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Country Briefs


Reference Date: 07-August-2017


  1. Food insecure caseload increased from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 7.8 million in May mainly due to prolonged drought in southeastern pastoral areas

  2. Area of major concern is southern Somali Region, where about 1.8 million people estimated to be facing IPC Phase 4: “Emergency” levels of food insecurity

  3. Widespread livestock emaciation and high mortality rates in drought-affected southern Somali Region severely constraining food availability and access for pastoralist households

  4. Favourable weather conditions at start of 2017 “meher” season

  5. Output of 2017 “belg” expected at below-average levels due to erratic rainfall

  6. Fall Armyworm infestations affecting crops in about half of country’s districts; Government, with technical and financial support of FAO, undertaking appropriate control measures

  7. Prices of maize, surging since early 2017, reached new record highs in July

Severe food insecurity in drought-affected southern Somali Region

The food security situation has sharply deteriorated in recent months with the estimated number of food insecure people surging from 5.6 million in December 2016 to 7.8 million in early May 2017. Although the results of the 2017 mid-year review of the Humanitarian Requirements Document are not yet available, the estimated number of people in need of relief food assistance is expected to increase significantly in the second half of 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 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 Somali Region, where 2.7 million people are food insecure and about 1.8 million individuals are estimated to be facing IPC Phase 4: “Emergency” levels of food insecurity. 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 July 2017, USD 6.3 million were funded.

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

  1. The destocking of 22 073 cattle, sheep and goats, increasing the income of 15 158 households and improving the nutritional intake of 43 436 households.

  2. The provision of animal feed to 25 675 animals belonging to 6 075 households.

  3. The treatment of 119 516 heads of livestock owned by 11 951 households.

  4. The rehabilitation of ten water points.

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 of SNNP, southern Oromia and southern Somali regions, where pasture, browse and water availability have declined to extremely low levels. The failure of the 2016 October-December “deyr/hageya” rainy season was followed by a harsh dry season with 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. The most severe rainfall deficits have been recorded in southern Somali Region, with some areas (Liben, Gode and Korahe zones) having received some rains only in the last dekad of April and in the first dekad of May.

Overall, the cumulative seasonal rainfall in these areas was up to 60 percent below average. Although late season rains had some positive effects on forage and water resources, improvements were short-lived as the rains tapered off from mid-May. Current vegetation conditions are very poor (see Vegetation Condition Index map). As the next rainy season will start only in October, rangeland conditions are expected to further deteriorate in the coming months.

The critical forage and water deficits resulted in severe livestock emaciation and mortality rates and in a sharp decline of milk production. In the areas most affected by the drought, herd sizes are currently estimated to be 70 percent below average and milk production has virtually ceased. In Gode market, located in the Shabelle Zone of southern Somali Region, prices of sheep and goats in June 2017 were 50-60 percent below their year-earlier levels due to poor animal body conditions and distress sales depressing prices. By contrast, milk prices were 60 percent higher than 12 months earlier due to the sharp decline in production. Prices of maize and sorghum in June were 16 and 7 percent lower than their year-earlier levels, respectively, mainly due to food aid distributions. However, the declines of cereal prices were more than offset by the sharp decrease of livestock prices, and terms of trade for pastoralists deteriorated by 40-60 percent between June 2016 and June 2017, indicating severe food access constrains for pastoralist households.

Generally favourable weather conditions at start of 2017 “meher” season

Planting of the 2017 main “meher” season crops, for harvest from October, was completed in June 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. Subsequently, rainfall continued at above-average levels in most cropping areas in June and July, except in parts of Amhara (East Gojam, South Gonder) and SNNPR (Bench Maj, Kaffa), where the rainfall received in June was below average. Currently, according to remote sensing and analysis, vegetation conditions are good over most “meher” cropping areas (see 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.

Earlier in the year, the February-to-May “belg” rainy season was characterized by an erratic distribution 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, has just started with about a two-month delay and production is expected 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. The infestation accelerated its expansion in June and July, spreading to the recently-planted “meher” crops. As of late July, 521 000 hectares of maize crops (22 percent of the total planted area) in 389 of the country’s 800 woredas were reported to be infested. Due to the extended and staggered planting seasons in the country, the maize crop is particularly susceptible to Fall Armyworm attacks and all maize growing areas in the country are at risk. The Government, with the technical and financial support of FAO, is undertaking monitoring activities and applying appropriate control measures. As of late July, about 70 percent of the infested area was treated with chemicals or with manual killings.

Prices of maize surging in recent months to record levels

Prices of maize surged in all monitored markets on average by 70 percent between January and July, as seasonal increases were compounded by concerns over the performance of the “belg” harvest and on the impact of the Fall Armyworm infestation on the main “meher” crop. The sharpest price spike (83 percent) was recorded in Diredawa market, located in a “belg”-dependent deficit area. In July, prices were up to 75 percent higher than those a year earlier and at record levels in most markets. Prices of teff followed similar patterns but increased at slower rates compared to maize (up to 18 percent over the same period) and, in July, they were up to 20 percent higher than in the same month of the previous year. Similarly, prices of wheat, partly imported, increased by 22 percent in the capital, Addis Ababa, between January and July but remained around their year-earlier levels reflecting adequate imports and a good 2016 output.