A study on the food security situation in East Africa in 2020: FEWS NET


High food assistance needs persist, but food security in the Horn is likely to improve in 2020, a report by Famine Early Warning Systems Network has said.

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.

According to the study, recovery from prior drought and recent flooding, coupled with poor macroeconomic conditions and protracted conflict and displacement, continue to drive Crisis or worse outcomes and high food assistance needs across East Africa.

In South Sudan, for instance, the severity of food insecurity and number of food-insecure households is likely higher than previously anticipated, due flood-induced displacement, crop losses, and disruptions to humanitarian food assistance delivery and trade in recently flood-affected areas. However, the ongoing harvest has relatively alleviated the severity of food insecurity in other areas of concern. Should a resurgence of conflict prevent populations from accessing typical food sources or food assistance, Famine would be likely.

“Across the greater Horn of Africa, rainfall from October to mid-November has been up to 300 percent above average. In many areas, riverine flooding and flash floods disrupted agricultural activities and led to some crop losses, caused livestock losses, or resulted in at least temporary displacement. Worst-affected areas include southern and southeastern Ethiopia, southern Somalia, and eastern and coastal areas of Kenya. Elevated flood risk is anticipated through late November. As a result, Crisis outcomes are anticipated through December or January. As the rains subside, however, average to above-average cultivation and gains in herd size and milk production as a result of plentiful vegetation are likely to drive improvement to Stressed.” Reads the study in part.


October 2019 was one of the wettest months on record since 1981, according to preliminary satellite-derived data

According to reports by humanitarian actors, more than 100,000 people have been affected in northeastern, central, and coastal Kenya; 14,000 people have been displaced in riverine areas; and more than 30,000 sheep and goats and 110 cattle and camels were killed in Mandera and Wajir.

“Crisis outcomes are expected to persist in most pastoral areas and some marginal agricultural areas through late 2019. Many poor households are still recovering from the impact of the 2018/19 drought on livestock and crop production, while above-average staple food prices continue to constrain household food access.” The study by FEWS NET says.

FEWS NET projects that the above-average shorts rains season is most likely to lead to above-average bimodal maize production and significant gains in livestock productivity, as witnessed in the 2018 long rains season. The anticipated benefits to household food and income sources are expected to drive widespread improvement to Stressed outcomes by late 2019 or early 2020.



In bimodal areas, food stocks from the first season harvest and declining market prices have improved food access for the poor, the study has said.

However, heavy rainfall is leading to flooding and waterlogging in low-lying areas and mudslides in mountainous areas. Substantial risks are expected to persist through November given a forecast of significantly above-average rainfall.

In Karamoja, food supplies from the unimodal and first season bimodal harvests are improving food availability and firewood/charcoal-to-sorghum terms of trade. In southern and central areas, the harvest is completed or ongoing and outcomes have improved to Stressed. In Kaabong, where the harvest has just commenced, reliance on market purchases and below-average incomes are sustaining Crisis  outcomes. These outcomes are expected to persist until the harvest improves conditions to Stressed in November.


Deyr/Hagaya rains in southern and southeastern Ethiopia were significantly above average in October, resulting in one of the wettest Octobers on the historical record. Localized flooding occurred in Oromio, SNNPR, and Somali Regions, displacing 205,000 people and causing localized crop and livestock losses.

Prices for commodities such as maize, sorghum, and wheat are expected to slightly decline seasonally from October to December, although prices are expected to remain above average. From January to May, increases in grain prices are expected, reducing the purchasing power of market-dependent poor households. In pastoral areas, livestock prices are expected to increase; however, they are unlikely to keep pace with staple food price increases. As a result, livestock to grain terms of trade are anticipated to decline and remain below average. This will continue limiting pastoral households’ ability to purchase sufficient grain to meet their basic needs.


Food reserves from an above-average Season 2019 B harvest, above-average season 2019 C production, and ongoing production of bananas, roots, and tubers are supporting food availability. According to FEWS NET, the above-average rainfall forecasted for September to December is likely to support another favorable harvest in December-January.

“This is expected to boost household stocks and support low food prices, sustaining Minimal  outcomes through May 2020. However, localized areas affected by flooding and landslides will likely experience worse outcomes.

According to ISTEEBU, the prices of staple foods have remained atypically stable between June and October. This is likely the result of several consecutive seasons of average to above-average harvests. Given favorable production prospects for the Season 2020 A season, prices are expected to increase only slightly through the peak of the lean season in November and will likely remain below three-year average levels through May 2020,” Reads the FEWS NET study.


September to December 2019 Season A rainfall has been above average across the country and forecasts indicate rainfall for the remainder of the season will be average. Average harvests are expected from December 2019 to February 2020.

Prices of staple foods are below the three-year average and are anticipated to remain low throughout the projection period. These factors will drive Minimal acute food insecurity through May 2020.

Despite the generally favorable production prospects, relatively heavy rainfall also increases risk of flooding in lowlands across the country and of localized landslides, particularly in the Western province. These disasters are likely to cause the loss of household assets and destruction of crops in some areas. Some households will face difficulty meeting their basic food and non-food needs immediately following these events, though the government and humanitarian partners are prepared to respond swiftly with assistance.

According to the National Institute of Statistics, food prices in Rwanda increased between August and September by 4.4 and 2.4 percent for rural and urban areas respectively. FEWS NET and East African Grain Council data show that the price of maize, the cereal most consumed in Rwanda, has been increasing since June and reached its 5-year average level in August and September. That price increase is partly related to the closure of the main border post between Uganda and Rwanda which remains closed despite discussions for a reopening. As the price of maize grain and flour are generally lower in Uganda than in Rwanda, the resumption of normal trade between the two countries would likely contribute to lowering food prices in Rwanda, thus improving households’ access to food.

South Sudan

In October, Crisis or worse outcomes remain widespread across South Sudan despite the ongoing harvest. Based on August 2019 South Sudan IPC analysis, an estimated 4.5 million people are likely to face Crisis or worse acute food insecurity during the October 2019 to January 2020 harvesting period in the presence of planned humanitarian food assistance. However, it is likely that the number of households experiencing high levels of acute food insecurity and the severity of food insecurity in Maban, specifically, is higher than originally anticipated due to flooding that has caused displacement and losses of crops and food aid commodities at the household level, in addition to disruptions to food assistance delivery, trade flows, and market functioning.

Food insecurity is most severe in Ulang, Maiwut, and Maban counties of Upper Nile and Duk county of Jonglei, where Emergency outcomes exist due to the impact of flooding on household crop production and food access. However, the availability of the harvest and natural food sources has relatively reduced the severity of food insecurity in other counties of concern, including Yirol East and Cueibet of Lakes, Canal/Pigi of Jonglei, and Budi of Eastern Equatoria, where Crisis exists. Large-scale humanitarian food assistance also continues to mitigate more severe outcomes in several areas of concern, such as Leer, Mayendit, and Panyijiar counties of Unity and Rumbek North of Lakes. In September, more than 2 million people were reached with food assistance

Food security is expected to slightly improve from October 2019 to January 2020, driven by the availability of the harvests and seasonal food sources. Although 2019/20 national crop production is still expected to be similar to or slightly better than last year, cereal production deficits are now likely to be higher than previously anticipated in areas affected by flooding. Household sources are most likely to remain inadequate to cover most households’ minimum food needs, given the depletion of productive household assets over the course of the protracted conflict.

Also Read: World Food Day: Food security situation in East Africa

Yvonne Kawira is an award winning journalist with an interest in matters, regional trade, tourism, entrepreneurship and aviation. She has been practicing for six years and has a degree in mass communication from St Paul’s University.

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