Prices of teff followed similar patterns, increasing on average by 25 percent between January and September and remaining firm or slightly declining in October, when they were 10-25 percent higher than 12 months earlier. Similarly, prices of wheat increased by 46 percent in the capital, Addis Ababa, between January and October, when they were at record levels and 34 percent higher than 12 months earlier.

Severe food insecurity in drought-affected southern Somali Region

The food security situation has sharply deteriorated in 2017 with the estimated number of food insecure people surging from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 8.5 million in August 2017. The number of woredas (districts) requiring urgent humanitarian response was estimated in June 2017 at 461, similar to the high levels of 2016, at the height of the impacts of the El Niño-induced drought. In June 2017, 228 woredas were classified as “priority one”, 20 percent more than in December 2016.

The areas most affected by food insecurity are SNNP, southern and eastern Oromia and southern Somali regions. In these areas, the cumulative impact of the failed October-December 2016 “deyr/hageya” rainy season and a poor performance of the 2017 March-May “gu/genna” rains has critically constrained food availability and access as severe water and fodder shortages have negatively affected crops and livestock. The area of major concern is the Somali Region, where the food insecure caseload was estimated in September at 2.3 million (42 percent of the region’s population), the highest since 2011. In particular, in Dollo, Korahe, Afder and Jarar zones, where the impact of the drought has been most severe, vulnerable households heavily rely on humanitarian assistance and continued food aid distributions are essential to avert extreme levels of food insecurity.

In addition to emergency life-saving assistance, 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 August 2017, USD 7.9 million had been received.

As of August 2017, the achievements of FAO’s activities include:

  1. The destocking of 22 189 cattle, sheep and goats, increasing the income of 15 274 households and improving the nutritional intake of 43 356 households.

  2. The provision of animal feed to 46 766 animals belonging to 11 256 households.

  3. The treatment of 237 734 heads of livestock owned by 26 913 households.

  4. The rehabilitation of ten water points.

Disclaimer: The designations employed and the presentation of material in this information product do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of FAO concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.