Bumper harvest alert: Expect more food on your plate this December

Sunday October 7 2018

Harvest

The country has been projected to have a positive food security outlook in the coming months. PHOTO | CYRIL NDEGEYA 

By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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The country’s food security outlook is expected to recover significantly in the coming months due to above-average harvests expected in December, improving food availability at the household level.

According to forecasts by Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fews Net) — a non-governmental organisation started by USAID and specialising in providing information and analysis on food insecurity — households will be able to meet their minimum food needs through January to May 2019.

This is due to a favourable Season A harvest, agricultural labour opportunities, including on tea plantations, as well as the capacity to sell small ruminants for needed market food purchases.

Risk

However , there is a chance that localised flooding and landslides could affect disaster-prone areas in Season A 2018 and Season B 2019, with these areas facing a risk of acute food insecurity.

Households in areas adversely affected by heavy rains are gradually recovering but could continue to be stressed owing to the possibility that the disasters could occur again during rains in Season A 2018 to Season B 2019.

“Given Rwanda’s susceptibility to flooding and landslides it could lead to shortterm acute food insecurity in affected areas before there is an effective humanitarian response,” reads the agency’s food Security projection for September- October 2018 to January 2019.

Families affected by the rains had been receiving help such as provision of building materials to repair or construct homes from the government and donors. This is in addition to getting subsidised agricultural inputs to allow them to plant for Season A on time.

Provision of food assistance is expected to continue until the end of October when most households are able to meet their minimum food needs through Season A labour opportunities, according to researchers at Fews Net. However, the report points out that harvesting for a likely above-average Season C (June to October) is ongoing, improving household incomes.

In addition, planting for Season A (September to December) is underway after an early start, especially in northern and northwestern areas of the country.

At a national level, the December to January harvests are expected to be average to above average, sustaining acute food security outcomes through January 2019.

Favourable access

Food access for poor households remains generally favourable given the recent successive good seasons, which has helped to lower staple food prices compared to last year.

According to the National Institute of Statistics of Rwanda, August 2018 staple food prices in rural areas did not typically rise, but were actually 8.6 and 0.86 per cent lower than last year and July 2018, respectively. Staple food prices are expected to remain relatively low through the October to November 2018 lean season, maintaining household purchasing power.

The Rwanda Meteorology Agency’s latest forecasts show a below normal situation except for the north-western part of the country where data showed a normal situation in comparison with the Long Term Climatological Mean at all stations.

As a result, season A rainfall was not yet established in most of the Southern Province and in drought-prone areas of Eastern Province.

Farmers report that initial rainfall has remained below average, and they could not start planting like other farmers in the northern and northwestern areas.

Charles Bucagu, deputy director-general in charge of agriculture at the Rwanda Agriculture Board said the agency had given itself one week to observe the weather, and failure to get enough rains would see the sector players focus more on irrigation to counter potential effects on the season’s output.

He said RAB was checking the exact figure of available small-scale irrigation infrastructure and facilities belonging to agriculture agencies, districts and farmers in a bid to come up with a clear picture of what plan to devise in case the rains disappoint.