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South Sudan: East Africa Seasonal Monitor: January 28, 2019

Source: Famine Early Warning System Network
Country: Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Yemen

Dry and significantly hotter-than-normal conditions across Eastern Horn and South Sudan

Key Messages

  • With the cessation of seasonal rains, January marked the onset of an atypically harsh dry season. Weather conditions are hotter-than-normal in parts of the equatorial and northern sectors in East Africa. South Sudan, parts of northern and eastern Kenya, central and southern Somalia, and Yemen are currently most significantly affected.

  • Meanwhile, the Msimu seasonal rains remain fully established across Tanzania, though characterized by generally below-average rainfall amounts since December 21, 2018. However, there are localized areas of above-average amounts over the central and southwestern regions. The tropical seasonal rainfall system otherwise continues its southward movement to the southern African region.

  • The short-term rainfall forecast through February 11, 2019, is indicative of continued dry and significantly hotter-than-normal conditions in East Africa. The exception is Tanzania and Burundi, where there is an increased likelihood of moderate to localized very heavy rains.


The tropical rainfall system shifted southward slightly earlier-than-normal in late December/early January, and is currently fully established in southern African countries. From December 21, 2018, to January 20, 2019, seasonal rainfall has been primarily confined to Tanzania. Most of the country’s northern, western, and eastern regions have experienced somewhat below-average rainfall performance, accumulating 10 to 50 mm deficits (Figure 1). However, southwestern areas and localized parts of central Tanzania received rainfall amounts up to 50 mm or more above average during the same period. Thus far, Tanzania’s cumulative Msimu (October – May) seasonal rains have been generally favorable for cropping and rangeland conditions across the country.

Meanwhile, the greater East African region has been generally sunny and significantly hotter-than-normal (>+2 C°). Dry conditions are especially prevalent in South Sudan, parts of northern and eastern Kenya, central and southern Somalia, and Yemen. Parts of northern and eastern Uganda have also experienced warmer-than-normal conditions, but with relatively less intensity.

In response to prevailing dryness and hotter-than-normal conditions, vegetation as measured by the eMODIS/Normalized Difference Vegetation Index is indicative of deterioration in South Sudan, parts of eastern Kenya, central-south Somalia, and eastern Ethiopia (Figure 2). However, current rangeland vegetation and surface water resources are in relatively better condition compared to the previous year across much of eastern Horn. Further, the rest of region remains greener-than-normal following the recent December to early January rains. Notably, vegetation conditions in much of Tanzania have significantly improved since December.

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Field and satellite-derived crop monitoring indicators depict favorable cropping conditions across Tanzania, driven by the general early to timely onset of the Msimu seasonal rains in October, despite a slight delay in rainfall onset in central and eastern regions and slightly below-average accumulation overall. Yield prospects are generally expected to be average if rainfall is normally distributed through the end of season. In the southeastern lowlands marginal cropping zones of Kenya and southern Somalia, the ongoing harvest is most likely to be below average as a result of poor seasonal rainfall and crop moisture stress at critical maize phenological stages, in spite of enhanced December rainfall. However, the eastern highlands and western counties of Kenya, as well as Uganda, Rwanda, and Burundi, are largely expected to have near-average production, though localized areas in parts of eastern Uganda, Burundi, and southern Kenya may realize yield shortfalls.

The following is a country-by-country update on recent seasonal progress to date:

In Somalia, dry and hot conditions predominate, and there is increasing evidence of rapidly declining rangeland resources over northeastern and central Somalia as well as parts of southern Somalia. However, most of southern Somalia has remained generally greener-than-normal in January due to light off-season rainfall. Below-average crop production is expected in rainfed agricultural livelihood zones, given significantly below-average Deyr seasonal rainfall.

In Ethiopia, dry and sunny weather conditions prevail, but vegetation conditions remain greener-than average across most parts of the country due to atypical late November/early December rainfall. In the southern and south-eastern lowlands regions, however, rangeland resources are poor as evidenced by below-average vegetation conditions. Rangeland resources are expected to decline rapidly in the coming weeks in the north-eastern regions of Ethiopia, driven by a forecast of significantly hotter-than-normal conditions.

