Food Security Outlook

Stressed food security outcomes observed in some areas as the lean season peaks

April 2013 to September 2013

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Would likely be at least one phase worse without current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET classification is IPC-compatible. IPC-compatible analysis follows key IPC protocols but does not necessarily reflect the consensus of national food security partners.
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.

IPC 2.0 Acute Food Insecurity Phase

Presence countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3: Crisis
4: Emergency
5: Famine
Remote monitoring
countries:
1: Minimal
2: Stressed
3+: Crisis or higher
Would likely be at least one phase worse without
current or programmed humanitarian assistance
FEWS NET Remote Monitoring countries use a colored outline to represent the highest IPC classification in areas of concern.
Partners: 
NUR

Key Messages

  •  The Western and Eastern Congo-Nile zones, as well as the Eastern Semi Arid and Eastern Agro-pastoral zones, entered the lean season one month earlier than normal due to below-average season 'A' harvests (December-February). In order to cope, poor households in these areas will sell additional animals, switch to less preferred foods, and/or will slightly decrease their food consumption levels. These households will face Stressed (IPC Phase 2) food insecurity until the next harvests in June. 

  • Food prices at major markets are following normal seasonal trends with prices currently increasing compared to last month due to the lean season. Compared to last year's levels, prices have been generally stable or have increased, depending on the specific market and commodity. However, poor households in most areas are currently able to access food through normal livelihood strategies and are facing Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity. 

  • The long rainy season started normally with relatively good rainfall distribution across the country. Near-average harvests are expected in June, which will replenish household food stocks and provide relatively normal food availability and access. Poor households across the country will face Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between June and September. 

National Overview

Current Situation

In most areas, households experienced normal season 'A' harvests from December to February, which replenished food stocks to normal levels. However in the Eastern and Western Congo-Nile areas, as well as the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral zone, poor rainfall conditions last year caused crop damage and below-average harvests. Household food stocks in the affected areas depleted in early March, which is approximately one month earlier than normal.

Agricultural season 'B' is underway across the country due to the normal onset of the long rainy season in mid-February. Well-distributed and above-average rainfall fell across most of the country in March (Figure 4) with flooding reported in some areas of Rubavu and Nyabihu. However, no significant crop damage has been observed.

The ongoing agricultural season is providing on-farm labor opportunities for weeding activities, as well as planting activities for sweet potatoes in marshland areas. Agricultural wages are lower than they have been during the last several months due to relatively high supply at this time of the year as many people seek labor opportunities to help pay for school fees that are due after the Easter holidays.

Pasture and water availability remains adequate for livestock across the country, contributing to good livestock body conditions. Due to improved pastoral resources, milk production has increased seasonally in March and April. However, livestock prices remain about 10 percent lower than normal for two reasons: 1) households in the east who were subject to a livestock quarantine between January and March are now selling their animals at above-normal levels to make up for lost income during the quarantine, and 2) in localized areas were last season's harvests were below-normal, households are selling additional livestock as a coping mechanism to earn income to access food on the market.  

March prices for staple foods are generally following normal seasonal trends. Prices for Irish potatoes and beans have generally increased compared to February as food stocks of these commodities begin to deplete. Meanwhile prices for maize, a crop that is harvested slightly latter in the season, are stable or slightly decreasing compared to February as household food stocks of this commodity have not yet been exhausted. In addition, prices for cooking bananas and cassava flour are variable across the country, due to market-specific demand and supply patterns. In Kigali, a wholesale market that is generally a good indicator of price trends across the country, key commodity prices generally increased by 11 to 45 percent compared to last year's levels, limiting poor households' food access. The only exception to this was the price of Irish potatoes, which declined nine percent compared to last year.

In most areas of the country, the lean season started normally with household food stocks depleting in early April. As a result, most poor households are relying on normal livelihood strategies, such as agricultural labor work, migration, or animal sales, to access food normally on the market. With the exception of the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-Pastoral, East Congo‐Nile Highland Subsistence Farming and West Congo-Nile Tea and Food livelihood zones, all areas of the country are facing Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity outcomes.

