January marked a timely to slightly early onset of seasonal rains in parts of Ethiopia’s Belg-dependent cropping zones and the western sector of East Africa.
Meanwhile, much of the eastern Horn remained typically dry with exceptionally hotter-than-normal day and night land surface temperatures. However, localized areas of eastern Kenya and southern Somalia experienced light to moderate rainfall amounts in the past week.
The rainfall outlook through March 13 depicts an increased likelihood for continued above-average to average seasonal rainfall over Tanzania as well as the establishment of rainfall in the western sector and Belg-dependent areas. There is increased flood risk in Tanzania’s coastal regions and around the Lake Victoria basin region of Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
In early to late February, the onset of the March to May seasonal rains gradually began and spread northwards from Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda into the Lake Victoria environs and Ethiopia’s Belg cropping zones. This marked a timely to slightly early onset of the cropping season in these areas. According to CHIRPS preliminary satellite-derived data, rainfall accumulation was varied (Figure 1). In Burundi, Rwanda, and western Uganda, amounts were slightly below average. However, the rainfall amounts (>20mm) were sufficient to trigger land preparation and early crop planting. In parts of southeastern and northern Uganda and parts of Ethiopia’s Belg-dependent areas (SNNP, Gambela, Oromia, and Amhara), rainfall ranged from 10 to 100mm above average. In Kenya, there were incidences of well above-average rainfall amounts (>300 percent of average) that led to reports of localized flooding around the Lake Victoria region. In Tanzania, the progression of the Msimu season in February was characterized by above-average accumulation the south and northwest.
Meanwhile, the eastern Horn remained typically dry, but with significantly hotter-than-normal land surface temperatures throughout February. Day and night-time temperatures were generally exceptionally high in eastern South Sudan and eastern Ethiopia, Somalia, and much of Kenya. In parts of eastern South Sudan, day-time temperatures slightly exceeded 40 C°, while night-time temperatures hovered at 34-36 C°. Day-time temperatures ranged from 32 to 38 C° in the rest of the eastern Horn, resulting into rapid depletion of surface water pans and deterioration of pasture and browse for livestock. Field reports indicate increasing human-wildlife and resource-based conflicts, and there are extensive, on-going wildfires around the Mt. Kenya region.
According to the eMODIS/Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), vegetation conditions are significantly drier-than-normal across much of the eastern Horn as well as in parts of northern and eastern South Sudan, the southwestern and Rift Valley regions of Ethiopia, northeastern Tanzania, and Uganda. However, it should be noted that the recent rains in February are likely to result in gradual improvements in vegetation condition in Uganda, South Sudan, and Belg cropping zones of Ethiopia. In addition, localized areas in eastern Kenya and southern Somalia received unseasonal rains in February that may mitigate current deterioration. Still, much of eastern Horn is likely to remain drier-than-normal until the full onset of the March-May/April-June rains. In contrast, near-average vegetation is expected to continue in most of Tanzania due to the favorable Msimu rains, apart from localized rainfall-deficit areas.
Recent and on-going field crop assessment reports are indicative of good cropping conditions across Tanzania. However, drought conditions have affected marginal cropping zones in Kenya’s arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) and much of Somalia, following the below-average Deyr/short-rains and prevailing hotter-than-normal temperatures.