In Kenya, the early to timely cessation of the short rains season is likely to result in below-average maize yields in southern and southeastern marginal agricultural areas, especially for late-planted maize crops. In contrast, much of the eastern highlands and central to western Kenya are expected to have near-average maize yields, particularly for early planted crops, though localized areas may realize production shortfalls. Rangeland resources are currently favorable, but these resources are expected to decline rapidly in the coming weeks due to an increased likelihood of continued drier and hotter-than-normal conditions in pastoral zones.

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In Sudan, typical dry and sunny conditions continue. Vegetation conditions remain near average following the largely beneficial 2018 June – September seasonal rains. These dry conditions are forecast to continue until the start of the next rainfall season in June 2019, with expected gradual decline in rangeland resources at the peak of the dry season.

In South Sudan, vegetation conditions have shown signs of rapid deterioration over the past week and are expected to decline further due to exceptionally hotter-than-normal conditions. Cropping conditions have remained poor in the south-eastern Equatorial region, following the poor performance of the October to December rains. Similarly, the poor rainfall performance has also impacted its rangeland resources.

In Uganda, unseasonable rain has marked the January dry season, though rainfall has been fairly sporadic and not uniformly distributed, to the benefit of perennial crops (coffee, tea, bananas, sugarcane, pineapples, citrus). Second season harvests of annual crops have been completed, and production is estimated to be near-average, though some localized maize yield shortfalls are likely. Given the January rain, early land preparation and planting is underway for first season short-cycle cereals and vegetables. Northern and parts of central bimodal Uganda and Karamoja are seasonally dry but are experiencing abnormally high land surface temperatures, resulting in localized scorched vegetation. Pasture and water resources remain near average in bimodal areas but below average in Karamoja, prompting livestock migration to dry season grazing areas.
In Rwanda and Burundi, maize crops are currently in the reproductive to maturation stages and, with expected moderate rainfall in the coming weeks, average to slightly below-average yields are expected in the two countries.

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In Tanzania, the slightly below-average rainfall in late December and January has been well distributed in time and space, to the benefit of both bi- and uni-modal cropping zones. Despite these slight deficits, cropping and rangeland conditions remain favorable. Localized areas in southwestern and central Tanzania have received above-average rainfall. More moderate to locally very heavy rains are forecast in the coming weeks, increasing the likelihood of average agricultural production should rainfall continue normally through the end of the season.

In Yemen, dry and extremely hotter-than-normal conditions are expected across the country. Despite this, much of the country has retained near-normal vegetation conditions, with only the western coastal areas exhibiting much drier-than-normal conditions, based on satellite-derived information. No rains are forecast in the coming weeks, as the typical dry season continues until March.


Rainfall and land surface temperature forecasts through February 11, 2019, indicate an increased likelihood of sunny and hotter-than-normal conditions across East Africa, particularly over the eastern Horn. This is expected to rapidly erode current favorable rangeland conditions (both pasture and water), which were replenished by the December rains. Late-planted maize crops in the south-eastern lowlands of Kenya and southern Somalia are also expected to experience increased crop-water stress.

Meanwhile, Tanzania is forecast to continue to receive moderate to locally very heavy rainfall through January 27. There is an increased likelihood of flood risk, especially over Tanzania’s southern and coastal regions. Burundi, southern Rwanda, and the Lake Victoria basin are likely to receive light to moderate rains during the same period.

In the rest of the region, the sunny and hot dry season is expected to continue until the onset of the Belg in Ethiopia in late February/March and the onset of the Gu/long rains/first season rains in most other countries in March and April.

About this Report

The seasonal monitor, produced by the FEWS NET USGS regional scientist and FEWS NET Regional Technical Manager, updates rainfall totals, the impact on production, and the short-term forecast. It is produced every 20 days during the production season. Find more remote sensing information here.

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