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for April through September 2013 is based on the following national‐level assumptions:

  • Rainfall: Seasonal weather forecasts (GHACOF 33, NOAA,IRI, ECMWF) are forecasting normal to slightly above normal rainfall through the end of the season 'B' rainy season in May. In addition, the short rains are expected to start normally in September.
  • Season 'B' harvest: Harvests in June will be near-normal due to normal to above normal rainfall levels.
  • Food stocks: As most poor households have already depleted their food stocks from the season 'A' harvest, households will be market dependant until their food stocks are replenished in June. Given that June harvests are expected to be normal, household food stocks for poor households will last a normal two to three months until August.
  • Agricultural labor: Between April and May, agricultural labor demand will be lower than supply as many people seek labor opportunities to pay for school fees, or in some cases, cope with below-average season 'A' harvests. From June to September, agricultural labor demand and supply are expected to return to normal, season trends. Wage rates will peak at high but seasonally normal levels in June and September due to harvesting and land preparation activities.
  • Off-farm income activities: These activities will follow normal, seasonal trends throughout the scenario period.
  • Access to credit to make food purchases: Poor households' access to credit to purchase food on the market will be normal throughout the scenario period. 
  • Pastoral conditions: Pastoral and livestock conditions will follow normal seasonal trends throughout the scenario period. Conditions will improve between April and June as the rainy season replenishes pastoral resources. Conditions will then deteriorate normally between July and September during the dry season before improving again in mid-September as the next rainy season begins. Milk availability will follow normal seasonal trends.
  • Livestock prices: Livestock prices will remain slightly below average until June due to above-average supply as households sell animals to: 1) cope with localized poor season 'A' harvests, 2) pay for school fees that are due after Easter vacation, and 3) recover cash incomes lost during the livestock quarantine in the East.
  • Staple commodities: Prices for staple foods (Irish potatoes, beans, and cooking bananas) will follow normal seasonal trends through the outlook period. During the current lean season (April to June), prices will increase due to increased consumer demand. Prices will then stabilize during the July/August period as late-June harvests replenish household food stocks. Prices will then starting increasing again in late-August through September as household food stocks deplete and more people become reliant on market purchases. During the entire outlook period, prices for most food commodities will remain above last year's levels. 
  • Refugees and returnees: Refugee inflows, especially from the DRC, will remain at status quo levels through the outlook period. Due to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Cessation Clause, an estimated 70,000 Rwandan refugees living within neighboring countries will lose their refugee status on June 30, 2013. As a result, many of these refugees are expected to start returning to Rwanda during the outlook period. Programs run by the Ministry of Disaster and Refugees will support these returnees as they reenter the country.  
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

From April until the early green harvests in May, most poor households throughout the country will rely on market purchases for their consumption needs. Average labor and livestock incomes, relatively normal food prices, and access to credit will enable most households to meet their food and nonfood needs normally until June. For some households, market purchases will also be supplemented by milk from their own livestock herds and their own production of perennial crops, such as bananas and cassava. Due to a normal harvest in June that will replenish household food stocks, households will be able to rely on their own crop production, as usual, between June and September. In most areas of the country, households will be at Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity during the entire outlook period. However, Stressed (IPC Phase 2) outcomes will be observed between April and June in certain areas of concern (the Western and Eastern Congo-Nile zones, and the Eastern Semi Arid and Eastern Agro-pastoral zones).  

Areas of Concern

Eastern semi arid agro-pastoral zone

Current Situation

The Eastern Semi Arid and Eastern Agro-pastoral zone was hit by a dry spell during cropping season 'A', which caused below-average harvests in December/January. As a result, household food stocks in this zone depleted approximately one month earlier than normal at the end of February, as compared to the end of March in a normal year. As a result, households in this zone are currently dependant on the market to meet their food needs.

In January, about 800 cows in this zone were identified with foot and mouth disease and in order to prevent further transmission of this disease, the region was subject to an official quarantine starting in January. While the quarantine was lifted in mid-March, this significantly reduced livestock incomes for agropastoral households during these three months. Due to the ongoing rainy season which is replenishing pastoral resources, livestock body conditions are currently good. However despite these good body conditions, livestock prices in this zone are about 15 percent below normal as households are currently selling additional livestock to make up for lost incomes during the livestock quarantine and to cope with last season's poor harvests.  

The current cropping season is progressing well with fairly normal rainfall distribution across the zone. The main crops grown in this zone are beans, soja beans, sorghum, and maize. Agricultural labor opportunities relating to weeding activities are available and are currently one of the main sources of income for poor households, as is normal for this time of the year. However, agricultural labor supply is currently atypically high as more people are seeking labor opportunities to earn additional income and offset the negative effects of last season's poor crop production and the livestock quarantine on households' food stocks and incomes. Current wages are at 500 RWF per day, which compares to 700 RWF during a normal year.

Following the below average season ‘A’ harvest in this zone, prices for staple food crops have been steadily increasing and are currently well above last year's levels at this time. For example at the Kabarondo market, March prices for beans, maize, and cassava were 14 percent, 35 percent, and 25 percent above prices reported in March 2012. These high prices are limiting market food access for poor households who had below average incomes from crop and livestock sales earlier this year. While many poor households are switching to normal bridge crops, such as cassava and cooking bananas, to cope, at least 20 percent of the population in this zone are not able to meet both essential food and nonfood needs without engaging in atypical coping strategies and are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2). 

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for April through September 2013 for the Eastern Semi-Arid Agro-pastoral zone is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

  • Household food stocks: Households will be market dependant until the next harvests in June. As the harvests in June are expected to be normal, households will then rely on their own food stocks from late-June through August.  Starting in September, households food stocks will deplete again and households will once again rely on the market for food, as is typical for this time of the year.
  • Prices: Prices of main staple food crops, such as maize, Irish potatoes, beans, and bananas, are expected to follow normal seasonal trends but will remain above last year's levels or levels seen during a normal year. During the lean season (April/May), prices are expected to increase due to strong consumer demand from households who have depleted their food stocks. Then starting in the end of May, green consumption of maize and sorghum from the season 'B' harvests will ease demand and will cause prices to decline. Prices will then stay relatively stable between July and August until household food stocks begin to deplete again in late August. Starting in September, consumer demand will start to increase once again and prices will start to seasonally rise.
  • Labor opportunities: Weeding activities generally require less labor than other agricultural activities, such as harvesting, so labor demand will be seasonally low until June. Above-normal labor supply as households try to offset the effects of last season's poor harvests and the livestock quarantine will cause agricultural wages to continue to be below-average until June. Labor opportunities will then seasonally increase in June as harvesting and land preparation activities begin. Wages will be normal between June and September.
  • Livestock: Despite normal body conditions, livestock prices will remain below-average between April and May as households sell atypically high levels of animals during the lean season. Once harvests begin in June, livestock supply will decline back to normal levels and prices are expected to be similar to an average year between June and September.
  • Migration: Migration will peak normally in April-May during the lean season. Household members who have migrated to other zones, such as Southeastern Plateau Banana zone, will return in late June when green harvests are available.
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Due to below-average season ‘A’ harvests, household food stocks depleted earlier than normal this year and households are currently relying on market purchases to access food. This early dependence on the market, coupled with atypically high food prices and below-normal income levels from livestock sales due to the recent quarantine, will cause households to have difficulties meeting basic food needs without employing atypical coping strategies for the remainder of the lean season. Poor households in this zone are therefore classified as Stressed (IPC Phase 2) between now and then next harvests in June.

Due to relatively average season 'B' harvests, household food stocks are expected to be replenished to normal levels in June. These normal harvests, along with average levels of cash income from agricultural labor activities, livestock sales, and milk sales and normal consumption of milk to supplement household diets, will enable households to access food normally and be at Minimal/None (IPC Phase 1) food insecurity between June and September.

West-Congo Nile Tea and Food Crops Zone and East Congo-Nile Highland Subsistence Farming Zone

Current Situation

In the Eastern and Western Congo-Nile areas, heavy rains, erosion, and crop diseases last year caused below-average season 'A' harvests. These two zones are particularly prone to flooding, soil erosion, and landslides due the zones' hilly topography and relatively poor soil fertility. In addition, terracing activities in these areas reduced the quantity of land that was put under cultivation, further contributing to last year's below-average harvests. As a result, household food stocks in these zones depleted two to three weeks earlier than normal (in early March compared to the end of March in a normal year). Households are currently relying on market purchases to access food.

Similar to the rest of the country, the long rainy season is currently underway in this zone with normal to above-normal cumulative rainfall levels (Figure 6). There have been some localized flooding due to heavy rains but so far, no major crop losses have been reported.

Both of these zones have a relatively large refugee population from the DRC (67,212 refugees in total). Of this refugee population, approximately 14,000 are relatively new, having settled in the area in the past year. These refugees have put additional pressure on host communities as they increase competition for labor work, causing local wages to fall. For example, in these areas, the current wage is 500 RWF/day, which compares to 700 RWF/day during a normal year at this time.  Refugees are also present at local markets, such as Birambo market in the Karongi district and Kabacyuzi market in the Nyamagabe district, selling items such as food, oil, blanket, etc. to earn cash to purchase substitute foods and clothing. This has increased market supply of certain market items, driving prices downward and reducing income levels from petty trade activities. 

At this time, labor demand is at seasonally low levels as weeding activities are no longer occurring and the next harvests will not start for two more months. However, some casual labor opportunities still exist at local tea plantations and with a development program in the zone called Vision 2020 Umurenge Program (VUP) that plants trees and rebuilds roads. 

Compared to last year levels, food prices in the zone for key staple food have been relatively stable. The only exception is the price of beans, which have increased 17 percent. However these stable prices, coupled with below-average income levels from agricultural labor activities, has meant that household purchasing power has declined.

The combined effects of below-average harvests and weak purchasing power has mean that households are only able to meet basic food needs and essential nonfood needs by engaging in atypical coping strategies, such as selling additional small animals, migration to neighboring areas (such as the eastern Bugesera Cassava livelihood zone or the Southeastern Plateau Banana livelihood zone), limiting meal portion sizes, and reducing the number of meals consumed each day. Therefore, households are currently Stressed (IPC Phase 2).

Assumptions

The most likely scenario for April through September 2013 for the West Congo-Nile tea and food crops zone and East Congo-Nile Highland subsistence farming zone is based on the following zone-level assumptions:

  • Food sources: Households have currently depleted their own food stocks earlier than normal and will rely on market purchases until the June harvests. After these harvests, households will depend on their own production through September.
  • Prices: Staple commodity prices will follow normal season trends. This means that until the first harvests in June, prices will be seasonally high due to increased consumer demand during the lean season.  Prices will then decline slightly in July through August before increasing again September when market demand from households increases.  
  • Labor opportunities: Currently, on-farm labor opportunities are low as weeding activities have ended. Labor availability will increase during the June to July period as harvesting and land preparation activities for the next season take place. Labor opportunities from tea plantations are expected to remain stable throughout the outlook period. Due to the impact of refugees on labor supply in their host communities, areas near refugee camps will face below-normal wages during the entire outlook period. 
  • Cash crops: Production of coffee and tea does not vary seasonally and will therefore remain at relatively stable levels throughout the scenario period.  
  • Livestock: Livestock prices during the scenario period will behave normally during the scenario period. Improved pasture availability during the rainy season between April and June will improve body conditions and milk availability until August. Body conditions and livestock prices will then decline slightly due to reduced pastoral resources during the dry season in August/September.  
  • Remittances: Remittances are expected to remain stable during the scenario period.
  • Trade: Cross border trade will behave normally between Rwanda, Burundi, and the DRC. This zone trades mainly with the Southern part of Kivu (Bukavu border). 
Most Likely Food Security Outcomes

Due to below-average season 'A' harvests, many households depleted their household food stocks several weeks early than normal and will dependant on market purchases until the start of harvests in June. In addition, below-average labor wages in the zone have caused household purchasing power to decline, resulting in many households facing difficulties accessing food through market purchases. To cope, households will employ consumption-based coping strategies including reducing calories intake and switching to less preferred foods such as marrow and taro, to meet basic food and nonfood needs until June and will be Stressed (IPC Phase 2). Once the harvests start in late June, households will rely on their own production of crops, including beans, banana plantains, peas, sweet potatoes, and fresh and dry cassava, and will be able to meet both essential food and nonfood needs without engaging in any atypical coping strategies. Therefore between July and September, households will face minimal to no food insecurity (IPC Phase 1).

Events that Might Change the Outlook

Area

Event

Impact on food security outcomes

National

Season 'B' rainfall levels are abnormal (i.e. too much rainfall or too little)

Poor rainfall performance may result in flooding, soil erosion, and/or below average crop production. It may also delay harvests which would lengthen the ongoing lean season.

Eastern semi arid agro-pastoral zone

Cross border trade with Tanzania allows for lower priced foods to be imported into the area

Food prices will declining, improving household food access

 

 

Eastern Congo Nile Highlands subsistence farming zone

A change in the political situation in the DRC allows refugees in  Rwanda to return home

The return of refugees to the DRC would reduce labor competition and cause wages to return to normal levels. It would also slightly reduce consumer demand for food at local markets.  

 

About Scenario Development

To project food security outcomes, FEWS NET develops a set of assumptions about likely events, their effects, and the probable responses of various actors. FEWS NET analyzes these assumptions in the context of current conditions and local livelihoods to arrive at a most likely scenario for the coming eight months. Learn more here.

About FEWS NET

The Famine Early Warning Systems Network is a leading provider of early warning and analysis on food insecurity. Created by USAID in 1985 to help decision-makers plan for humanitarian crises, FEWS NET provides evidence-based analysis on some 28 countries. Implementing team members include NASA, NOAA, USDA, and USGS, along with Chemonics International Inc. and Kimetrica. Read more about our work.

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